Are South Carolina Gamecocks or Florida Gators the Better BCS Title Threat?
Sure, both teams were thought to be pretty good, but outside of each team's fanbase, did people really foresee BCS National Championship talk after Week 6?
Though they were wrong, the perceptions going into Oct. 6 were that both LSU and Georgia would struggle with these teams, but would find a way to pull it out. What happened instead was Florida beat LSU at its own physical game, and South Carolina handled Georgia with ease.
Well then, here we are. So let's cut right to the chase: Is a BCS National Championship really within reach for one of these teams?
If so, which team qualifies as the more dangerous BCS title threat?
Offense: South Carolina
Mike Gillislee and Jeff Driskel have been fantastic this season, but Connor Shaw is playing on a whole different level right now.
He is the X-factor that separates South Carolina from Florida. In fact, Shaw is sort of like a more mature, more skilled Driskel.
Don't take offense, Florida fans—that's really a compliment to how well Driskel has played this season.
Driskel is a mobile quarterback with an ability to make plays happen, but Shaw has perfected his dual-threat style. Mixed with Steve Spurrier's play-calling, Shaw is proving to be a nightmare for defensive coordinators.
In just his last three games, Shaw completed 41 of his 49 passes, rushed and passed for 754 yards, and has seven total touchdowns with no interceptions.
Add in Marcus Lattimore, Damiere Byrd, Ace Sanders and an ever-improving offensive line, and South Carolina's offensive unit has Florida beat.
Moving from Spurrier's area of expertise onward to Will Muschamp's pride and joy.
Defense wins championships, so the magnitude of this comparison might be heavier than the offensive one. So let's get into this one, shall we?
South Carolina is extremely talented on defense. You know the names: Jadeveon Clowney, Devin Taylor and D.J. Swearinger. All high-profile players, but as a unit, Florida is slightly better. South Carolina is third in total defense while Florida is fourth, but they are separated by a total of six average yards per game.
So both teams obviously have great defenses, and stats aren't going to decide this one. With a healthy Jelani Jenkins, the Gators have one of the best linebacker corps in the nation, and their front four aren't too bad, either.
Oh, and though he's flown under the radar for most of the season, Matt Elam reminded everyone during his performance against LSU that he's still one of the best safeties in the country. All of these pieces to the puzzle, mixed with Muschamp's defensive knowledge, gives Florida an advantage on the defensive side of the ball.
Special Teams: South Carolina
Both special teams are so effective in their own special way that this is basically a push.
"What?! Nobody likes a push!"
I hear you, and I agree with that notion, but if you had to pick one special teams unit, which would you honestly choose?
No wait, think about it now. You have the electrifying Ace Sanders on one hand, and you have the sure-footed Caleb Sturgis on the other.
Not as easy as you thought, right?
When it comes down to it, sure, Sturgis is great and Florida looked phenomenal in its kick coverage against LSU, but Sanders is a game-changer. After his 70-yard punt return against Georgia on Saturday, the game was all but sealed up, and it was still the first quarter.
Slight advantage to the Gamecocks.
A key ingredient for Florida's success is that they don't beat themselves.
The Gators play sound football, and though they commit a good amount of penalties, they have the third-best turnover margin in the SEC, while South Carolina has the fifth best.
That's all good and dandy, but the reason Florida has better intangibles than South Carolina deals with the team's second-half mentality.
Each and every week, this team seems to get better in the third and fourth quarters. This team doesn't win with flash, it wins with grit and physicality in the second half—and, quite frankly, it's inspiring.
South Carolina may have more weapons on the team, but it's hard to measure the heart of this Florida team.
Coaching: South Carolina
This isn't even fair.
Spurrier is one of the greatest college football coaches of all time, so obviously when it comes down to the coaching dynamic of each team, South Carolina will hold the advantage.
However, Muschamp is no slouch. Before becoming the head coach at Florida, Muschamp served as a defensive coordinator under the likes of Nick Saban and Mack Brown.
When it comes to measuring intensity, Muschamp may even be more exuberant than Saban, and if you know anything about football, that's saying something. Muschamp always has had a keen way of firing his team up, and obviously, it's working for him this season.
But this is Spurrier we're talking about here. He is a proven winner, and like wine, he's aged well in this game.
Verdict: South Carolina
Because of its explosive offense, all-around playmakers such as Sanders and Clowney, and the Spurrier factor, South Carolina is more of a threat to the national title.
Don't be mistaken: Florida is a great, great football team. Its win against LSU proves that, but Driskel's inexperience may cost the Gators down the road.
Florida took the game out of Driskel's hands against LSU and rode Gillislee toward victory. But what happens when this team plays a defense that forces Driskel to make a play? That's the way the LSU game was heading until Kevin Minter and Kwon Alexander got hurt on the same possession.
Is Driskel poised enough to put the team on his back? That's something we really can't answer right now, but what we do know is that Shaw is more than capable of carrying his team.
They say there isn't a more important position in sports than at quarterback—well, in this case, there isn't a more glaring difference in these teams than the quarterback position.
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