Who Would Alabama Rather See in SEC Championship: South Carolina or Florida?

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterOctober 8, 2012

South Carolina QB Connor Shaw
South Carolina QB Connor ShawKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It seems impossible, but the SEC East picture got more blurry before clearing up a bit on Saturday night.

Florida's 14-6 win over LSU in Gainesville served as an announcement by the Gators that they are for real and very much a threat in the SEC East in 2012.

Later that night in Columbia, South Carolina dominated defending SEC East champion Georgia 35-7 to stake its claim as the best team in the division.

Assuming Alabama takes care of business in the SEC West and returns to the SEC Championship Game for the first time since 2009, which team would be a better matchup for the Crimson Tide?

The answer is Florida, but that certainly doesn't mean that the Gators are pushovers.

The reason is simple—South Carolina has looked like a more complete football team throughout the 2012 season.

The Gamecocks limited Georgia's offense—which came in averaging 536 yards per game—to just 224 yards of total offense on Saturday night, and they held talented running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall to under 40 rushing yards each.

That's strong, but it's not just defense that has led the Gamecocks to its highest ranking in three decades. It's the offense as well.

Quarterback Connor Shaw injured his shoulder in the season-opening win vs. Vanderbilt, but since coming back as the full-time starter, Shaw has been on fire.

The junior signal-caller has thrown just eight incompletions in three games, tossed six touchdown passes, not thrown an interception and rushed for an average of 65 yards per game.

On top of that, junior running back Marcus Lattimore has quietly rushed for 549 yards and nine touchdowns in his first six games of the season.

Throw in Ace Sanders on special teams, who is averaging 15.5 yards per punt return and scored a touchdown, and you have a dangerous football team that is capable of beating you in a variety of different ways.

That's to say nothing against Florida. The Gators are a very good football team and worthy of that No. 4 ranking in the latest Associated Press (AP) Poll. But Florida's offense has been remarkably average along the way, averaging 373.4 yards per game—21 yards fewer than LSU's, which is widely regarded as "underwhelming at best."

Florida currently boasts the SEC's worst passing offense at 158.6 yards per game, but that's due in large part to the fact that running back Mike Gillislee has emerged as a major threat in the running game.

Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel has shown flashes of brilliance this season, but they've only been "flashes" because the performance of Gillislee and the Gator D hasn't forced him to do anything more.

That will change eventually, but right now, South Carolina has proven to be a more complete team than Florida.

If either of the two primary contenders in the SEC East makes it to Atlanta, it won't be a cakewalk for the Crimson Tide.

The East as a whole has improved tremendously from top to bottom, and the strength of the Gamecocks and Gators are the primary indicators of that power.