The SEC will be in the spotlight once again as No. 7 South Carolina (6-1) travels south to take on No. 2 Florida (6-0) in Week 8's biggest game. It's a matchup that will have a significant impact on both the BCS standings and conference title race.
South Carolina is forced to rebound quickly after letting a golden opportunity slip away against LSU. The Gamecocks led by four entering the final quarter, but couldn't hold on. Now they must attempt to get back on track while also hoping for some BCS help.
The Gators were surprisingly placed second in the initial BCS standings, a spot Oregon was expected to fill. The favorable placement doesn't change their outlook, though. They still have to defend the ranking against several tough opponents down the stretch.
All told, it should be a thriller in "The Swamp." Let's take a glance at all the key information for Saturday's clash followed by what to watch for as the Gamecocks and Gators battle.
Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla.
When: Saturday, Oct. 20 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Watch: CBS and CBSSports.com
Listen: WNKT 107.5 FM (South Carolina) or WWJB 1450 AM (Florida)
Betting Line: Florida -3 (Vegas Insider)
Injury Report (via USA Today)
South Carolina: Mike Matulis (questionable, shoulder) and Marcus Lattimore (probable, hip)
Florida: Jelani Jenkins (questionable, hamstring)
Key Storyline: Can Florida survive another major test?
Victories over Texas A&M, Tennessee and LSU, along with the unmatched strength of the SEC, allowed Florida to sneak past Oregon in the BCS. But playing in the SEC also means the Gators aren't out of the woods yet. Not even close.
Those previous games won't mean a thing if the Gators aren't going to back them up down the stretch. They do serve as good experience, though. Getting to face the Tigers defense should have prepared them for South Carolina's vaunted unit on Saturday.
Florida has an elite defense of its own, of course. So it will all come down to which offense is able to make more key plays, especially in the second half. It's an area where the Gamecocks came up short last week and they can't afford a repeat performance.
Although both teams have a few more chances before season's end to make an impression on the voters, Saturday's game is their best remaining opportunity prior to a potential appearance in the SEC Championship Game.
A Florida win would prove the Gators are deserving of the No. 2 spot while also giving them a boost when it comes to making up at least some ground on Alabama. A loss would simply drop them among the other one-loss teams.
Already having a loss, South Carolina's goal is to establish itself as the top team among that group with hopes that the remaining undefeated teams will fall. Knocking off Florida would go a long way in accomplishing that goal.
What They Are Saying
South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney understands the team can't expect to succeed when the defense performs like it did against LSU, according to Brett Martel of the Associated Press.
"Our front seven didn't come to play," said South Carolina star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who was in on six tackles but did not have a sack. "We gave up way too many yards and too many third down conversions. We can't win like that."
Arnold Feliciano of GatorSports.com reports on Florida's special teams, which has provided the team with a gigantic boost during its terrific start.
"D.J. Durkin, our special teams coordinator, does a fantastic job," Florida coach Will Muschamp said on his Sunday television show. "Our players understand the importance of special teams. And when you are on the road, those are the type of plays that make a difference in the game."
South Carolina Player To Watch: Damiere Byrd
The Gamecocks offense revolves around Marcus Lattimore—more about him to come—but when they need a big play, they turn to Byrd. The sophomore wide receiver is averaging more than 25 yards per catch, including a 94-yard touchdown against UAB.
It will be vital for South Carolina to have some balance on Saturday. Florida will be geared up to stop the running game, so play-action passes should be a useful tactic, especially early. One big play to Byrd could change the course of the entire game.
The New Jersey native is still learning the finer points of the position, such as route running, but he's already filling the role of playmaker. Connor Shaw has to find a way to get him involved.
Florida Player To Watch: Jeff Driskel
Florida has players on both sides of the ball, from Mike Gillislee to Jon Bostic, that are probably more important thank Driskel, but the quarterback is the glue that holds everything together. He makes sure the Gators find a way to win.
Sometimes he's asked to move the ball through the air and other times he has to rely on his legs, but one way or another he ensures the Florida offense puts points on the board. Overall, he's contributed nearly 1,200 total yards and eight touchdowns.
South Carolina's defense will be looking to put pressure on him early and often. He has to make sure he continues to limit his turnovers and the Gators should be in good shape heading into the fourth quarter.
Key Matchup: Marcus Lattimore vs. Gators Run Defense
It's no surprise that Lattimore's worst rushing performance of the season resulted in South Carolina's first loss. Without him controlling the pace on the ground, the Gamecocks aren't nearly as potent on the offensive side.
Knowing that, the Gators should expect to receive a heavy dose of Lattimore runs in the first quarter. After getting away from the run a little too quickly last week, South Carolina is going to remain committed to the run.
Florida has to find a way to contain him just like LSU did. Whether that means sending more run blitzes or making Josh Evans a constant presence in the box, the Gators have to make sure he doesn't run wild.
Florida 21, South Carolina 20
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