South Carolina vs. Florida: Why Winner Is a Lock for SEC East Title

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterOctober 16, 2012

Florida S Matt Elam
Florida S Matt ElamJohn Sommers II/Getty Images

Saturday's matchup between South Carolina and Florida won't officially determine the SEC East champion, but if you're a fan of a team that wins, go ahead and start searching for hotel deals.

Unless an upset happens down the road, the winner of this game will represent the SEC East in the Georgia Dome and play for the SEC Championship on Dec. 1.

If South Carolina wins, it would be tied with both Florida and Georgia atop the division with one conference loss and hold the tiebreaker over both schools (Section B.1). That's huge for the Gamecocks considering the remaining two SEC games on their schedule are both at home—Oct. 27 vs. Tennessee and Nov. 10 vs. Arkansas.

Neither of those games look like losses to me, especially considering most of South Carolina's troubles seem to take place on the road.

Tennessee's season is on the brink after last week's loss to Mississippi State, and the visit this weekend from Alabama may send Derek Dooley and Co. packing.

The Gamecocks will then have two weeks to prepare for Arkansas which, while resurgent, still has been a major disappointment on the defensive side of the ball. Until Arkansas proves that it's back to form against quality competition, don't write an upset over the Gamecocks down in ink.

Last week's loss to LSU notwithstanding, the Gamecocks still have the SEC's third-best defense (296.3 YPG) and an offense that is dynamic behind dual-threat quarterback Connor Shaw and Heisman Trophy candidate Marcus Lattimore at running back.

If Florida wins, things could get dicey.

South Carolina would then have two conference losses and the division would likely come down to the winner of the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party next weekend between Florida and Georgia in Jacksonville.

The last time we saw the Bulldogs, they were getting run off of the field in Columbia, which doesn't bode well for their outlook against the Gators.

Florida lit LSU's offensive line up two weeks ago in the Swamp in their 14-6 win over the Tigers. While offensive line has been a sore spot for LSU up until last week, South Carolina proved that Georgia's was vulnerable as well.

Plus, history in the rivalry game aside, Florida looks like a better team than Georgia does at this point of the season.

It's better in the trenches, has been much more consistent on defense and, with apologies to Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, has a better rushing attack than that of the Bulldogs (233.33 YPG to 226.5 YPG) behind running back Mike Gillislee and quarterback Jeff Driskel.

It's hard to pick Georgia in this game in Florida's down years, much less when Florida is a legitimate national title contender—as it is right now.

The games still have to be played, and sometimes upsets do happen. But the three primary contenders for the SEC East title have set themselves apart, with Florida and South Carolina being a step ahead of Georgia.

The team that's left standing after this weekend's battle between South Carolina and Florida will represent the division in the SEC Championship Game and be within 60 minutes of the greatest conference title in college football.