If the South Carolina Gamecocks want to win the SEC East for the second time in three years, they can't drop two games back in the division title race and miss out on holding the tiebreaker versus the Florida Gators.
But if they fall to Florida on Saturday afternoon in the Swamp, that's exactly what will happen.
A win on Saturday would be a tall order anyway, but it appears to be more difficult now that the status of star running back Marcus Lattimore is in doubt. According to Wednesday's post-practice report, Lattimore sat out with a bruised hip and his availability for the game is in doubt.
That sound you hear is a collective sigh coming from the state of South Carolina.
If Lattimore can't go, the Gamecocks' chances for a win go flying out the window.
He is the reason that Steve Spurrier's offense works. To Spurrier's credit, he has successfully altered his style to a more ground-and-pound approach as opposed to the fun-and-gun style that made him so successful at Florida.
But without Lattimore, that ground-and-pound approach won't be as successful because Florida won't key on the run as much as it would under normal circumstances.
Nothing against Kenny Miles. He's a good running back, as he has proved over a solid four-year career in Columbia. He has rushed for 1,082 yards and three touchdowns, including 138 yards and one touchdown in South Carolina's final two games last year in place of the injured Lattimore.
But that was against Clemson and Nebraska, not the 2012 Florida Gators. Plus, he's not Marcus Lattimore.
Without Lattimore in the lineup, the Gamecocks will have to search for other ways to move the ball offensively, and unfortunately for Spurrier, one of the biggest questions from the offseason remains unanswered—who's going to replace Alshon Jeffery?
Jeffery averaged 15.55 yards per reception last season, and while Bruce Ellington has averaged 15.59 this season, he only has hauled in 17 passes all season and is one of several Gamecocks that have missed practice with the flu this week.
Without Lattimore, South Carolina's chances in the Swamp take a major hit.
But, the uncertainty surrounding Lattimore's health could just be a smoke screen orchestrated by the Head Ball Coach. We'll know on Saturday.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!