This week, the No. 1 Gators take on the OBC in Columbia in what may amount to the game of the year for the Gamecocks. I realize Nov. 28 is the date most South Carolina fans have circled on their calendars, but beating the top BCS title contender will be more memorable than a win against an up-and-down Clemson team.
Plus, would you rather avenge a 31–14 loss on the road or a 56–6 beat down? I thought so.
Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, there's five good reasons for the Gators to beat you on Saturday:
South Carolina ranks 64th in the country at defending the rush, seven SEC teams rank higher: Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, LSU, Arkansas, and Mississippi. . The Gators have the eighth-best rushing attack in college football.
Florida has played four of the seven teams ranked ahead of the 'Cocks in rush defense. Plus the Gators face one of them every day in practice. Of the four the Gators have played, they were only held under 200 rushing yards twice (LSU 193, Arkansas 136).
Oh, and the team closest to the Gamecocks in rank? Mississippi State at No. 66, who the Gators torched for 249 yards.
Want more proof? Consider the flip side. The Gators are the 13th-best run defense in football and South Carolina sports a cupcake–ish 93rd-best rushing offense. The Cocks have also only managed two rushing touchdowns in SEC play, while the Gators have only given up two all season.
On paper, the time of possession only favors the Gators by one minute, 31:18 to 30:18.
However, teams who fail to establish the run don't get the ball for long. Vanderbilt and Mississippi State both had under 100 yards rushing, and the Gators held multi–minute ToP advantages over both (nine minutes and 4:30, respectively).
While the Cocks' play selection has been balanced (346 pass, 310 rush), they have just over twice as many passing yards as rushing yards. Stephen Garcia is having a fine year, but he's no Ryan Mallett. If he is forced to carry the offense, he'll give the Gators' No. 1 passing defense plenty of opportunities to make plays.
Tebow has absolutely owned the Gamecocks. In 2007, he was Superman, accounting for 424 yards and seven TDs. In 2008, the Cocks halved his production, still good enough for 223 and three TDs.
Discounting the CSU game, where Urban ran the "let's not let anyone see any plays" offense, Tebow has only been held under 50 rushing yards twice this season, against Vanderbilt and LSU.
Since the only bad game of his career, Tebow has zero turnovers and South Carolina isn't exactly a ball-hawking defense. I'd expect him to continue his complete dominance over Spurrier in this game as well.
On paper, this is a huge win for the Gamecocks. I mean, they have five receivers with over 200 yards compared to the Gators' two. However, any offensive depth they have is completely nullified by their lack of D–line depth.
Last week, the Cocks were forced to switch to a three man defensive front because of the injury to defensive No. 2 Cliff Matthews. Currently, Matthews is questionable for the game. If he misses, the Gators will have a whole lot less to worry about in pass protection, possibly giving Tebow enough time to look at his second or third receiving option before tucking and running.
Conversely, the Gators have gone three games without Brandon Spikes and haven't missed a beat. Furthermore, his preseason backup, Brendan Beal, has been out all season. This defense has defined reloading so far, and I doubt we'll see a dip this week with Spikes' return.
If Anything Goes Wrong, Spikes Will Rip Out Their F****** Eyes.
Go ahead and try to run the ball or make a catch across the middle, but make sure you have a shield on because Brandon Spikes is out there and he will get you. He's the Captain Insano version of the Predator, and once his laser-sights lock on, you've got a one-way ticket to Blindsville.
There you have it, Cocks, five legitimate reasons why you won't win. But wait, don't get excited and start watching 2008 footage in anticipation of yet another South Carolina beatdown. I also have three reasons why this game will be more of the same for the Gators.
Last season, the Gators converted 75 percent of their redzone attempts for TDs. This year, they've only converted 79 percent for scores. Furthermore, the Gators are converting 45 percent of their redzone attempts for TDs. To quote Charles Barkley, "that's turrible."
Even in the blowout against Georgia, the Gators only managed one redzone conversion. Luckily the Gators have found ways to score from the pink zone (from the 30 to the 20), with four of their last seven TDs coming within that range.
Gators, if you find yourself staring at 1st-and-10 from the 20-yard line, go ahead and take a knee for the one-yard loss. You've got a better shot at scoring that way.
No More Percy Harvin
If Tebow is Superman, Percy was Batman, only coming out when called, but always kicking ass. He finished his career against South Carolina with 284 yards and two TDs in his two meetings against them (Percy missed the game in 2007). In 2008, he had 173 total yards and both TDs on only nine plays. For you numbers guys, that's just over 19 yards per touch.
Luckily for the Gators, 167 of those yards came on the ground—something Demps and co. might be able to duplicate. They may not be able to catch, but Demps and Rainey are still very fast, and one defensive slip up means an automatic TD. Unfortunately, that has not happened this year and I doubt South Carolina wants to be that trend-setter in week 11.
The Gators allow too many of them, causing a multitude of problems. First, it's the reason the redzone scoring is down. The Gators have been sacked right out of the redzone, leading to field goals more than a few times this season.
Tebow is holding the ball too long and trying to make too many plays when nothing is open, but more often than not, too long equals about 1.5 seconds. The Gators are missing obvious blitzing linebackers up the middle and allowing the pocket to collapse from Tebow's blindside. It's tough to make anything happen when you don't have time to react or don't see the defender coming.
Second, the sacks have killed Tebow's Heisman run. I know ESPN refuses to let it go, but he's done. College football stupidly counts sacks as an individual rushing statistic. Tebow has 133 lost rushing yards thanks, in large, to sacks. Strike those from his record and he's the fifth-best running back in the SEC.
Finally, sacks are second only to turnovers in momentum changing defensive plays. Big hits are nice and pump up defenders, but they rarely ruin an offense's game. Sacks frustrate quarterbacks making him do stupid things, which compound their big-play status.
They also lead to more holding penalties and less offensive ingenuity, something that has been missing in Florida's gameplan this year. As sacks and QB hits rack up, the quarterback is forced to shorten his field of vision and his number of receiving options.
Tebow's gone down to basically first option, then a short check, then trying to run. Part of that is his failure to read defenses quickly, but a larger part is he has so little time and he's getting hit so often, he might as well try and gain a few yards.
Sorry, Gators. Sorry, Cocks. Nobody wins on Saturday. Well, Florida will technically go back to Gainesville with a win, but once again it won't feel good.