With the biggest game in the history of the University South Carolina football coming Saturday, one has to ask, "what does Steve Spurrier have in store for Urban Meyer's Gators," and how will he approach this game?
Steve Spurrier held a different type of practice Monday. It was a short practice inside Williams Brice Stadium, and it was followed by an extended film session. Spurrier also appeared to be loose and upbeat. Something he was not before the Arkansas game.
Spurrier goes home to the Swamp, where he won SEC Championships and a National Championship with the Gators. This time he's going in as a potential spoiler, and to put himself in the position for an SEC Championship for the Gamecocks.
The Gamecocks will be in the familiar position of underdogs. They've spent most of the season in the unfamiliar position of favorites. The Gators seem to have hit their stride at the same time the Gamecocks appear to be slipping.
Urban Meyer has come out and stated he wants "the Swamp" to be loud, and decked out in blue just like his Gators will be. Meyer doesn't do that often. Is it possible that Spurrier can use this to his advantage?
Can he point out that his Gamecocks may have the Gators nervous? Will Spurrier take the old approach of "Fun & Gun" or in the newer terminology, "Cock & Fire?" Considering Marcus Lattimore may not be 100 percent, it seems likely he will. Will Spurrier pull things out of his expansive playbook he hasn't shown on film this season?
Last season when the Gamecocks were in the midst of another late season stumble #15 Clemson came to Columbia and were upset by 17 points Spurrier pulled a few tricks out. He ran the Wild Cocky offense with Stephon Gilmore at quarterback.
He also called an option play that worked for a touchdown. In that game more than any other they utilized the tight end. There is a real possibility that with Troy coming to Columbia the week after the Florida game that Spurrier tries the trickery that he was once known for.
With playmakers scattered over the field on offense there are seemingly limitless possibilities. The question mark continues to be on the defense. If the Gamecocks continue to play defense the way they have, they could be playing from behind early. South Carolina simply has to change it. To blitz, confuse and man cover would change the Gators game plan mid-game.
No offense playing the Gamecocks would expect to see that. Instead they expect to see four or five man rushes and a soft zone ninety percent of quarterbacks can dink and dunk and pick apart. The reason they expect it is because that's what Ellis Johnson has shown repeatedly.
If the Gamecocks play the way they've played in seven of their nine games this season they likely won't defeat the Gators in Florida. If they play the way they played against Alabama then obviously they can come out with the win. The way they defeated Southern Miss in the first week would work as well.
The question is what will Spurrier have in store for the Gators, but the underlying question is which Steve Spurrier will be on the sidelines this weekend. The Steve Spurrier who is loose and allows his players to play, or will it be the Steve Spurrier who tenses up, shuts down and negatively affect his team.
Steve Spurrier, like most coaches sets the mood of his team. Steve Spurrier though has a mood range more broad than most coaches. He's always stern, but when he's loose and free his team plays that way and wins. When he's in shut down mode his team plays that way as well.
Look no further than last years Florida game. Spurrier's Gamecocks were hanging with the number one ranked Gators. Then there was a tipped ball that bounced the wrong way and Florida got an interception. Spurrier visibly shut down on the sideline, and following that play the Gamecocks were unable to do anything else.
This seasons Kentucky game as well. The Gamecocks were dominant in the first half, after Spurrier preaching and pounding to avoid the letdown. When Marcus Lattimore sprained his ankle, Spurrier's mood changed and he abandoned the run, and with the shoddy secondary play by the Gamecocks, Kentucky came back and won the game.
Spurrier has to stay calm, stay loose and not show his team that he's overly frustrated. You can be frustrated and use it as a coaching mechanism, but Spurrier has, in the past become frustrated and instead of coaching he goes into ordering mode.
The Spurrier that shows up on the sidelines at 7:15pm EST will decide whether his team plays in Atlanta for the SEC Championship. It may be visibly evident before kickoff, or it may be decided later in the game. This, maybe more than any other game may define Spurrier's legacy at South Carolina.