Florida Will Overlook South Carolina: Unconventional Wisdom

Nathan BitnerSenior Analyst INovember 10, 2008

There's no way it can happen, right?  Florida, newly crowned champion of the SEC East, in virtual control of its own destiny when it comes to a berth in the national championship, could not possibly overlook South Carolina this Saturday. 

Steve Spurrier, FLORIDA's ol' ball coach (not South Carolina's, I would argue, after his, "I'll always be a Gator" comment last year) will be in town.  South Carolina has won five of six games and climbed into 3rd in the SEC East despite losses to Vanderbilt, LSU, and Georgia.  Their defense is ranked No.1 in the SEC and is top 10 nationally.  There's not a chance that Florida could overlook that, could they?

Yes.  They can, and they will. The only question will be whether their incredible speed, talent, and athleticism will be able to make up for it.  And before I go any further, let me add that I have nothing but respect for the Gators. I think they are most definitely the best team in the SEC—including Alabama.

We have tied the record for No.1 ranked teams in the modern era, matching the legendary 1990-1991 campaign, the last time five teams held the No.1 ranking during the regular season. 

Florida intends to do their best to break that record by defeating Alabama in Atlanta for the SEC Championship—and is rightfully expecting to leap over some one-loss teams (meaning Texas Tech would have to lose at some point as well) in doing so.

South Carolina is no threat, right?  It's bad enough that they alternate quarterbacks on every other play these days.  Their offense is as inept as any Spurrier has managed.  In fact, they change QBs more often than Paris Hilton changes positions on a clandestine sex video.  Their defense may be ranked well, but it couldn't stop LSU, Georgia or Vanderbilt when it counted—in fact, it was THUMPED by the Bulldogs quite thoroughly.

Florida is revved up.  These guys taste the championship...Penn State's loss is the equivalent of a siren whispering in their ear about the delights they may now partake in.

"Lowly" South Carolina, who has never won the SEC East (neither has anyone besides Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida for that matter), cannot distract them from their ultimate goal: Alabama.

The Gators see sugarplums dancing in their heads.  And they're at home, no less.

So here it is: the perfect recipe for an upset; the perfect team to overlook.  South Carolina is healthy.  South Carolina is improved in the last few weeks.  South Carolina is hungry. 

Their superstars (Kenny McKinley, Jared Cook, and Jasper Brinkley included) and coaches are currently at the top of their game.  Only an idiotic penalty at the end of the Razorbacks game will keep one defensive starter off of the field (for the first half).  It's a bad time for Florida to meet up with the Gamecocks.  The worst time.

Sure, you'll hear it all week: "One game at a time."  "We just want to win this week."  "We're not looking beyond South Carolina.  They're a great football team."

Don't be fooled.  These are college kids and they are at the peak of excitement after a devastating loss earlier in the season to Ole' Miss.  The whole college football world is looking forward to Florida vs. Alabama, including the players on those respective teams. 

I would argue that probably no one is better at focusing his players on a week to week basis than Nick Saban (like him or not), and even he has struggled to make sure Alabama beats the lesser teams of the SEC.

Finally, we've learned that the SEC isn't quite what it used to be: not this year, anyway.  What we thought were impressive wins earlier in the season don't look as impressive now, as we watch Vanderbilt lose to Duke, Tennessee lose to Wyoming, Auburn struggle mightily to defeat UT-Martin, etc.

My prediction: A Florida mental meltdown, with a furious comeback at the end that will come down to a last-second field goal attempt.  Wide-right.  South Carolina defeats Florida 26-24, and the SEC title game loses a little luster.