For the second season in a row, I get the pleasure of writing a piece titled "Five keys to an SEC East Championship".
As a Gamecock fan, it feels good. Really good, considering our history. However, it could feel a whole lot better.
Florida was going to be a really easy matchup for South Carolina, until the injury bug/lion/typhoon of destruction washed over the team.
Now, I am keeping my fingers crossed that unknown players will step up and continue fighting for the program.
If you would have told me at the beginning of the season that we would lose Marcus Lattimore, Stephen Garcia, Kyle Nunn, Devonte Holloman, Akeem Aguste, Antonio Allen, Damiere Byrd, Bruce Ellington, and Connor Shaw for all or some of the season, and we would still be 7-2, I would have called you crazy.
Now, this season will always be a season of what ifs. That can all be changed with a magical Saturday of football, with a little help from some Alabama brethren.
Here are the five keys to a Gamecock victory over Florida.
|South Carolina Advantage||Even||Florida Advantage|
|Defensive Line||X |
|Defensive Backs||X ||
South Carolina and Florida are similar in a couple of ways. Poor quarterback play, mixed with questionable play calling, and occasional big plays from big name players (Alshon Jeffery for SC, and Chris Rainey for FL) have given the offense occasional signs of life.
Both defenses are stout. If it comes downs to special teams, Florida has much more explosive return men.
How does South Carolina win this game? Here's how.
The home crowd has seen enough of the Gamecock's horrendous offense these last few weeks that they may be a bit quieter than usual.
Wake them up with a great offensive drive early. A big play would work, but so would running it down their throats with a combo of Brandon Wilds, Kenny Miles, Bruce Ellington, and Connor Shaw.
Get the crowd loud early, and Florida may be in for a long day.
Pass protection has been horrible, true. However, the key to the Gamecocks offense will be the running game.
With All-SEC tackle Kyle Nunn going down, the line has been totally revamped on the fly. Rokevious Watkins (a great right guard) is now playing left tackle, which doesn't really work for his strengths.
There are two freshman tackles that are playing who just aren't ready, and one converted defensive tackle heavily in rotation.
If Offensive Line Coach Shawn Elliot can coach these boys up in the running game, South Carolina has a chance.
Bruce Ellington is a playmaker, and must be on the field more often. Combined with Damiere Byrd coming off of an option sweep, there is a great deal of speed and offensive fire power on the field.
Bruce must be a factor. If he is, the Gamecocks can actually move the ball.
Chris Rainey is the complete package as a football player. He runs. He catches. He makes people miss. He is an amazing kick returner.
He's the type of player that has destroyed the Gamecocks in the past.
Somebody must be aware of him at all times. I wouldn't be surprised to see Stephon Gilmore cover him—he is the Gators leading receiver.
With John Brantley hurting, but expecting to play, the Carolina defensive line has to get in the man's face. Become the terror that they were for the first six games.
They haven't played quite as well during the last three games. They must pick it back up.
For South Carolina to win the SEC East, Auburn must beat Georgia. If they don't, then South Carolina has one more hope for winning the SEC East...
Kentucky beating Georgia.
Do you like those odds? I didn't think so.
Leftover Hot Dog and I should have followed our guts, and not our hearts. We both knew beating Arkansas was a long shot, but heck, we picked the Gamecocks anyway.
I predicted a score of 24-21 in favor of the Gamecocks, so I added 27 to my total.
LHD predicted the score to be 20-17, which means he saw 35 points added to his score.
Our guest, James Brown, predicted Arkansas to win 31-17, so he took a 34-point hit, but he gets the guest pickers even with us in the standings. Which means more than the points off.
So as it stands:
1. Alex Roberts (7-2) +223
2. Leftover Hot Dog (7-2) +239
3. Guest Experts (7-2) +290
This weeks guest picker is Drew Laing, a Florida featured columnist.
My Score Prediction: South Carolina 17, Florida 14
Leftover Hot Dog's Prediction: South Carolina 27, Florida 23
Guest Expert's Prediction: Florida 21, South Carolina 17
As always, it is great to be a Gamecock, and you can always fan me on Facebook!