There is so much to play for today that there just can’t be a letdown. On a team with a lot of seniors who are playmakers, the Gators should be juiced to play. Forget the notion of a letdown — these seniors will be playing their last big game in the Swamp and have a ton left to play for. South Carolina offers a test and with the ‘Ole Ball Coach’ coming, the Swamp should be magical.
Let’s see. The Gators have an un-defeated record at home under Coach Meyer to play for. They have a revenge game against one of the three teams that beat them last year. They are playing against the coach that personifies what a lot of people thought of Florida football over the last two decades. And last but not least, they have a chance to play for a national championship if just a few more things fall their way.
One thing is for sure, this team needs a stylish win. Winning this game is of course the most important thing, but a really stylish win could go along way for this team’s psyche and in the eyes of the voters for college football.
Objective I: Establish the run, and then let her rip on offense.
The Gamecocks are giving up 4.03 yards per rush. Playing the likes of Auburn and Arkansas will do that to you but they have generally been outmatched up front on defense. The Gators didn’t establish the run against Vandy but they need to against South Carolina, then they need to take some shots down the field. South Carolina sometimes has a hard time covering people. They may make a play or two, but Leak and the receivers could have a big game if the offense opens it up.
I think the offense should really test these defensive backs and if that means leaving a few extra in to protect the quarterback sometimes, then so be it. The quickest way to get style points is to get the ball deep and score points.
Objective II: Keep it underneath.
If you want to drive Spurrier crazy, make him keep throwing underneath. That means get after him with the pass rush so there is no time to pass the ball and keep the receivers in front of the secondary. He is bound to take shots and when he does, be there for it.
The one thing they will have to do is watch for the surprise receiver—that guy that Spurrier might use because you are worried about his wide receivers. He is not against throwing it to the fullback or the tight end if a team is not defending them.
The Gamecocks had 126 passing yards last year and more than half of them came on one play when Sidney Rice broke two tackles on a 64 yard reception to the one yard line.
Objective III: Win the turnover and penalty battles.
Florida outmatched and outperformed the Gamecocks last year in everything but the score. The first South Carolina drive for a touchdown was only five yards after an interception. The difference in the talent between the two teams this year is even greater, so just taking care of the ball should nullify a lot of what South Carolina is capable of doing.
Don’t give them life on drives due to penalties. There were three 15 yard pass interference penalties and a personal foul against the defense last season. All of them came on drives that scored touchdowns. Don’t make it easy for the Gamecocks, make them earn it.
Objective IV: Harass the quarterback.
With Blake Mitchell starting again, this defense needs to be all over him. He is not the mobile threat that Syvelle Newton is and certainly after last week’s contest he will try to stand back there and throw the fade to his receivers. The defense needs to hit him early and often and don’t make that throw easy. The pass rush has been there this year for the Gators and South Carolina has given up 20 sacks even though half the season has been with a mobile quarterback.
Objective V: Special teams play special.
Eric Wilbur had punts of 22, 33, 36, and 38 yards last year. You can’t give Steve Spurrier the extra yardage from bad punts and expect to beat him.
South Carolina ranks 111th in the nation in punt return defense. Brandon James ought to be licking his chops.
The Gamecocks ranked 94th in the country in punt return yardage and the Gators are ranked 8th in punt return defense. South Carolina ranks 85th in kick return yardage while the Gators are ranked 13th nationally defending kickoffs. The patterns in these two areas could mean great field position for the Gators throughout the game.