Podcast: Midweek Florida Gators vs. South Carolina preview with Chris Clark

GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we’re joined by Chris Clark of Gamecock Central to preview the Florida Gators vs. South Carolina game in Columbia on Saturday.

Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre ask Clark about how South Carolina beat Georgia and his keys for Carolina on Saturday afternoon.

Andrew and Nick also breakdown the latest injury news surrounding the Gators, plus we talk about if the Gators should be favored against Georgia or not.


Andrew:                 What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas de la Torre. Nicholas, moving on to South Carolina, and we’ll be joined by our good friend Chris Clark of Gamecock Central up there in Columbia to talk about this game and talk about Willie Muschamp.

Nick:                         Yeah. I mean, Willie Muschamp with his readers, his glasses, coming off probably the biggest win he’s had at South Carolina, would you say? I think it’s fair to say.

Andrew:                 100%.

Nick:                         Until they get over the hump and beat Clemson, which probably won’t ever happen. That’ll be the biggest win.

Andrew:                 Dabo’s going to go to Alabama one day.

Nick:                         Yeah, but will that happen before they run him out of town, before they run Muschamp out of town?

Andrew:                 Good question. That’s true. Well, if he keeps beating Georgia like he does. He finds a way to beat them. If he could just have Georgia on the schedule every year, or every game, he might have a Hall of Fame coaching career.

Nick:                         Before we get Chris on, someone on Gator Country posted on the message board. Is Kirby Smart just another Mark Richt? We’ll talk about that.

Andrew:                 Did you see that? Did you see that breakdown? Have you seen the breakdown?

Nick:                         Yeah.

Andrew:                 It is mildly concerning if I’m a Georgia fan, because here’s the way I look at it, and Nick, you can correct me if I’m wrong. Mark Richt never had the football players Kirby Smart had. Never had the football players Kirby Smart had. He had good football players, but Kirby’s got a roster full of five-stars.

Nick:                         Yeah. Kirby’s doing, Mark Richt had it good. He recruited well.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         But Kirby, we talk about it all the time. He signs 75 guys a class, and 76 of them are five-stars. I don’t know how it works, but it keeps working.

Andrew:                 Someone asked, and I don’t know where I was reading this at, but somebody asked one of the Georgia writers, does it hurt worse now seeing what Justin Fields is doing at Ohio State?

Nick:                         Wrong kid transferring.

Andrew:                 Yeah. What’s your take on that though, Nick? Do you think that Kirby is just average as a coach? What do you make of that? We can say what we want to say, but the numbers speak for themselves. That’s mildly concerning if you’re a Georgia fan that Mark Richt, who never won a championship, had the same record. I mean, identical.

Nick:                         Yeah. We can get more into it after Chris, but it’s early. I mean, like you said, Georgia’s recruiting at a crazy level. They’re still the defending SEC East Champions.

Andrew:                 But that didn’t mean anything when Florida was the defending SEC East Champions.

Nick:                         That’s different, because Florida went and go the pants beat off of them by Alabama.

Andrew:                 Sure, but at the end of the day, they both had the same results. Neither one of them won national championships.

Nick:                         Well, we can’t make it just about national championships. Mark Richt didn’t win anything.

Andrew:                 Right. I’m just saying, is the end goal just to win the SEC, or is it to win the big one?

Nick:                         No. You want to win them all.

Andrew:                 Exactly. If you’re just winning one SEC Championship, and let’s face it, if Alabama didn’t lose to Auburn, Alabama crushes Georgia. That was a little bit of luck of the draw. I mean, had Florida not had to face Alabama both years, maybe they win one. Who knows? I don’t know. We’ll get more into that. Let’s bring Chris on, get his thoughts on that, and then we’re going to talk more about this, because I’m intrigued to talk about this. I like talking about how bad Kirby sucks. Let’s bring on Chris.

All right, guys. We’re back. We’re joined by my good friend, Chris Clark, from South Carolina. Chris, first of all, appreciate you coming on, and second of all, how’s your year going?

Chris:                       I appreciate you guys having me on again. Always great to be on. It’s going well. I said before the season, if nothing else, it’s going to be an interesting football season in Columbia. It’s certainly been that. Personally, everything’s going pretty well.

Andrew:                 What’s the temperature up there like for Will Muschamp? Obviously, it’s a lot higher now after the Georgia game. Heading into the Georgia game, how were fans reacting to Will Muschamp?

Chris:                       Heading into the Georgia game. Look, you guys have covered college football long enough. You know that with everything in life, but especially in college football, there’s typically a split on things. There’s never a consensus on anything hardly, even when things are going really well or really poorly. Certainly, South Carolina didn’t get off to the start that anybody wanted or envisioned. I would not have been shocked to see South Carolina lose to Alabama or even to Missouri on the road to begin the season. I think everybody expected an Alabama loss. The Missouri game was seen as sort of a swing game at worst, but probably a game that South Carolina could or maybe even in the minds of some should have won.

I think the North Carolina game is the one that really, especially to begin the season, that’s the one that really hurt folks. It was understandable, because you look at that game, South Carolina laid an egg in Charlotte at the Belt Bowl to end last year. So, what does South Carolina do the very next game in a season where this is supposed to be Will Muschamp’s best team? They come out and lay an egg in Charlotte again, and they do it with a first-year coach in Mack Brown, who’s an older coach. North Carolina was terrible last year. That really got a lot of vitriol going, and it was understandable. It was a devastating loss, devastating way to begin the year.

Nick:                         And to lose Bentley in that game as well.

Chris:                       Exactly. Lost Jake Bentley. It was a game where I think as time went on, as the weeks went on, is North Carolina a good team? No. Are they as bad as people thought they’d be? No. I mean, they took Clemson to the brink. They didn’t win, so it doesn’t count as a win, but they’re certainly a serviceable team, and South Carolina didn’t play well. But I think that really got things off to a poor start, and it really got people talking about the long-term trajectory of the program.

You look at the past couple weeks. The defense, even a loss to Missouri, the defense played a lot better. The offense gifted them 14 points. They did next to nothing in the first half. They played a lot better against Kentucky as a team, particularly on defense. They were able to have a bye week to go get healthy, and then they played Georgia, #3, on the road, and won that game.

So, I think it shows that, look, perspective is not another thing that’s done well in college football, but it is possible for teams to improve over the course of the year. I don’t know what will happen this weekend. I don’t know what will happen the rest of the year, because the schedule’s quite difficult, but I do know that this team is playing better than it was in the beginning of the season. There’s some different parts and different pieces. They made some changes, whether they’ve had to or whether they’ve made them just on their own, but the outlook is a little bit better now.

I think it was just such a huge win, for the players who have wanted to get that type of result. Muschamp has needed that type of win, that sort of signature win over a key rival, a top 5 team. That was the big thing coming into this season is get a win over a ranked opponent that’s not Tennessee, because that was really the only one, and that was against a Tennessee team that the ship was sinking at that time. Now they have that. They have that result they can point to, and it’s potentially a confidence builder.

Andrew:                 Right. Nick and I both watched most of the game against Georgia, but before we go into Florida, how did South Carolina beat Georgia? I mean, obviously they won on the scoreboard. It looked like it was the defensive pressure that just continued to hit Fromm and make Fromm make mistakes. Is that how you kind of see how South Carolina defeated Georgia?

Chris:                       Definitely. I thought the two key areas going into that game, and I didn’t think they’d be able to get there, to be quite honest, but they were going to have to narrow the run differential gap between Georgia and South Carolina for the past three seasons. I’m counting the past three seasons, because, of course, that’s how long Will Muschamp’s been at South Carolina. The lowest differential in rushing totals, team rushing totals, between the two teams the past three years was 199 yards. That was the lowest.

Andrew:                 Wow.

Chris:                       South Carolina, I think their highest rushing total the past three years was 54 yards as a team. Georgia had 326 yards one year. They had 271 another year. I think another year they had in the 250s or so. South Carolina had to make sure Georgia didn’t run for 250 yards or 200 or whatever, and then they had to be able to run the ball a little bit themselves. So, as it turned out, Georgia, they had 100-yard rusher in Swift, and they got up. I think they had 173 rushing yards as a team, but what South Carolina did is they limited them to four yards a carry. They sacked Jake Fromm some. They created some negative plays or some zero plays, which we hadn’t seen a lot in the past in this series recently. They also were able to rush for over 100 yards themselves. I think this year the differential in rushing totals was only like +41 Georgia, so that was a big one.

Then the other one that you could definitely point to is turnovers. I mean, that’s how upsets happen. Four turnovers to 9. Three Jake Fromm interceptions. Really probably only one was his fault. One of them was a drop ball by Tyler Simmons. Went off his shoulder pads, got picked. Another was a miscommunication that I’m not sure it was the receiver, but that’d be my guess. Then another one was a pick six that was caused by again, Andrew, the pressure that you mentioned from Javon Kinlaw, and that turns into a pick six. Then you have a fumbled snap on the center exchange.

So, South Carolina wasn’t great offensively, but Georgia, people are sort of making the doomsday predictions with Georgia. They might be as good as we thought. Still a pretty good football team, and still a team that has a really good defense, I think. They’re a fast, talented defense. So, I didn’t expect South Carolina to go in and score a lot of points, but they did just enough. I think they sort of followed that recipe for an upset. They hit some key things that they needed to hit in order to win the game. Both teams had chances at the end to win the game, and South Carolina was sort of last man standing. Huge win for them.

Andrew:                 Chris, let me ask you this, so we can start talking about Florida. What is the outside perception of Kyle Trask from your standpoint? We think over here that Kyle Trask has done really well, and the moment hasn’t been too big for him, but what’s the outside thinking? What did Will Muschamp say about him? Just overall thoughts on Kyle Trask, Florida offense.

Chris:                       Well, something that Muschamp said today that really stood out is he’s making sort of a generalized statement. Somebody asked a question about his team, and he sort of took it in the direction of Kyle Trask. He’s talking about Dakereon Joyner, their own quarterback, and how he’s stuck things out, and he’s made the most of his opportunity. He’s talked about that a lot. He was talking in college football how a lot of guys, if they face adversity, whether it’s older players, maybe their coach left or whatever, younger players who aren’t playing, a lot of guys sort of take their ball and go home. He mentioned, Trask, you’ve got a guy here who could have left, could have been eligible somewhere, but he stuck it out. He waited his turn. Now he’s a starting quarterback at Florida, and he’s flourishing.

So, for me, I don’t know if I could really speak to the general perception. I think people have been pretty impressed with Trask. I know for me, watching the LSU game and watching the other games this season, I’ve been very impressed with him. I think he’s certainly surpassed expectations for me. I think it speaks to the job that Dan Mullen does with quarterbacks and the job that they do with the offense there and the play calling. I think Trask has done a really nice job. We knew he could throw the ball, but he has navigated the pocket really well, and I think he’s done a really nice job. Florida gave LSU everything that they could handle on the road and matched them score for score for quite a while, and I think Trask deserves a lot of credit for that.

Nick:                         Now, if we get into the game Saturday, I think Will said Sunday that Hilinski will play. In your opinion, do you think he plays? If he does, how effective is he? Then if he does play and can’t finish the game, what can we expect from Joyner?

Chris:                       Yeah. Muschamp updated Hilinski again during his press conference on Tuesday, and sort of indicated the same. Hilinski did practice on Tuesday, according to Muschamp, according to some of his teammates who also spoke with the media. He’s a little bit limited, as you would expect. They’re not going to put him out there full go.

Nick:                         Especially not in practice. Protect it in practice.

Chris:                       Right. You got to protect him. The way that South Carolina structured it was he was sore. Muschamp gave the team a day off after the game on Saturday. They never practice on Monday. They have the day off anyway. So, Hilinski was sore throughout the weekend, as you could imagine. I mean, he was already sort of favoring the knee earlier in the game, and then took the other shot that sort of took him out. Then he had to ice the knee down and miss the rest of the Georgia game. He did practice, and the expectation is that he’ll play. For Hilinski, a huge part of his game is not really mobility. He moves around the pocket a little bit. They’ll roll him out. They like to roll him out to the left a lot actually, which is interesting. As long as he can protect himself, I think they’ll have him out there to do as much as he can. I think he’ll be fairly effective, as long as he doesn’t take anymore hits or just becomes too sore or the situation’s untenable throughout the game. He’s a guy that he’s not afraid to stand in the pocket and take hits. He definitely did that against Georgia.

With Joyner, his backup, I think there’s probably an expectation that he might play some regardless. I mean, they’ve been doing that a little bit anyway. Joyner has moved back and forth a little bit between receiver and quarterback this year. The focus lately has been at quarterback, especially since Hilinski got banged up. He’s been taking all his reps at quarterback. But Joyner’s been injured too. I mean, he missed the Kentucky game with a hamstring injury. Then was able to heal up some during the bye week, but he wasn’t 100% during the Georgia game. You could watch him out there running around, and for those of us around here who watched Dakereon in high school and have seen him at South Carolina, he wasn’t as explosive as usual.

I think he was not, in that game at least, quite 100%. He had been limited in practice some during the bye week and leading up to the game. He’s not a guy that’s going to be the thrower that Hilinski is, but he can go out there and make some things happen. He did a really good job during the Georgia game of taking care of the ball, extending some plays, hitting a few passes here and there to keep the chains moving, which South Carolina needed.

Andrew:                 Defensively, what is the strength of this South Carolina’s defense? Is it the pass rush? What is the strength of this South Carolina defense?

Chris:                       It’s the defensive line right now as a whole. Really, I think this defensive line has played pretty well all year. Some people who watched the North Carolina game say I’m insane for saying that, but I think the North Carolina game was more of linebacker play, a little bit more. Then North Carolina hit a few really nice individual one-on-one plays, wide receivers versus defensive backs, and really well placed balls by Sam Howell too, their quarterback. This is a defensive line, Javon Kinlaw is as good of a defensive lineman as there is in the country. You go back and watch the film and go back and look at the two best teams that South Carolina’s played this year, Alabama and Georgia, and he completely dominated both of those teams on the offensive line. Double teams, one-on-ones, didn’t matter. Pass rushing, shedding blocks, whatever it may be.

They’ve got Kobe Smith, who’s another senior. DJ Wonnum, another senior, at the buck position. Zacch Pickens, who’s a true freshman. Rick Sandidge as a sophomore. Aaron Sterling, Enagbare. They’ve got some guys who played football and have talent, and so they have more depth this year than they’ve typically had. Kinlaw’s emergence is the next step that he’s taken, to where he’s probably going to be a first-round pick. I can’t imagine him slipping past the second, if he keeps this up.

That’s been big, and that’s allowed their linebackers more freedom. They don’t have to take on as many blocks now, because of the penetration in the run game that they’re getting. They’ve been able to rush the passer a little bit more, sending four guys, and that’s helped them in coverage, of course, as well. I think the linebackers have played better with TJ Bruson. Ernest Jones, who’s a sophomore, and a young sophomore at that. I mean, he only played in five games last year.

Then they’ve played a lot more three linebacker defense, rather than nickel. That was a change they made after the Missouri game, where Will Muschamp felt like we got to get our best players on the field. Sherrod Greene’s playing better, so they put him out there a lot more. That’s been something else that’s been key for them. I think they’ve moved some pieces around and found some guys in the secondary to where they like their combinations a little bit more, so they’re playing a lot better than they were, I think, early in the year.

Andrew:                 Nick, you got anything?

Nick:                         No. He’s hit on everything. I think it’s a game where Florida’s obviously favored in the game in terms of the guys in Vegas out in the desert, but it’s still a game for Florida where you’re not going to have your two best pass rushers, and you got to find some answers. South Carolina’s coming off a big win. I think sometime when you come off a big win it can either propel you, or that was an emotional win, and you can kind of come out flat. I think that’s kind of what we’ll have to see. Then the same thing for Florida. Last year Florida lost to Georgia, turned into a loss to Missouri. I think those are two things, maybe intangible things, that we haven’t touched on yet, that we’ll probably look for Saturday as well.

Chris:                       For sure. I think that’s been talked about, in terms of not letting an opponent beat you twice that Kirby Smart talked about this week with Georgia. He didn’t want to talk a lot about the South Carolina game. Wanted to talk about Kentucky. Will Muschamp had to address that today, in terms of how do you manage this. He talked to his team immediately about it. He made that pretty clear right after the game and Sunday night of just what do you do with this situation. I mean, it’s a great win. Everybody recognizes that. Can you use it as sort of a springboard? For Florida, they put in a tremendous effort against LSU. No shame in losing that game. That’s one of the most difficult, probably in my opinion the most difficult place in the country to play, especially at night. To go out there and do what they did was pretty impressive. You guys would know more than me. It doesn’t seem like a lot of head hanging around there.

But both teams have some questions. There’s still some key injuries for both these teams. You guys mentioned Zuniga and Greenard. South Carolina’s got a couple quarterbacks who have, especially with Hilinski, a little bit of health concerns. Still going to be missing Dylan Wonnum, their starting right tackle. He’s been out a couple weeks. Jaylen Nichols, a freshman, in at right tackle. Lot of storylines in this one. Anticipate that it is going to be a close game. Indeed, an important one for both teams.

Andrew:                 What a lot of people forget is South Carolina had the game won in Gainesville last year.

Nick:                         Yeah. That was the turning point for Feleipe Franks.

Chris:                       It was a devastating loss for South Carolina. You’re right. They had the game won. They were doing what they wanted offensively early in the game, and the defense really just fell apart. Florida started getting some stops on defense, and Florida was then able to run the ball a lot. Ernest Jones that I referenced earlier, the Gamecocks starting right linebacker, he was asked about it today. What do you remember about the game? He said, I remember Florida rushing the ball a lot. They rushed the ball, and then they came back and ran the ball some more. He said, I think it was about 300 rushing yards. So, everybody remembers it. It was a loss that was taken very tough in that locker room, I know, for sure.

South Carolina’s defense was just, by that point in the season, comically almost beat up, with the amount of guys that they had. They were playing guys next level that didn’t have a lot of experience at all. They were so banged up up front. It’s a different ballgame from that standpoint this year, in terms of the health of the defense, the depth that they have on the defensive line. But can they be as explosive on offense as they were last year? I think that’s certainly a question. This isn’t an offense that’s been consistently explosive against good defenses, and so that’s a question that I think they’re going to have to answer. Then this Florida offense has definitely been humming as well, so that’s going to be a huge challenge for them.

Andrew:                 Agreed. Completely.

Nick:                         Real quick. What would it mean, if anything, what would it mean for Will Muschamp to beat Florida, or has he kind of gotten over the way things happened and the way the fans ran him out of town really?

Andrew:                 First of all, before Chris answers this, Will Muschamp’s a competitor. He would love nothing more than to beat Florida.

Chris:                       Yeah.

Nick:                         He’s not going to say it, especially this week.

Chris:                       No. I don’t think he would. I don’t think he would really ever say that one game was sweeter than another. I mean, he’s asked that really every year about Florida. What do you remember about it? I mean, those things always come up. He was asked that about Georgia. What did it mean going back to Georgia? Because, obviously, he played there. What did it mean to get a win? He kept even keel about it, but look, everybody knows that that was a huge win, for so many reasons. You look at it’s a need. They needed a win. I mean, if it was Georgia Southern, they needed a win. That was a bad one to mention for Florida fans, Georgia Southern. Georgia State. Whatever. That’s a bad one for Tennessee fans. They needed a win, but they needed a ranked opponent win. To get it against Georgia, even sweeter for South Carolina. To get it against a top 3 Georgia, even better. Recruiting and just all those different things that go into it.

This one this week, Muschamp wants to beat Florida. Sure. Just like he wants to beat Georgia. I mean, a win over Clemson, if that could come for him at some point. That one would probably be the biggest one of all for him, for so many reasons. It would be significant. Here’s another reason, even more than just the Georgia or the Florida angles, it’d be two straight. What is Georgia ranked now? 9? I think, right?

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Chris:                       It’d be two straight top 10 wins. We haven’t researched it out totally, but we haven’t found an instance yet where South Carolina has done that in back to back weeks.

Andrew:                 Wow. We know one thing.

Chris:                       It’s happened in a season before, but not back to back weeks.

Andrew:                 We know Will Muschamp can beat Georgia. We do know that.

Chris:                       He can do that. He’s done it. He’s done it twice.

Andrew:                 It’s that time. If you’re comfortable, how do you think this game’s going to turn out? Do you think South Carolina gets that second straight win, or do you think Florida goes up there and gets back on a roll?

Chris:                       Man, I’ve been thinking about this one all week. It’s almost similar, let me just give a little background. I’ll try not to get too longwinded. I picked South Carolina to beat North Carolina and Missouri this year. Picked them to lose to Alabama and Georgia.

Nick:                         You’re doing well.

Chris:                       Yeah. Very well. I also picked them to lose to Kentucky, so my record this year is not sterling. This one’s been very difficult. I think Florida is going to present South Carolina a lot of problems. I think if Zuniga and Greenard don’t play, obviously that helps the Gamecocks a lot. Then there’s just a lot of questions. How healthy is Hilinski going to be? How effective is he going to be? That’s another question. He’s practicing, and he’s going to play and all those things, but I think those are significant questions. I think it’s going to be a close game either way. I think, just because it’s a home game, and I like how South Carolina’s defensive line is playing, I’m going to go South Carolina by a field goal. Do I feel super confident about it? No. I don’t. I could very easily see Florida winning.

Andrew:                 What we call that at Gator Country for myself is we call that reverse mojo. When you pick them to lose to Georgia, that means you’re really picking South Carolina, but you just don’t want to say that. That’s what we call it.

Chris:                       I picked Georgia by about 21 in that game, I think. I think I picked a score of about 21 points, so I’m not sure if that’s the route I was going.

Nick:                         I think we picked that game against the spread, and then both picked Georgia to cover the spread.

Andrew:                 Absolutely. Yeah. Chris, tell everybody where they can find your work, and we’ll get you out of here. We will talk to you very soon again.

Chris:                       I appreciate you guys having me. You can find me at GamecockCentral.com, on Twitter, GCChrisClark.

Andrew:                 Chris, we appreciate it so much. Thanks for coming on. We’ll talk to you soon. Good luck on Saturday.

Chris:                       Thanks, man. Appreciate you guys having me.

Andrew:                 Nick, good stuff from our man, Chris Clark. Always appreciate him coming on. I think is about the third or fourth year in a row he’s come on with us and talked. He has awesome breakdowns.

Nick:                         He knows his stuff, for sure.

Andrew:                 Has awesome breakdowns of the team and everything. I will say this. What he talked about was what Will Muschamp is to a tee, and that is play great defense, hope your offense is good enough to win a game, have an elite punter.

Nick:                         Speaking music to my ears there, Spivey.

Andrew:                 I’m with you. This game concerns me for one reason, Nick, and one reason only.

Nick:                         Okay.

Andrew:                 Florida’s offensive line. We know Will Muschamp’s going to pick on that offensive line, and we know Will Muschamp’s going to bring some pressure on that defensive line. I just, I don’t know. I have a weird feeling this is a grind it out football game for some reason. I think Florida wins. Not to spoil my pick on Friday. For some reason I think this is a game that grinds it out a little more than they should.

Nick:                         Do you think Florida’s line was better at LSU?

Andrew:                 Pass pro wise, at times.

Nick:                         Yeah. That’s what I mean.

Andrew:                 Running game wise they suck. I mean, I’m just being honest.

Nick:                         Yeah. That’s where it is.

Andrew:                 I was on the Chuck Oliver Show, and he said, after half of the season, reality is what they are. He said, there’s no more maybe they’re better than what they are. He said, after six or seven games of the season, they are what they are. I think that’s what they are. They’re just a really bad offensive line.

Nick:                         You are what you put on tape.

Andrew:                 That’s right. We can chalk it up and say whatever we want to say about it and sugarcoat it, whatever else you want to do, but it is what it is. They’re just not going to run block. I was asked on the show with Chuck Oliver, and I’ll ask you the same thing. I’ll give you my answer first. I was asked, how does Florida combat the running game? I said, they got to continue to get Emory Jones in the game, and Dan Mullen has to game plan around a terrible offensive line.

Nick:                         Yeah. I don’t know if they’ve even figured out how to game plan effectively. I think they’re still kind of learning. I talked about it on the Monday podcast. I think they’re still learning even when to put Emory in and how to do stuff with that. I mean, we talked about it. We basically just straight up called for them to put new players in.

Andrew:                 I want them to make me eat my words. It’s at the point where that guy for Tennessee was sitting on top of the billboard till they won a game. I feel like I’m that. I’m like begging them to make me eat my words. Make me eat my words. Please. Please, make me eat my words that you guys are better than what you put on tape. I’m begging you. I hate poor offensive line play. I feel like I am in a nightmare. My Falcons’ offensive line sucks, and Florida’s offensive line is terrible. I haven’t seen an offensive line be good all year long. Somebody help me.

Nick:                         Now we’re getting into the point of the season, what game was it last year where the offensive line, because it was a veteran line last year, but what game was it they really turned things around? Was it the LSU game?

Andrew:                 I thought Mississippi State.

Nick:                         Mississippi State. That’s the game. It was the Mississippi State game where they figured things out. For the rest of the year on, after that point, they were really good.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         What was that? That was Game 5?

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         We’re onto Game 8 now.

Andrew:                 Yeah. I mean, let’s face it. We talked about how the offense was not the problem at LSU, and they weren’t. That’s not a narrative we’re going to get to, but that defensive line for LSU wasn’t that good.

Nick:                         No. They were definitely different. We talked about how they were different, faster than more of the powerful gap stoppers that Auburn had. We thought that that would give Florida more trouble than Auburn did, but that wasn’t the case.

Andrew:                 Right. Yeah. Like I said, I feel like this has got a chance to be one of those games that Florida struggles with, and then maybe gets it going. I don’t think Will Muschamp’s going to let Kyle Trask get comfortable back there. If he is, well, never mind. Shouldn’t have even made that comment. I was going to say, if he is, Will Muschamp’s dumb, but we all know Will Muschamp has some dumb parts of his body that is going to allow this to happen. Maybe they do. Maybe he does allow him to get comfortable back there. Like I said, I just feel like that’s going to be his game plan on Saturday is pressure, pressure, pressure.

Nick:                         Yeah. Will Muschamp, as much as I like to poke fun at him, one of the best defensive minds in all of football. He will find ways to get to Kyle Trask. For as much as I think Florida’s a better football team, they’ve got some dudes over there on the defensive side of the ball.

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         Will Muschamp always has dudes on the defensive side of the ball.

Andrew:                 That Kinlaw is good.

Nick:                         Yeah.

Andrew:                 Agree. That Kinlaw kid’s good. Here’s the thing though. Florida’s done a good job for the majority of the year of getting the ball out quick. South Carolina has nobody to match up with Kyle Pitts. Zero.

Nick:                         I don’t know who does.

Andrew:                 Probably Bama some way or another. They probably got some little five-star linebacker that runs a 4 140.

Nick:                         Right.

Andrew:                 I mean, again, how does Florida combat that? It’ll be interesting to see. Then defensively, Nick, whether it’s Bentley, whether it’s Joyner, whoever it may be, pressure, pressure, pressure. If it’s Joyner out there playing, don’t let him get outside the pocket.

Nick:                         That’s going to a huge thing. I mean, that was a killer for Florida last season with, I forget the quarterback’s name at Kentucky already.

Andrew:                 Terry Wilson.

Nick:                         It was a killer with Terry Wilson. That’s an issue. Without Jonathan Greenard and without Jabari Zuniga, and I think both you and I are not optimistic that they’ll play.

Andrew:                 I don’t think they play.

Nick:                         I don’t think so either. Without them there to set the edge, now you’ve got to ask Zach Carter. He’s kind of been a milk carton, unfortunately, this year. Where has he been? What has been doing? Khris Bogle’s played a bunch. He played in every single game this year. It’s just a lot to ask for a freshman to go from a guy that comes in and plays six snaps a game to you’re starting, and you’re going to play 40 snaps today.

Andrew:                 Yeah. You know, I say this, and our good friend, David Wunderlich, who writes for the site and does an incredible job, showed some different blitzes that Todd Grantham called on Saturday. It kind of made me wonder, like what was he thinking a little bit, because there was a lot of times where he was bringing safeties deep and things like that. It was like, why did you do that? They were hitting the crossing routes and the slants and stuff like that. It was a little too late for those pressures. It’ll be interesting to see how Grantham gets creative there. I’ll say this. I want to get your take on this. Again, when I was on Chuck Oliver’s show he asked me if that was the worst game that Todd Grantham’s called at Florida, and I said by far. I thought Todd Grantham was just caught off balance. I don’t think that happens two weeks in a row.

Nick:                         I don’t think it can. I was ready to give him the damn Broyles Award after Auburn, as the best assistant coach in the country, and then that stinker happened.

Andrew:                 Do you think that was his worst game for Florida yet?

Nick:                         Yeah.

Andrew:                 Okay. That’s what I thought. I thought by a wide margin. I mean, even in the loss to Georgia last year and Missouri, like I felt like the Missouri game was more of an effort thing. Then the Georgia game was simply just Georgia had better players.

Nick:                         Yeah. We’ll get into the Kirby thing. Real quickly, let’s not get too far off topic, do you think that gap has closed yet, or not closed completely, but is it closing?

Andrew:                 Yeah. We can get into that. There’s some more people out there who now think that, Kirk Herbstreet said it. He thinks Florida is the team to beat in the East. I’ll say this. I think it goes back to what I said on Monday’s podcast, where I learned more about Florida on Saturday night than I have all year. I think Florida is a team that could go into that game as a favorite.

Nick:                         Wow. I honestly hadn’t even thought about that, but you saying it, yeah. Wouldn’t surprise me now.

Andrew:                 Florida’s offense is legit, bro.

Nick:                         That’s really the biggest takeaway for me. I think even with a loss, Florida earned more respect in losing to LSU than they had in winning their first six games.

Andrew:                 Right. It was because of the offense showing, because I don’t think many people expected Florida to go into LSU and win, because it was simply at LSU. Had that game been at Florida, we might be talking about a different thing, everything else, but because it was there, I do. I don’t want to say, I mean, Georgia still, I think, has more talent than Florida, but what Dan Mullen gets out of the talent Florida has I think is better than what Kirby Smart gets out of the talent at Georgia.

Nick:                         Well, that’s nice and all, but I’m sure Gator fans would like you just to say Florida and Georgia have the same talent. Because Florida’s been recruiting on that level.

Andrew:                 Let me ask you this though. This is a question that I’ve had asked to me several times. Some people have asked me do I feel like Kyle Trask has started to, or not started to, but Kyle Trask is a lot like Jake Fromm, in that he’s very cool, collected, moment never gets too big for him, and he knows where to go with the ball. Neither one of them have, I would say, the best of arms. Neither one of them maybe is the most mobile quarterback, but both of those guys are what we used to call game managers.

Nick:                         Yeah. I don’t think that’s a dirty word anymore.

Andrew:                 See, I don’t think so either. I mean, is Tom Brady a game manager? I think you can make the case for it.

Nick:                         Yeah.

Andrew:                 Tom Brady doesn’t have elite arm skills. He’s definitely not a runner. Tom Brady just knows where to go with the ball. When I say game manager, I almost mean like a coach on the field. When I say that, that’s what I kind of think of. That’s just me.

Nick:                         I agree with you.

Andrew:                 There’s not though. I mean, there’s just not, Kyle Trask has impressed me. That’s just what it is. He’s impressed me. He’s made a believer out of me, and that’s just that. Maybe that’s because I’ve liked Kyle Trask beforehand, but there’s nothing Kyle Trask has done that hasn’t shown me he could be the University of Florida quarterback for not only this year but next year.

Nick:                         Right. I mean, if you look at it, he’s a redshirt junior, so he’s got next year. He had two season ending injuries. One where he really didn’t play at all. He could be around for two more seasons after this.

Andrew:                 He’s going the Luke Del Rio route, and going for his doctorate degree before he finishes school.

Nick:                         He might. Shoot, if they’re paying for it, keep doing it.

Andrew:                 That’s right. Have a backup plan for the NFL.

Nick:                         To me that’s interesting, because then you get into a situation of who stays, who leaves? Feleipe Franks, I think, told ESPN he doesn’t know, hasn’t made a decision about his next year.

Andrew:                 Whoever’s advising him to say that is crazy.

Nick:                         I think that was just him. I don’t think he was advised to do anything. He just was asked a question and answered it on his own.

Andrew:                 Whatever. Any final thoughts on South Carolina before we move on?

Nick:                         No. We got a great breakdown from Chris. That was a ton of information. Then we’ll make our prediction on Friday.

Andrew:                 I want to get back on that Kirby thing, because I think this is an interesting conversation. Quite frankly, I like to talk about how bad Kirby sucks.

Nick:                         I got the numbers pulled up right now.

Andrew:                 Rattle them to me.

Nick:                         So, it’s the first four years of their careers at Georgia.

Andrew:                 He’s already been there four years?

Nick:                         This is his fourth season.

Andrew:                 Wow. Okay.

Nick:                         In 2001, Mark Richt’s first year, went 8-4. Kirby’s first year went 8-5. 2002, Mark Richt went 13-1, and finished first in the SEC, or SEC East, I think. No, SEC in 2002. Georgia won the SEC in 2002. Kirby Smart, 2017, 13-2. #1 in the SEC. 2003 for Mark Richt, 11-3. Kirby’s third year, 11-3, SEC #2, both of them. Then in their fourth season they both started the year 5-1.

Andrew:                 That’s just scary. If I’m a Georgia fan, I’m scared.

Nick:                         I mean, shoot. I thought, and I remembered when it happened. We were doing the podcast, and I said I didn’t think they would fire Mark Richt, because you know what you’re getting from Mark Richt; you’re going to get a good team every single year. And you’re hiring a first-time head coach in Kirby Smart, and you have no idea. You could be hiring the next Will Muschamp. It turns out you just hired the next Mark Richt.

Andrew:                 I mean, listen, I hate to say this, because it hurts my heart to say this, but as a Braves fan I understand. You make it to the playoffs, and you suck. It’s a killer. To me, it’s not acceptable. I just say this, and again, I know Mark Richt had some good players, but he did not have the guys that Kirby does. You can’t use the excuse of some of these guys are Mark Richt guys. You just said he’s in Year 4. All these guys are his dudes.

Nick:                         Yeah. All of them are his guys. All of them are very highly rated coming into the school.

Andrew:                 Right. What was Spurrier’s line? They always win the preseason, but then when it comes time for the games, Florida always seems to have the better talent. I don’t know the exact quote, but it was something like that.

Nick:                         I don’t know which one you’re talking about on that.

Andrew:                 What’s your thing? What’s your thoughts?

Nick:                         I’m not sure. Those numbers are crazy. Crazy to see how, not even similar, just how exactly the same they are. I think the jury’s still out, if you ask me my opinion. The jury’s still out on what Kirby Smart is. We weren’t having the conversations before you lose to South Carolina. Kirby Smart and Georgia can go out and win the rest of the games, and then we’re not talking about it anymore, or they can come out and lose to Florida. They win a national championship every February, but not going to win one on the field if you’re not winning games. I was just shocked about the loss and just the way they looked against South Carolina.

Andrew:                 It was one of those games where you just kept expecting Georgia to come back and win, and they just never did. Here’s my question to you, Nick. If you’re Georgia fans, how long are you patient before you say, he’s not going to win us a championship either?

Nick:                         How long was Mark Richt there?

Andrew:                 A long time.

Nick:                         I’m looking it up. See how long he was at Georgia. It was like 10 years? Longer?

Andrew:                 I was going to say 12 or 15, but you might be right. It was a long time. That’s what I’m saying.

Nick:                         He was at Georgia for 14 years.

Andrew:                 Yeah. I don’t think Kirby gets 14 years.

Nick:                         No. It’s a different time now.

Andrew:                 Yeah. It’s interesting. I tweeted this, and I said, when does Kirby’s message about we’re going to win a championship here stale out for recruits?

Nick:                         I don’t know. It didn’t for Richt, you know what I mean?

Andrew:                 Richt died off at the end of career though in recruiting.

Nick:                         Yeah.

Andrew:                 Remember the year he had his punter playing quarterback? Bryce Ramsey.

Nick:                         That’s a good strategy, in my book.

Andrew:                 Punt it on any down. 1st and 10, we don’t have a good drive.

Nick:                         Let the punters do more. They’re people too, and they want to go have fun.

Andrew:                 Whatever. Whatever, Nicholas. Nicholas, tell everybody where they can find us. We’ll get out of here. We’ll see everyone on Friday, do our predictions, and we’ll see how the Gators do up in Columbia for the game on Saturday.

Nick:                         www.GatorCountry.com for all your Florida Gator news. The podcast is there in audio and transcript form. You can find the podcast wherever you consume your podcasts. Just search Gator Country. Never miss an episode. Do your social media thing. @GatorCountry on Facebook and Twitter. @TheGatorCountry on Instagram. I’m @NickdelaTorreGC. He’s @AndrewSpiveyGC.

Andrew:                 There you go. Guys, we appreciate it, and as always, chomp, chomp and go Braves.

Nick:                         You stay classy, Gator Country.

Andrew Spivey
Andrew always knew he wanted to be involved with sports in some capacity. He began by coaching high school football for six years before deciding to pursue a career in journalism. While coaching, he was a part of two state semifinal teams in the state of Alabama. Given his past coaching experience, he figured covering recruiting would be a perfect fit. He began his career as an intern for Rivals.com, covering University of Florida football recruiting. After interning with Rivals for six months, he joined the Gator Country family as a recruiting analyst. Andrew enjoys spending his free time on the golf course and watching his beloved Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewSpiveyGC.