FIVE THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT South Carolina
Fourth quarter collapses: The fourth quarter hasn’t been kind to the Gamecocks this season. They’ve given up 102 points in the fourth quarter including two-touchdown collapses that cost them their last three SEC games against Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee. While it’s easy to point a finger at the South Carolina secondary, which has given up huge chunks of passing yards in the fourth quarters, the real culprit is a defensive line that has only eight sacks in nine games. By the time the fourth quarter rolls around whatever token pressure the Gamecocks were able to offer in the first three quarters has totally disappeared and opposing quarterbacks have been able to sit back in the pocket and wait forever until their receivers break into the clear.
Can’t stop the run; can’t stop the pass: The Gamecocks believe in equal opportunity. They’re equally bad against the run as they are against the pass. South Carolina is giving up 237.1 passing yards per game and 223.44 rushing yards. Opponents are averaging 5.9 yards per carry and they’ve scored 24 touchdowns on the ground. They’re also completing 63.9% of their passes and averaging 7.3 yards per attempt.
The Swiss Army Knife: The one player on the South Carolina offensive roster that has to be accounted for at all times is sophomore Pharoh Cooper. A former high school quarterback, he’s got a skill set for just about anything Steve Spurrier wants to do. Against Tennessee, Cooper threw a touchdown pass, caught two touchdown passes and ran for one. In that game, he caught 11 passes for 233 yards, ran three times for 23, and was 1-2 passing for a 30-yard touchdown. His numbers for the season: 51 catches for 786 yards and eight touchdowns; 15 carries for 129 yards and one touchdown, 2-4 passing for 44 yards and one touchdown; and 51 yards returning punts. Cooper is a budding superstar who’s going to make a lot of preseason All-America teams next year.
Go deep young man: After four years of a ball control offense that was run-heavy with Conner Shaw at quarterback, this year’s Gamecock offense looks more like the old Fun N Gun than any offense Spurrier has had in 10 years at South Carolina. Dylan Thompson has had a productive year throwing the ball downfield, averaging 8.1 yards per attempt with 2,588 passing yards good for 22 touchdowns. The South Carolina wide receivers are averaging 13.32 yards per catch.
They can still pound the ball: It’s not all heave it down the field for South Carolina. The Gamecocks haven’t forgotten how to run the ball. Mike Davis has run for 819 yards and eight touchdowns while averaging 5.18 per carry. When Spurrier wants to punish opponents, he calls on Brandon Wilds, a 230-pounder who averages 6.27 per carry (445 yards, three touchdowns). For a change of pace, the Gamecocks bring in David Williams, who is averaging 7.3 per carry in limited action. Both Davis and Cooper will line up in the wildcat.
FIVE THINGS WE NEED TO SEE FROM Florida
The O-line needs to dominate: An offensive coordinator will look at the South Carolina defense and feel like a kid in a candy store. Where do you begin to exploit this defense (or lack of). The biggest reason for the defensive collapses in the fourth quarter by the Gamecocks is because opponents have manhandled their defensive line the first three quarters. The Gators need to average at least 5.0 per rushing attempt and hang a donut in the sacks against column.
Make the Gamecocks one-dimensional: South Carolina averages nearly 36 points a game with an offensive unit that is churning out 479.6 yards per game. Florida has to go into this game with the mindset to absolutely stuff the South Carolina running game. This is a game in which Darious Cummings can have a major impact on the game working against South Carolina redshirt freshman center Alan Knott. The Gators are going to have their work cut out against them when Dylan Thompson drops back to pass. South Carolina has allowed only eight sacks all season so protection has been close to air tight.
Win the turnover battle: As we saw last week against Vanderbilt, when the Gators are forcing turnovers, good things happen. South Carolina may not force a lot of turnovers (only 10 all year – five picks and five fumbles) but they don’t turn it over much either (four fumbles, 10 picks). The Gators are +4 in the turnover department with 10 interceptions and 11 recovered fumbles. Of the three games the Gators have lost this season, they were -8 in the turnover department against LSU and Missouri. The good news is that in his two starts, Treon Harris has only one turnover.
Integrate Demarcus Robinson into the game plan early on: This game sets up well for Robinson. He’s a big, physical receiver and he’s going to be working against South Carolina corners that have had their share of troubles covering people all season long. Since his 5-catch, 104-yard game against LSU, Robinson has all but disappeared the last three games, totaling six catches for 70 yards. If the Gators can get him going early he will open up things for the rest of the offense.
Give Treon plenty of run/pass opportunities: As we saw in South Carolina’s loss to Tennessee, the Gamecocks are particularly vulnerable to a mobile quarterback who gets outside the tackles. Josh Dobbs threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 235 and three more scores. Whenever the Vols got him outside the tackles, it was extremely difficult for the Gamecocks to contain him. Last week, Treon’s package was expanded to allow him 21 pass attempts and he ran the ball 10 times for another 49 yards. That package might need to expand against this very vulnerable South Carolina defense.