In the previous three weeks prior to South Carolina's game with Arkansas last week, the offensive line had given up eight sacks, half their total of 16 for the year. However, the Gamecocks kept the Hogs off of their quarterbacks last weekend. However, it's hardly a success story when you consider Arkansas ranks last (tied with Carolina) in the conference in sacks.
The Carolina front has opened some nice holes for running back Demetrius Summers, who is averaging 5.9 yards per carry. Like so much of the SEC these days, the 'Cocks utilize the athleticism of their quarterbacks to bolster their ground game. Carolina quarterbacks account for more rushing yards (440) than Summers (420) and significantly more carries 141 to 59. Several of those runs were forced due to pass protection breakdowns. Regardless, South Carolina averages 182.6 yards per game.
Florida was torched by Vanderbilt's running game for 254 yards. A defense that had already demonstrated the propensity for giving up chunks of turf missed linebackers Channing Crowder, Travis Harris, and Earl Everett in Nashville. Everett and Harris should return and for this weekend's game. The Gators could use a little help containing quarterback Syvelle Newton and slowing down Summers and company.
Analysis: Florida's struggles stopping the run will make this an interesting homecoming battle. The Gamecocks will probably try to punch out the Gators, Mississippi State style, and take a little pressure off of Newton who will shoulder this one himself. Carolina is second in the conference in time of possession. The Gators have also struggled to get pressure on the quarterback. Florida had better suit up and get physical.
South Carolina skills positions vs Florida secondary
Dondrial Pinkins is out after suffering a rotator cuff injury just before the half of last weekend's Arkansas game. Did you see where Newton threw the ball poorly in Tuesday's practice? Yes, Granny Holtz is at it agin' ya'll. Her rheumatism medication at 7 a.m. is all that keeps her ailing body alert enough for her next dosage at noon. She keeps the brown jug next to her playbook and Monday's practice video of Newton throwing a perfect strike through a tire spinning in an F5 tornado at night in a Carolina tobacco field. Now, I'm not saying that Granny is a liar in the Clintonesque sense, but she could downplay the UN Food for Oil scandal into a broken snack machine at the Mobil station.
"(Syvelle) threw the ball very poorly in practice (Monday). He's still limping some. He's just a shadow of himself right now" Holtz said, providing three all too typical excerpts after Tuesday's practice session.
Some truths on Newton are that he completed 11 of 16 for 98 yards, including the game winning touchdown pass of 14 yards to Troy Williamson with 1:09 left to play. He also had 12 carries for 49 yards and a touchdown. Newton has played throughout the season. He shouldn't be confused with some reserve that was pressed into seeing something other than a practice field.
Summers is tremendous. The sophomore has seen limited carries, but has made the most of those opportunities. Fellow backfield mate Cory Boyd can do it all. The sophomore has 49 carries for 260 yards. He seemingly never gets knocked backwards. Boyd is also the Gamecocks second leading receiver with 29 receptions for 269 yards.
The Gamecocks have one weapon in the passing game. Junior Troy Williamson has 39 receptions for 802 yards and seven touchdowns. Williamson averages 20.6 yards per catch. His receptions account for nearly 30% of the passing game, while his seven touchdowns are an impressive 64% of South Carolina's scoring via the air.
Florida's secondary has been unspectacular throughout the '04 season. Dee Webb has proven the ability commit misdemeanor theft of opposing quarterbacks. If he could just hold on to the ball, Webb might break out and move up to felony status. Reynaldo Hill has had some solid moments too. Both need to be come consistent. After watching him in the August, I can't figure out why the Florida coaches didn't get Kyle Jackson more repetitions earlier in the season. Cory Bailey has admitted this was subpar season based on his earlier play in years past.
Analysis: South Carolina ranks in the middle of the pack in total offense. I already covered the Gamecocks woes as regards to the red zone offense and turnovers. The touchdown to interceptions ratio is poor to say the least. The Cocks have thrown 11 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. Their 20 turnovers are second only to Kentucky. The Florida secondary has talent, but has been disappointing. Team physicians have spent more time with the Florida linebackers than Coach Bill Miller.
South Carolina defensive front vs Florida offensive line
The Razorbacks ran for 247 yards last weekend. The Volunteers ran for 246 two weeks ago. Yes, the Gamecocks have gone rather limp the past two weeks. The Hogs and Vols averaged 6.08 yards per carry, well above the seasonal average of 4.2 yards per carry allowed by the USC defense. Making matters worse is the fact that the Gamecocks travel to "The Swamp" where the Florida offensive front feasted on the fine dining at Bally-Hoo, courtesy of the Southeastern Conference's first 1,000 yard rusher for 2004, Lord Ciatrick Fason.
The Gamecocks defensive front has also struggled to get pressure on the quarterback. Florida's receiver and tight end play has gotten better and should pose a definite challenge for the Gamecocks. Linebackers Rodriques Wilson and Marcus Lawrence are seemingly always around the football.
The Florida offensive line continues to play very well. They should have little problem opening holes for Fason and Thornton. Furthermore, they should provide Leak with plenty of time to throw the football.
Analysis: Carolina has mix things up. Get pressure on Leak and drop eight or nine hoping that he is not making sound decisions to take care of the football, as he has been prone to do. However, a well fed offensive line is a happy offensive line.
South Carolina secondary vs Florida skills positions
South Carolina is second in the conference in pass defense efficiency with a rating of 96.8 The Gamecocks lead the league in interceptions with 14. Free safety Ko Simpson leads the SEC with five, while cornerback Fred Bennett is behind him with three.
Quarterback Chris Leak has had solid back-to-back performances for the first time this season. In the past two games the sophomore has completed 44 of 63 for 554 yards and four touchdowns. Leak should be ready to see an awful lot of zone and eight, sometimes nine guys dropping. Holtz knows that for the Gamecocks to be successful in "The Swamp" they have to force turnovers and capitalize.
As I stated earlier, the Gamecocks have allowed an average of 6.08 yards per carry. Welcome to The Sunshine State where tailback Ciatrick Fason also is averaging 6.1 yards per carry. He is also a threat out of the backfield where he has hauled in 25 receptions.
The Florida receivers continue to improve and with each passing week their consistency forces opponents to adjust. The marked improvement of late is threat known as the Texas Twister, Tate Casey. The freshman hauled in his second touchdown pass of the season last weekend. There were other palsy where Leak could have hit the big target in stride.
Anlaysis: I'm betting that the Gamecocks give up more than their 164.4 yards per game. Why, when you consider that the Gamecocks haven't been ripped by a quarterback all season long. Leak has been running the ball a bit more instead of simply holding the ball too long or rolling out and tossing it to the sideline. Arkansas' Matt Jones ran for 111 yards on just 10 carries one week ago. Ole Miss' Michael Spurlock also had some success running against Carolina.
SLIGHT EDGE: Florida
South Carolina coaches vs Florida coaches
Granny knows best. Zook's last hurrah coaching the Orange and Blue in Gainesville.
Intangibles & Environment
Florida's seniors will be playing their last game in "The Swamp". I've seen far too many seniors lose their focus as they're filled with emotion in this one. Fortunately, Florida doesn't have a host of seniors who start.