HB: Five things I want to see

Focused on the task at hand has to be priority one for the Florida Gators heading down the home stretch. With Steve Spurrier and his South Carolina Gamecocks coming to town, it's all completing the season positively. Nothing in the SEC rides on this game, but pride and a continuation at a shot at a national championship are the rewards for winning. Here is what I want to see happen.

Having been at almost every function possible this fall I have been concentrating on checking the focus of the team and coaches I do come in contact with. I haven't seen a time where this team hasn't really done all the right things leading up to a game to stay focused on that particular game. As the homestretch of the season is here, this is key as it is apparent that the gators are the best team on the regular schedule. If they win out, they play for all the marbles in Miami, so every game is still important in all of this.

Here are the top five things I want to see Saturday to win the game and maintain focus during a season that so far seems to be heading in the right direction.

Hold onto the ball...

Florida is tops in the SEC in turnovers lost and turnover margin coming into the game with South Carolina. South Carolina is dead last in the SEC in turnovers lost, but only one forced turnover behind Florida's 21. The Gamecocks hit hard and have a pretty wild defensive scheme that causes problems. It is important that Tim Tebow and the offense stay focused on not giving up the ball in this game.

Stuff the run...

As usual, Spurrier uses the pass to set up the run, but his running game is not all of that. Maybe it is because he hasn't had many comfortable leads in games to really run his draws and patented Spurrier runs, but South Carolina is last in the SEC in rushing with 103.5 yards per game and averaging just 2,94 yards per carry with the ball. UF is first in both categories averaging 198-67 yards per game and 5.34 yards per carry.

Florida needs to stuff the run when South Carolina does try and run it and force them to keep passing. The South Carolina quarterbacks have thrown 17 interceptions already this season, although they threw 11 in the first five games and only five in the last five games. They have greatly improved.

Part of containing the running game will be to keep quarterback Stephen Garcia in check and contain him on the outside. He is a very capable runner and can hurt the gators if not contained.

Protect Tim Tebow...

Florida did a great job of protecting Tebow against Vanderbilt who actually leads the SEC in sacks. Tebow himself did a great job of tucking and running with the ball, maybe because he knew that Vanderbilt was that good at it. South Carolina comes in ranked third in the SEC in sacks, so the offense needs to duplicate that feat two games in a row.

South Carolina schemes on defense and really switches their pass rushers a lot to confuse offensive blocking assignments. Multiple times in a game you will see the entire South Carolina defensive line drop into coverage as all the linebackers rush the quarterback. They will vary blitzing linebackers, corners, safeties, etc. during the game as well. It is a tough game for the mental aspect of the offensive line.

Run the ball successfully...

If you want to frustrate Spurrier, keep his team off the field. The Gators would like to do both and by running the ball well, they can do that. LSU pounded the ball down South Carolina's throat a couple of weeks ago rushing for 163 yards in their win over the Gamecocks. Championship Subdivision opponent Wofford used an option attack to keep them off guard and make life miserable for Spurrier and company. Wofford rushed 185 yards and was able to keep the ball from Spurrier a lot in the game as the Gamecocks won only 23-13.

The Gators have proven so far this year they can pound the ball and they can run the option well. I think it works well against a scheming defense like this that often has defensive linemen backpedaling away from the line of scrimmage. The key is to block the blitzing linebackers and then you have a speedy back against a lineman in the second level of the defense and basically in open field. The Gators have never run the option like they have this year and I expect to see a lot of that.

Defend underneath...

The Florida pass defense will be tested this week, especially in the underneath and mid level zones. I like the match up overall with Florida's cornerbacks on receivers but the tight ends at South Carolina are real weapons and they will be used a lot underneath in passing routes. TE Jared Cook has 33 receptions for 542 yards and an eye popping 16.4 yard average per catch. Weslye Saunders does well for himself with 11 catches for 150 yards.

The linebackers will have their hands full and need to protect from the crossers. Spurrier usually employs only two or three receivers at a time so maybe a safety can play in the box a lot more and help in the intermediate zone coverage. This will be a nice chess match in the game to watch.

If the Gators do most of these things on Saturday, they win big and keep their biggest dreams alive for the rest of the season. If they lose two or three of these battles, the big picture fades to non-existent.


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