Gamecocks and Gators set to meet
A national television audience will be watching on CBS with Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson calling the action. For Gamecock fans attending the game, listen to the radio broadcast on 96.3 FM in Gainesville.
Carolina has won six of its last seven games, including four of its last five SEC contests. All three of the Gamecocks' losses have been seven-point setbacks (Vanderbilt, Georgia and LSU). Florida has clinched the SEC East title and has national championship aspirations, as its only loss came to Ole Miss by a single point on Sept 27. The Gamecocks have never won in Gainesville, posting an 0-11 record all-time in The Swamp.
GAMECOCKS AND GATORS
This is the 29th meeting between Carolina and Florida in a series that dates back to 1911. The Gators lead the all-time series, 21-4-3. Florida is a perfect 11-0 when hosting the Gamecocks in Gainesville. Florida had its 14-game winning streak over the Gamecocks snapped in 2005 in Columbia in a 30-22 Carolina win. It was USC's first win in the series since Nov. 4, 1939, a 6-0 decision in Columbia. Florida rolled to a 51-31 win in Columbia last season. The Gators blocked three kicks, including a potential game-winning field goal as time expired, to pull out a 17-16 win over Carolina the last time the two teams met at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
USUALLY A WINNER
Steve Spurrier has almost always been on the winning sideline when Florida and Carolina get together. He is 11-2 in these contests, including a perfect 10-0 when facing the Gamecocks when he patrolled the Gator sidelines. He has dropped two of three games against his alma mater as Carolina's head coach.
AMONG THE ELITE
The Gamecocks are ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since losing at Vanderbilt in the second week of the season. They are No. 24 in the Associated Press poll and No. 23 in this week's USA Today/Coaches' poll.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET
The Gamecocks had no answer for Florida's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow, who rushed for 120 yards and five TDs and threw for 304 yards and two scores, as the 17th-ranked Gators outscored Carolina, 51-31 on Nov. 10, 2007 in Columbia. USC overcame a fumble and a blocked punt which gave Florida an early 13 point advantage by scoring two first-quarter touchdowns to take a 14-13 lead. However, the Gamecock defense could not slow down a Florida offense that rolled up 537 yards. Blake Mitchell completed 26-of-42 passes for 316 yards and one touchdown to lead Carolina.
LAST TIME IN THE SWAMP
The Gamecocks battled sixth-ranked (and eventual national champion) Florida to the wire, but came up one point short in a 17-16 decision at "The Swamp" in Gainesville on Nov. 11, 2006. Blake Mitchell, starting at quarterback for the first time since the second game of the season, had one of his finest days as a Gamecock, completing 24-of-33 passes for 275 yards with no turnovers. Mike Davis logged his top rushing day of the season, carrying 16 times for 94 yards, as the Gamecocks outgained the Gators, 410-401. The game came down to special teams play, as Florida blocked two Gamecock field goal attempts and an extra point. The Gamecocks also had a 55-yard field goal taken off the board due to a penalty. Jasper Brinkley led the Carolina defense with a season-high 13 tackles, including 11 solo stops.
Florida comes into this week's game ranked third in both national polls. The Gamecocks are 5-11 against ranked opponents in the Steve Spurrier Era, including an 0-2 mark this season. Carolina is 2-8 at home in those contests and 3-3 on the road. The Gamecocks have lost their last four games against ranked opponents.
PLAYING THE BEST
South Carolina has played 32 games in its history against teams ranked in the top-five in the country, posting a 1-31 record in those contests, including losses in each of its last 22 opportunities. The Gamecocks are 0-13 in Columbia against top-five teams, 1-17 on the road and 0-1 at neutral sites. The lone win was a 31-13 win at No. 3 North Carolina on Oct. 24, 1981. Their most recent game against a top-five team was a 14-7 loss to No. 2 Georgia on Sept. 13. Florida has provided the opponent in seven of the last 14 games that Carolina has gone against a top-five foe.
AND DEFEATING THE BEST
South Carolina's best win over a ranked opponent came in the 1981 season when they knocked off No. 3 North Carolina by a 31-13 score. It's the only win over a top-5 opponent in school history.
THE LAST TIME OUT
The Gamecocks jumped out to an early 10-0 advantage less than four minutes into the contest and never looked back in a 34-21 SEC win over Arkansas last Saturday afternoon in Columbia. Rotating Chris Smelley and Stephen Garcia at quarterback on nearly every play, the offense churned up 351 total yards, including 219 through the air. Kenny McKinley was the primary beneficiary, catching seven passes for a season-high 130 yards and a touchdown, becoming the school's all-time leader in career receiving yardage along the way. The defense was solid again, holding Arkansas to 309 total yards, including just 54 on the ground. The turning point of the game came with Carolina on top, 20-14 in the third quarter but with momentum on the Razorback side, defensive end Jordin Lindsey intercepted a pass and rumbled 40 yards, setting up a touchdown two plays later and extending the lead back to 13. Eric Norwood led the defense with nine solo tackles including a career-best 3.0 sacks. Ryan Succop boomed a 54-yard field goal, the second-longest of his career and tying for the third longest in school history.
With the Gamecocks at seven wins, the bowl outlook is looking brighter (and warmer). The SEC has agreements to send nine of its member institutions to postseason bowl games following the 2008 season. The winner of the SEC Championship Game will automatically participate in the Bowl Championship Series comprised of the Sugar, Rose, Orange and Fiesta Bowls. The Capital One will make its pick following the BCS selections. The Outback and Cotton Bowls are next, followed by the Chick-fil-A Bowl. The Liberty and Music City Bowls will pick sixth and seventh, not in any specific order. The Independence Bowl has the eighth selection, while the Papajohns.com Bowl will pick ninth.
Kenny McKinley broke Sterling Sharpe's school record of 169 career receptions at Kentucky. He now has 188 receptions. McKinley became the school's all-time leader in career receiving yards against Arkansas. He has 2,602 yards, topping Sharpe's mark of 2,497 yards.
McKINLEY IN THE SEC
Kenny McKinley is not only leaving his name all over the South Carolina record books, but also is moving up the charts on the SEC career statistical leaders list. McKinley leads the SEC active players with 188 career receptions, tying Vanderbilt's Boo Mitchell for 10th place in the SEC's all-time list. He also leads the SEC active players with 2,602 career receiving yards. He needs 212 yards to tie Tennessee's Joey Kent (2,814) for 10th place in that category.
Senior placekicker Ryan Succop leads all NCAA Division I kickers in field goal attempts this season with 26. Succop is one of 10 kickers to record 17 or more field goals this year. He is tied for eighth in the nation with 1.70 field goals per game.
THE REST OF THE STORY
While the Gamecocks are one of the nation's worst in turnover margin, ranking ninth in the SEC and tied for 91st in the country at -0.50 per game, the defense has minimized the damage. Carolina has surrendered just 27 points following its 25 turnovers, while they have scored 75 points following their 20 takeaways.
WINNING MORE OFTEN
The win over Arkansas guaranteed Carolina a winning record this season. It's the fifth consecutive year in which Carolina has posted at least a .500 mark. The Gamecocks went 6-5 in 2004, 7-5 in 2005, 8-5 in 2006 and 6-6 in 2007. The last time they went five or more consecutive seasons with a .500 record or better was from 1928-34.
The Gamecocks have played just two overtime games in their history, both at Tennessee. They dropped a 23-20 decision in Knoxville on Sept. 27, 2003, then fell by a 27-24 score on Oct. 27, 2007, also at Neyland Stadium. Every other SEC team has played at least four overtime games since the rule was established in 1996.
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