Saturday should be fun.
Weather’s supposed to be nice. The No. 1 team in town. A military fly-over before the game, and USC wearing camo jerseys to raise awareness and dollars for the Wounded Warrior Project.
What could be better?
Well, a close game would be nice.
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The Gamecocks let things get away from them in a hurry last year in Gainesville, thanks to a couple of Chris Smelley picks and a poorly timed, poorly executed double pass on a kickoff return.
A scoreless game turned into a 21-0 rout in a matter of minutes, and you could see the fight go out of the Gamecocks’ defensive players.
What ensued was a 56-6 beatdown that was the worst loss of Steve Spurrier’s career – as an Ol’ Ball Player or Ball Coach. Florida apparently does not know how to treat its own.
But this year could be different. The Gators are merely beating teams soundly this season, not clamping down on opponents and squeezing the life out of them.
No Percy Harvin. No Louis Murphy.
But this Tebow kid is supposed to be pretty good.
Ellis Johnson, who runs the USC defense, said the Gamecocks are not going to throw a bunch of blitzes at Tebow. They hope to create pressure with their base, 4-man front, giving them ample defenders to drop back in coverage.
After watching the Gators rip off a number of big plays against his guys last year, you get the idea Johnson will be willing to concede the 12-yard out routes and have his safeties keep the play in front of them.
And while Tebow does not always throw the prettiest spirals, he can read a defense as well as anyone. And if the Gamecocks don’t do anything to disrupt him, Tebow will take the Gators down the field, via the read-option or whatever throws USC is giving him.
A healthy Cliff Matthews would add to the Gamecocks’ chaos quotient. And while Matthews might play in key situations, it’s hard to imagine him being effective at less than 100 percent and wearing a bulky brace under his shoulder pads.
So then it falls to Eric Norwood to try to get to Tebow. Norwood sacked him twice last year at the Swamp. But he might have to do more Saturday, namely strip him of the ball and end the defense’s three-week drought without a turnover.
Offensively, the Gamecocks don’t have to be perfect. But they do have to maximize their scoring chances – an Achilles heel for Spurrier and his team of play-callers all season.
Spurrier says he’s calling the plays, although his players said this week they had not seen any change in the system. It might not matter, anyway: Charlie Strong’s defense is giving up an NCAA-low 10 points a game, and Arkansas is the only team to score 20 on the Gators.
This won’t be a blowout. But it won’t be an upset, either.
Florida 28, USC 13