Ten games ago, Florida’s football team was one step away from a national championship game appearance. Tuesday, South Carolina’s coach and players were being asked if the Gamecocks might overlook the reeling Gators.
“We don’t overlook any team,” coach Steve Spurrier said. “It doesn’t matter who we play, we are trying to play the best we can.”
That the Gators have fallen to “any team” status is shocking. Florida comes to Williams-Brice Stadium fresh off four straight losses, including a 34-17 decision against Vanderbilt at home.
“I think a lot has been made that Vanderbilt beat them,” Spurrier said. “You know Vanderbilt did beat Georgia this year. It is not a disgrace to lose to Vanderbilt. They’re a pretty good team. We have barely gotten by them the last two years, and I mean barely so that is not disgraceful to lose, I don’t think, to a Vanderbilt team.”
A lot of people disagree. Gators coach Will Muschamp is officially on the hot seat, and Las Vegas oddsmakers are losing more and more respect for Florida by the day. South Carolina was a 3.5-point favorite in this game entering the season and that number has ballooned to 13.5 this week. It’s only the second time the Gamecocks have been favored at all against the Gators.
It has gotten so bad that South Carolina’s Sharrod Golightly has felt the need to talk up Florida to his freshmen teammates this week.
“I try to make sure they know this is still an SEC opponent,” Golightly said. “They are still going to come out with a lot of fight and a lot of pride. They are going to come in here and try to mess up our season.”
Entering last season’s matchup, a 44-11 Gators win, Florida was 6-0, ranked No. 3 in the Associated Press and No. 2 in the BCS standings. This year, it is 4-5 and must beat either South Carolina or Florida State, as well as Georgia Southern, to be bowl eligible.
“We don’t really look at their record too much,” Spurrier said. “We look at their team, their players, what kind of scheme they have a so forth. We know they are very capable of coming in here and beating us.”
Injuries and offense have been at the root of the Gators’ problems. Florida has lost 10 starters to season-ending injuries and is last in the SEC in total offense (335.7 ypg). The Gators’ 4.82 yards per play ranks 112th in the country.
“Playing against Florida is always a big game, especially with how we went out last year,” Golightly said. “We are going to come out with a lot of fight. Just another win. Just another win we are looking forward to. I don’t really look at (Florida’s) wins and losses. I just look at the scoreboard. It’s 0-0 when we start the game.”
Florida’s defense remains a force, ranked No. 1 in the SEC (278.8 ypg).
“We can’t overlook a game like this,” senior offensive lineman Ronald Patrick said. “Everybody knows that they are still very good on defense.”
A victory would give South Carolina its third straight six-win season in the SEC.
“We know we are in position to have a good year, maybe a special year,” Spurrier said. All we can do is try our best to play each of these games the best we can. The first one is against Florida. That is the way we’re going at it, just trying play the best we can and see what happens.”