Who: South Carolina (6-3, 4-3 SEC) vs. Florida (3-5, 3-4)
When: Noon Saturday
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250), Columbia, SC
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Radio: 107.5 FM in the Columbia area
Three story lines
1. The key game: South Carolina needs one win to reach seven with an FCS game still to go. Considering USC lost its best offensive player early, has not seen its offense fully come together and weathered a spate of injuries, it would be a big step for the program.
2. What team comes to Columbia? Sometimes an interim coach fires up a team, gets it to play closer to its potential. Florida didn’t do that in week 1 post-Jim McElwain firing, getting crushed by Missouri.
3. Finding offensive flow: Granted it was a good Georgia team last week, but South Carolina really hasn’t let it rip on offense this season. There have been solid and good games, but outside a defense-boosted day against Arkansas, USC is still searching for that great day.
Three players to watch
1. Wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland is arguably the Gators’ only big-play threat on the offensive side. He has 377 yards on 19.8 yards a catch.
2. Quarterback Malik Zaire, once a starter at Notre Dame, took over as Florida’s starter last week and was underwhelming. The former four-star prospect has 294 yards on the season, with one interception and a completion percentage of 59.5.
3. Defensive back Duke Dawson has been a highlight for the struggling Gators. The former four-star prospect, a Will Muschamp recruit, has eight pass breakups and three interceptions this season.
▪ Florida’s offense seems about as boring as one can get from a modern spread that mixes three receiver and two-tight end looks, give or take some single-back looks that have been less prominent the past few weeks. It runs a lot of standard stuff, especially zone. It doesn’t run it well. They do run a bit more than average, especially in passing situations.
▪ The biggest thing that stands out is that the Gators’ offensive line is just bad, like get-whipped-by-Missouri bad.
▪ They were able to connect on a few deep balls against Mizzou, and that was a departure from the norm. The only really strong thing the group has done is grind forward in the run game. The best big-play guy is Cleveland.
▪ A season-ending injury robbed the Gators of one of their top playmakers in tailback Malik Davis.
▪ At the moment, Zaire is a starter. He was sort of OK against Mizzou, but he did not lead the offensive to success. That position has been a mess for UF.
▪ Florida’s defense has slipped this season, after a pretty strong run early in McElwain’s tenure. Some have attributed this to running out of Muschamp’s players.
▪ UF deploys a four-down front, and that group hasn’t been bad getting to the passer. The group behind them hasn’t been good. On regular downs, the Gators are one of the worst teams in the land giving up explosive plays.