Marcus, Marcus, Marcus
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has made no secret that he wants to run his freshman tailback early and often against the Gators. Of course, he said that last week, and the Gamecocks’ first series featured three incomplete passes.
The last time the Gators lost an SEC-deciding game in The Swamp was in 2001, when Tennessee beat Florida 34-32 behind 226 rushing yards from Travis Stephens. South Carolina needs to use the same script Saturday.
The Gamecocks will need Lattimore at the top of his game to help them keep possession of the ball and score in the red zone, a skill that has deserted them in the last two games.
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And then Garcia
The junior quarterback has completed 17-of-32 passes for 186 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions last season against the Gators. Garcia does not have to throw for a ton of yards Saturday, but he needs to avoid turnovers.
The combination of Lattimore’s rushing and Spurrier’s offensive game plans means there will be at least a couple times when the Gamecocks have a shot at a big play down the field (see: second play of the game last week when Garcia couldn’t connect with D.L. Moore deep down the middle). South Carolina has to hit at least one of those plays.
Can special teams be special?
Kickoff returns got a little better for South Carolina last week, but not much else did.
The Gamecocks are 12th in the SEC in the punt return average and seventh in punting. And, of course, there have been two fake punts that have failed.
Senior captain Spencer Lanning is hitting 64 percent of his field goals, the 11th-best mark in the league.
The Gamecocks also need to be on alert against the Gators, who blocked two punts last week against Vanderbilt. Florida is first in the SEC in punting (42.1-yard net average) and third in kickoff returns (25.2 yards per return).
The only South Carolina opponent that provided as much diversity in its rushing game was Auburn, and the Tigers gained 334 yards on the ground.
Florida quarterback John Brantley is not a running threat, but Trey Burton and Jordan Reed are. When Burton and Reed are in the game, South Carolina will have to maintain its discipline.
The Gamecocks defensive line had its least productive game of the season against Arkansas, but South Carolina’s athleticism in its front seven matches up well against the Gators. The Florida offensive line has shown some vulnerability, so this is an area where the Gamecocks should have the edge.
What else? Pass defense
No one in garnet and black has any answers for fixing a pass defense that is last in the SEC, giving up 264.7 yards per game through the air. The good news for South Carolina this week is that Florida’s passing game hasn’t done much damage this year.
“Florida doesn’t have the passing game they normally have,” Spurrier said.
The Gators are eighth in the SEC and 77th in the country in passing with 200.4 yards per game. Only two teams in the SEC (LSU and Vanderbilt) average fewer yards per completion than Florida’s 6.6.