Game preview: Can USC take advantage of floundering Florida?
Jake Bentley says he doesn’t care how South Carolina’s offense moves the ball as long as it does so.
“Whatever it takes, for me,” the Gamecocks sophomore quarterback said. “Obviously, as a quarterback you like to throw it, throw a lot of touchdowns and have the really big numbers, but that's not really that important to me. Whatever it takes.”
Bentley is, sort of, getting his wish about throwing the ball. South Carolina (6-3 overall, 4-3 SEC) throws the ball on a higher percentage of its snaps than all but two teams in the conference. The Gamecocks have thrown the ball 279 times and run it 269 times so far this season. That 50.9 percent lean toward the passing game is higher than all but Vanderbilt (52.1) and Ole Miss (57.2) in the SEC.
However, the Gamecocks still come out better when they don’t rely too heavily on Bentley, and getting their running game going again will be the Big Deal against Florida (3-5, 3-4) on Saturday at noon in Williams-Brice Stadium.
After three straight successful rushing games, South Carolina was held to 43 yards on the ground by Georgia. The result was a 24-10 loss and the continuation of one of the starkest statistical trends in the Gamecocks season.
When Bentley throws for more than 215 yards (he had 227 against the Bulldogs), South Carolina is 0-3 in the SEC. When he throws for 215 yards or fewer, the team is 4-0 in the SEC.
“Obviously, we need to find ways to continue to move the ball on the ground, and we're going to do that, and it makes it easier to throw the ball, more guys are open, when the defense has to worry about both the run and the pass,” Bentley said. “Just whatever they're giving us and we're going to take advantage of.”
Putting together a good ground game should be easier against the Gators than it was against the Bulldogs. While Georgia is No. 2 in the SEC in rush defense, Florida is ninth. The Gators allow 172.75 yards per game on the ground. The Gamecocks are 13th in the SEC in rushing offense with 114.6 yards per game.
“They have a great defense,” Bentley said of the Gators. “That's one thing that we can't look at the score of the Missouri game or any other game and think they're not a great defense. ... So we gotta come in ready to play and really be locked in.”
And they have to be able to run the ball.
South Carolina is 12th in the SEC in percentage of offensive snaps on which it runs the ball. Here’s how the rest of the conference ranks: