There have been better days within the Florida Gators program.
At the start of October, the Gators were ranked in the top 10 despite their loss to Alabama early in September. But the wheels came off in October as Florida has lost three of its past four games (Kentucky, LSU, and Georgia). Now the Gators (4-4, 2-4 SEC) will try to regroup on the road against the South Carolina Gamecocks this weekend.
South Carolina (4-4, 1-4) has had its own struggles, including lopsided losses in two of the past three games (sandwiched by a narrow win over Vanderbilt). The Gamecocks had last weekend off after being manhandled by Texas A&M, 44-14, in College Station on Oct. 23.
Saturday will mark the 42nd all-time meeting overall and 21st in Columbia between the Gators and Gamecocks. Florida enters with a 29-9-3 record in the series and is 24-6 against South Carolina, dating back to 1964.
Florida at South Carolina
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network
Spread: Florida -18
When Florida Has the Ball
Florida fans for weeks were clamoring for redshirt freshman quarterback Anthony Richardson to start over Emory Jones. Last week against top-ranked Georgia, they finally got their wish, but Richardson struggled against arguably the best defense in the country.
Richardson threw two interceptions and lost a fumble in the 34-7 loss to the Bulldogs. He only managed 82 passing yards as Jones eventually relieved him late in the game after Richardson suffered a hit to his head. As the saying goes, if you have two quarterbacks, you likely have none, and that has undoubtedly been the case for Florida at times this year.
The tag-team approach hasn't worked so far, but it may not be an option on Saturday. Richardson suffered a concussion last week and may not be cleared to play against South Carolina. Whoever is at quarterback needs to take the lead in trying to get the Gators back on track.
After this game, Florida has a home date with FCS Samford, a road game against Missouri, and a visit from Florida State over Thanksgiving weekend left on the schedule. Eight wins are not out of the question, but the Gators have to play better, starting on Saturday night in Columbia.
"The winning momentum, I think, is huge," head coach Dan Mullen said. "That's always such a big deal. We're dealing with young kids. We have a lot of young players, and momentum can carry them a long way. Momentum has a lot to do with the confidence they play with on the field."
Confidence for either quarterback may be hard to come by against a Gamecocks defense that is third in the SEC against the pass. Despite South Carolina's overall woes, the defense is holding teams to under 180 passing yards per game and has more interceptions (11) than touchdown passes allowed (10). Teams have had more success running on the Gamecocks (168.6 ypg, 11th), which has been Florida's offensive bread and butter this season. The Gators are sixth nationally in rushing offense at 242.6 yards per game, so it would make perfect sense for Mullen to continue to lean on the run while sprinkling in some confidence-building pass plays for his quarterback.
When South Carolina Has the Ball
Remember what was said about having two quarterbacks? Well, the Gamecocks have had four different signal-callers attempt a pass this season, and their situation is even worse than Florida's.
Luke Doty and former graduate assistant Zeb Noland have gotten the majority of the snaps for South Carolina, but Doty is done for the season because of a foot injury and Noland underwent a minor keen procedure last week. He hopes to play, but if he's not cleared or the coaching staff doesn't feel he should play, Jason Brown will get the call.
Brown, a senior, relieved Noland in the fourth quarter in the game against Texas A&M two weeks ago. For the season, Brown is 12-for-20 for 129 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Collectively, Gamecocks quarterbacks have combined to complete 59.7 percent of their passes for 1,635 yards, 12 touchdowns, and six interceptions.
Florida's defense is ranked 36th in the country in yards allowed per game (340.4) but has gone through a couple of rough outings. In back-to-back losses to LSU and Georgia, the Gators have surrendered a total of 83 points. But considering South Carolina is averaging 15.6 points per game against SEC teams, this matchup may be just what Florida needs to turn things around.
Florida has been one of the biggest disappointments in college football in 2021. The Gators went from playing in the SEC Championship last year to being unranked with four games to go. Despite how mediocre the Gators are, they have enough talent to defeat a Gamecocks team that has serious questions at the quarterback position.
Not only is South Carolina's quarterback situation fluid, but the Gamecocks have one of the worst offenses in the country as they're ranked 115th (327.6 ypg) entering this game. It will be difficult for the Gamecocks to make this a game with Florida's ability to score points.
Prediction: Florida 41, South Carolina 17
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— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.