Reeling Gators look to get back on track in The Swamp against Gamecocks
The Florida Gators suffered a shocking 38-17 loss to the Missouri Tigers last weekend, which was homecoming. Now the Gators hope for a different result Saturday in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium against the South Carolina Gamecocks.
South Carolina defeated Ole Miss 48-44 last Saturday in Oxford. A win over the Gators would make the Gamecocks bowl eligible for the third consecutive season under head coach Will Muschamp.
Florida leads the all-time series over South Carolina 26-9-3. But the Gamecocks won last year's meeting, 28-20 in Columbia.
South Carolina at Florida
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 10 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Florida -6.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Gators' quarterback situation
After consecutive losses to Georgia and Missouri, Florida head coach Dan Mullen is considering a change at the quarterback position. On Monday, Mullen said he would wait to see how each quarterback practices this week before deciding who will start against South Carolina.
"We might play two quarterbacks, might play three,” Mullen said. “I want to see; we’re still putting the game plan together. I want to just see, you know, as we put the game plan together, we go out and practice it, who gives us the best chance to win."
Mullen benched Feleipe Franks in favor of Kyle Trask last week. In relief of Franks, Trask threw for 126 yards and a touchdown. During the last two games, Franks has thrown for 189 passing yards on 43 attempts and one touchdown in losses to Georgia and Missouri. Just two of Franks’ completions during those games were longer than 20 yards.
It wouldn't be a surprise to see both Franks and Trask play considering the ineffectiveness at the quarterback position.
2. South Carolina QB Jake Bentley
Bentley will be making his second trip to The Swamp on Saturday. As a freshman in 2016, Bentley's Gamecocks team fell to the Gators 20-7, though he said his teammates came away with valuable road experience.
“Just how more mature we are as a team from last time," Bentley said. "I think I was talking to Bryan about it. Just how last time, with me, him, Rico and D.J., T.J. — all of us were just so young. We got down, I think, by 10 or 14, and we thought we were down by 50. I just remember that vividly, kind of being on the sideline and the whole mood of the game. No one had positivity. Because we were so young, we just got down on ourselves. But I think that’s the biggest difference this way, the way that guys stay positive and battle back."
Bentley will be looking to do what Missouri quarterback Drew Lock did to the Gators defense on Saturday. Lock passed for 250 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Florida.
3. Florida's defensive line
The Gators' defensive front four is one of the best in the nation. Defensive end Jachai Polite leads the defensive line as he has seven sacks this season, which is fourth in the SEC. He has also forced four fumbles this year.
Jabari Zuniga, the 6-foot-4, 257-pound end, is 11th in the SEC in sacks (4.5) and tackles for a loss (nine). The South Carolina offensive line will have its hands full trying to block Polite and Zuniga and the rest of the Gators defense.
The Gators' offense has clearly struggled the last two weeks, but against a South Carolina defense that gave up 44 points and 616 yards to Ole Miss, the Florida offense should be able to get back on track.
Look for the Gators to try and run the ball with Lamical Perine and Jordan Scarlett to take the pressure off whoever is behind center. Also, the Gators defensive line should be able to get some pressure on Bentley.
While the Gamecocks will keep it close with their potent offense, the Gators will likely pull out the victory at home.
Prediction: Florida 28, South Carolina 24
— 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, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.