Five Keys to Victory: Florida

No. 9 South Carolina will head into The Swamp to take on the No. 3 Florida Gators on Saturday afternoon. The game will televised nationally by CBS with kickoff set for 3:30 p.m. This article takes a look at what the Gamecocks must do well to ensure victory.

South Carolina must play a near-perfect game to beat Florida in The Swamp on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on CBS and one of the keys is not missing tackles.

1. Ignite the running game – USC is coming off a trip to LSU where every single yard they gained was hard earned and they averaged only 1.4 yards per carry. That won’t get it done this week either, so the Gamecocks must establish the ground game early on in this contest. Steve Spurrier’s bunch ran for over 200 yards in each of the last two games against the Gators and they will likely need to come close to that number again this year. To pull it off, the offensive line will need to get a better push than they did last week and it won’t be easy against another very talented front seven.

2. Tackle, tackle, tackle – South Carolina’s defense was gashed by LSU for over 250 yards on the ground and one of the reasons why was they tackled poorly against the Tigers. Florida doesn’t feature the same kind of big, physical backs as LSU, but their running game is more diverse. Vanderbilt held star running back Mike Gillislee to a season low 67 yards last week, but quarterback Jeff Driskel managed to rush for 177 yards. It’s no secret the Gators want to run the ball much more than they want to pass, but the Gamecocks have to force them into passing situations by stopping the run on first and second down. The more often Florida is put in a third and five or great, the better chance South Carolina has to win this game.

3. Win the field position battle – One of the primary reasons Florida defeated LSU two weeks ago in The Swamp was because they won the battle of field position. Gator punter Kyle Christy had four punts of greater than 50 yards and pinned LSU inside their own five yard line multiple times. South Carolina can’t afford a repeat in this contest. To pull off the victory in another hostile environment, the Gamecocks must win the field position battle to help their offense and put Florida’s offense with their back against the wall.

4. Win the fourth quarter – One of the big reasons why the Gators are undefeated coming into this game is they’ve dominated the fourth quarter. Their defense has only allowed ten points all season in the final quarter, and all those came last week against Vanderbilt. Prior to that they had not given up a single point. Odds are South Carolina won’t win this game with a scoreless fourth quarter, so offensive execution down the stretch will be very important.

5. Handle the environment – While The Swamp during the day isn’t likely to quite as rowdy as LSU’s Death Valley was at night, it will still be a tough environment for South Carolina, especially when their offense is on the field. Quarterback Connor Shaw doesn’t appear to see the field as well on the road as he does at home, and that needs to change this week. Shaw must protect the ball and find his playmakers when dropping back to pass. He also needs to strike a balance between knowing when to take off running and when to give the play another second or two to develop.

Final analysis – When I look at the key match ups in this game, it’s hard to feel overly confident about South Carolina winning this game. The interior of the Gamecock defensive line is banged up, and the offensive line will be facing another talented front seven. It could be difficult for South Carolina to run the ball as well as they need to, and I’m not sure the passing game will be good enough to beat the Gators if they aren’t having success on the ground.

With that said, I’m going to predict the Gamecocks will bounce back this week with an inspired effort on defense and execute better offensively. It might be an ugly game to some degree, but I believe South Carolina will find a way to ruin the Gators’ perfect season and regain the top spot in the SEC East in the process.

Prediction – South Carolina 23 Florida 20

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