Well folks, we are inside of twenty-four hours of kickoff way down south in “The Swamp.” South Carolina is riding high on a momentum tsunami. After three straight wins, two of which were in SEC play, South Carolina remains in the hunt for the championship.
Preview: South Carolina at Florida
On the other hand, Florida is reeling from a throttling at the hands of the Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville last Saturday. While still in the lead for the SEC East, the Gators have no room to slip up. Kentucky, Tennessee, and South Carolina are all close behind. Contrary to the norm, this division’s competition has only grown murkier as the season has progressed.
South Carolina’s rise back to power began about as quickly as the fall into irrelevancy. All it took was a new young quarterback in true freshman early enrollee Jake Bentley. After riding the bench for the first half of the season, Bentley has been undefeated so far as a starter. We will see if that luck holds true on the road in the deadly swamp.
A sense of deja vu comes upon us on the eve of this SEC East showdown. Almost two years ago, Will Muschamp coached his final game as a Gator in the Swamp. That contest that cost him his job was a 23-20 overtime loss. The team who forced him out of his job was none other than the Spurrier-coached South Carolina Gamecocks. Ironic, isn’t it?
Muschamp has said little of this game being personal to him. For the players, however, you can bet it will be personal. Muschamp recruited and coached Florida’s current upperclassmen. After all, he’s merely a couple seasons removed from Gainesville. For Muschamp to defeat his seniors with a bunch of freshmen would speak volumes of his coaching abilities. Some much needed recruits would be certain to notice that as well.
There stand still much at stake for these two programs. A Gamecock win tomorrow makes South Carolina bowl eligible with two regular season games left to go. A loss would destroy any and all chances of South Carolina making it to Atlanta, though a likely win next weekend over Western Carolina would eclipse the necesssary six wins for bowl eligibility.
Likewise, the Gators have a heap on the line as well. An upset this late in the season likely puts the Gators’ much despised rivals from Knoxville in the driver’s seat of the SEC East for good. A win would preserve their lead in the division.
Much as many worried that South Carolina might fall prey to a trap game against Missouri last week, Florida might be walking into a brewing upset of its own. The Gators have a date with one of the deadliest teams in the SEC West looming ahead. Their cross-divisional rivals in the LSU Tigers were penciled in for the final conference game of the season.
Bentley has yet to play on the road, but Florida’s morale had to have taken a major hit in last week’s loss. I predict South Carolina pulls off the upset and keeps its SEC East title hopes alive.
Final prediction: 27-24 Gamecocks