Florida-South Carolina Breakdown & Prediction

by Inside the Gators Staff

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Inside the Gators Zack Weiss and Mark Wheeler take a closer look at Saturday’s match-up between Florida and South Carolina including thoughts on Billy Napier’s road woes as the Gator coach, who needs this game more, and offer up a score prediction.

How can the Gators get over their road woes under Napier?

    Weiss: Let’s keep it real. Billy Napier’s Florida teams stink on the road. They’re great at home, amassing a 9-2 record since he took over the program, but simply not good away from The Swamp. The Orange & Blue, over the last season-and-a-half, are 1-5 in true road contests — 1-7 if you include the Jacksonville game against Georgia and the Las Vegas Bowl against Oregon State. Since Napier’s arrival, the Gators’ singular win outside of Gainesville came in Week 9 last year against an illness-riddled Texas A&M team which would go on to finish the season 5-7.

    So, how can Florida get over its road woes and leave Columbia this weekend with a victory? Well, first, they’ve got to start fast; it’s paramount that the Gators get on the board early. Too often in these away games, Florida finds itself playing from behind. Second, no turnovers; Graham Mertz has to keep the ball out of Spencer Rattler’s hands as much as possible. Lastly, no dumb penalties. Silly mistakes, specifically on special teams, have plagued this iteration of the Gators. If Florida can clean those things up, Napier & co. have a great shot of securing the second road win of his tenure.

    Wheeler: The simplistic answer is that a win this weekend would go a long way toward curing Florida’s road woes. If I knew the answer as to how that happens, I would be game-planning for it instead of writing about it.

    In this instance, for this game in particular, much like Kentucky’s Kroger Field, South Carolina’s William Brice Stadium is an underrated venue when it comes to game day atmosphere. The game is a sellout, and coming off a bye week, the Gamecock faithful have had a week to stew on their blowout loss to Tennessee. As we saw at Utah and Kentucky, the Gators don’t play well from behind on the road. Therefore it is imperative that Florida is able to get out to a fast start and take the crowd out of the game.

    Which team needs a win this weekend more?

      Weiss: As hyperbolic as this may sound, the argument could very easily be made that Florida’s season is on the line here. This game is critical for the Gamecocks too, don’t get me wrong; but sitting at 2-3 on the year, 1-2 in conference play, South Carolina has had its expectations significantly diminished. The Gators, on the other hand, sitting at 4-2 and 2-1 in conference play, have a different type of hope still alive. On its last breaths? Maybe. But not quite dead. Going into the Georgia game 5-2 and 3-1 against the SEC, with games still left against unranked Arkansas and unranked Missouri, would be far from a bad situation for Florida. It sure sounds better than sitting at 4-3 while being .500 in the conference. I really believe that this weekend’s game is a tide-shifter for the Orange & Blue.

      Wheeler: At the halfway point of the season, Florida’s three easiest games (McNeese State, Charlotte, and Vanderbilt) are behind them. There are no ‘gimmes’ from this point forward – and Florida needs two wins for bowl eligibility. Games against South Carolina and Arkansas seem to be the best bets.

      If that isn’t an important enough reason, the last thing the team, the staff, and the fanbase need is a bye week after a loss. Two weeks of social media malaise isn’t going to do anyone any good.

      Who are key players to watch on both sides?

        Weiss: The Gamecocks’ duo of QB Spencer Rattler and WR Xavier Legette has been lighting teams up. Despite not consistently translating into wins, they — especially Legette — don’t fail to put up numbers. Rattler’s thrown for over 1,400 yards through five games this season, completing 73% of his passes with a quarterback rating of 156.2. Legette’s caught 32 balls for 606 yards and three touchdowns. Florida’s secondary should have its hands full on Saturday.

        For the Gators, it’ll be interesting to see how Montrell Johnson Jr. builds off his 135-yard performance against Vanderbilt — especially considering he had one of, if not the best, games of his career the last time Florida played South Carolina. Last season against the Gamecocks, in the Gators’ 38-6 win, he ran the ball 24 times for 161 yards and a score. With Trevor Etienne back on the depth chart, but coming off an injury that kept him out Week 6, Florida’s going to be banking heavily on Johnson to bring its run game to life in a hostile environment.

        Wheeler: As far as one-on-one battles are concerned, the biggest question mark heading into the game is if any of Florida’s cornerbacks are capable of matching up with Xavier Legette.

        As for Florida, let’s remain in the secondary. Jason Marshall Jr. hasn’t lived up to his billing to this point in the season. His lackadaisical response to Will Sheppard‘s catch-and-run touchdown after the facemask tug is unacceptable. He needs to start putting better play on film and this is an opportunity to go head-to-head against a premier receiver.


        Weiss: This is as much of a “pick-em” as there could be. Both teams have been more disappointing than impressive this season, based on expectations, but neither is a joke. The Gators and Gamecocks both have fear-worthy weapons and rosters demanding a certain level of respect. But the reason South Carolina is the odds-favorite, as slim as it may be, is the same reason I can’t pick Florida — because the Gators, under Napier, do not win games on the road. And until that happens, especially against an SEC opponent, it’s tough to justify predicting. South Carolina 24, Florida 21

        Wheeler: When you look at this game, from statistical analysis to positional matchups to talent level, everything points to a Florida victory. However, you then have to factor in Billy Napier‘s 1-7 record away from the Swamp. Is this going to be the breakout ‘away’ game? Spencer Rattler will hit some passes, but this is going to come down to the Gators being able to run the ball on the Gamecocks. At the last second, I went from 20-17 Florida to reversing it in favor of the Gamecocks. South Carolina 20-17

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        1. I originally picked 8-4 for the season and if we get beat this week, that would leave only one other loss the rest of the season (for sure UGA), so I am predicting that we end our road woes (momentarily) this week and win 27-17.
        2. I originally picked 8-4 for the season and if we get beat this week, that would leave only one other loss the rest of the season (for sure UGA), so I am predicting that we end our road woes (momentarily) this week and win 27-17.
          If it wasn't for Napier's road record to this point, this would be a game you could easily see UF win. Those dismal performances on the road though give cause for concern.

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