Nov 4, 2017; Columbia, MO, USA; Florida Gators wide receiver Dre Massey (9) runs the ball during the second half against the Missouri Tigers at Faurot Field. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Florida Football Battles for Bowl Eligibility Against South Carolina

Florida is limping into an SEC game after losing four straight games. If the Gators want to play in a bowl game they must win at least two of the remaining three games. Malik Zaire is the starting quarterback for the second week in a row as Florida travels to South Carolina. The Gamecocks are looking to bounce back after a loss to top-ranked Georgia last week, and come into this week’s match-up against the Gators as a 5.5 point favorite.

Florida (3-5, 3-4 SEC)

The Gators have struggled to score all season long and this week presents another tough challenge for the team. South Carolina only gives up 20 points per game and Florida hasn’t scored at least 20 points in four straight weeks.

Injuries, suspensions, and poor quarterback play are all components contributing to the anemic scoring on offense for Florida. This week, playmaker Kadarius Toney is listed as out for the game. Toney has been suffering from a nagging injury that has limited his ability to shine like he did against Kentucky earlier in the year as his speed and agility separates himself from defenders, which allows him to gain extra yards after the catch resulting in explosive plays.

Explosive plays typically came from the backfield earlier in the year. However, with freshman running back Malik Davis also injured, the running attack from Florida has not been as dynamic.

Last week against a below-average defense in Missouri, the Gators only rushed for 93 yards.

If Florida wants to make this game against South Carolina competitive then the running game must be established. With a mobile quarterback in Malik Zaire, look for him to roll out of the pocket and have more designed run plays which were not used last week.

South Carolina (6-3, 4-3 SEC)

Coming off a 24-10 loss at Georgia, the Gamecocks gave the top ranked Bulldogs one of the toughest games they’ve played all season. But now coach Will Muschamp sets his eyes on an opponent still paying him. Florida.

Offensively, the Gamecocks are led by one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC in sophomore Jake Bentley. Bentley leads the conference’s fourth best passing attack while averaging 220.7 yards per game to go along with 14 touchdowns on the season.

Even with Bentley’s good play though, the Gamecock’s carry the conference’s third worst scoring offense at only 24.4 points per game.   That’s been in large part due to the loss of star receiver Deebo Samuel, one of the best playmakers in the league.

Apart from Samuel, the other thing hindering South Carolina’s offense has been the run blocking. The offensive line has been adequate in pass protection, but have lacked in the run game. The Gamecocks only average 114.6 rush yards per game, the second worst mark in the SEC.

Will Muschamp’s calling card has been defense, and thats where the Gamecocks have made a big jump from last season. They rank in the top fifty in the conference in both rush defense and scoring defense, allowing only 149.2 rush yards and 20.7 points per game.

If there is one glaring weakness to the South Carolina defense, its been their ability to defend against mobile quarterbacks. Their two other losses in the SEC have come against Texas A&M and Kentucky, who both feature mobile quarterbacks in Kellen Mond and Stephen Johnson.

Game Info

Kickoff: 12:00 Noon


Radio: WRUF

About Josh LaSelva

Originally from Ocala, Florida. University of Florida Class of 2017. Avid FIFA player willing to beat anybody. Follow me on Twitter for everything you need to know!

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