After a week one offensive output that won’t soon be forgotten, the No. 3 Florida Gators will take Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for the first time in the 2020 campaign on Saturday. And after posting 51 points and 642 total yards in week one against Ole Miss, they’ll do so with tremendously lofty national expectations.
But old friend Will Muschamp and his South Carolina Gamecocks, who lost a tight 31-27 contest to the Tennessee Volunteers in week one, will try to play spoiler.
The SEC East clash, set for a noon kickoff on ESPN, serves as an opportunity for the Gators’ to maintain its offensive rhythm. But it also offers Florida the opportunity to improve upon its porous defensive performance against Ole Miss.
Week One Offensive Fireworks
In a 51-35 shootout with the Rebels in week one, Kyle Trask and Kyle Pitts took the college football by storm.
With 416 yards, six touchdowns and a 71.4 completion percentage, Kyle Trask appeared to announce to the world that he intends to be on the shortlist for Heisman Trophy consideration.
And Kyle Pitts seemed to echo the same sentiment, as he racked up 170 yards and four touchdowns on eight receptions.
Kyle Pitts is a cheat code.
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 26, 2020
But lost in the story of “Kyle-to-Kyle” was the strong performance by Florida’s offensive line.
MY Top 5 SEC OL’s for week 1: pic.twitter.com/Kn5gmecZG9
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) October 1, 2020
On 42 dropbacks, the Gators’ offensive line surrendered just one Ole Miss sack and six hurries.
But what’s more important is that Florida developed a running game.
On 29 carries, the Gators’ offense collectively rushed for 196 yards and 6.8 yards per carry. That’s better than every rushing stat line that Florida posted last year against SEC defenses.
But despite the otherworldly performances by Trask and Pitts, and the improved offensive line and running game, the Gators believe that there is always room for improvement.
While the Gators’ offense certainly provided a worthy distraction, the Gators’ apparent defensive shortcomings cannot be dismissed.
The Gators’ defense allowed 35 points and 613 yards.
Only the historically great LSU Tigers scored more than 30 points against Florida in 2019. And that was also the only team to accrue more than 500 yards.
Needless to say, those who are accustomed to stout defense and run-heavy offense in Gainesville may be in for a bit of an adjustment period.
Sure, rust and the lack of contact during camp may have had something to do with the poor performance. But the Gators’ defense isn’t looking for excuses. And according to defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, they simply didn’t finish plays.
The Gators’ play on third down highlights that fact.
The Rebels converted on nine of their 14 third-down opportunities. That is a far cry from the 36.41 percent third-down percentage that opposing teams achieved in 2019.
Luckily for Todd Grantham, the Collin Hill-led Gamecocks’ offense, which amassed just 379 total yards and turned the ball over twice against Tennessee, comes to Gainesville.
And South Carolina only converted on six of their 15 third-down conversions.
Mullen says plenty of teachable moments for the defense and he expects improvement. Credits Ole Miss, but expects a much better defense.
— David Waters – Gators Breakdown (@GatorDave_SEC) September 28, 2020
Gators’ linebacker Ventrell Miller remains optimistic that the Gators will continue to improve each week.
South Carolina Looks to Rebound
South Carolina fell short in week one at home against Tennessee. And the difference was an interception returned for a touchdown.
Despite holding the ball for just about 10 minutes longer than the Volunteers, the Gamecocks were forced to play catch-up for most of the game after Colin Hill’s first-quarter pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Henry To’o To’o.
Hill and South Carolina can ill-afford to give up defensive points.
Especially when Kyle Trask and the Gators’ offense should have little difficulty scoring on their own.