Vanderbilt Review / S. Carolina Preview

A typically desultory effort against Vanderbilt led to a typically closer-than-necessary game. Penalties, dropped passes, some shoddy tackling, and a general lack of emotion kept this game close into the 4th quarter until Driskel’s 70-yard TD run closed down Music City for another year.

It was obvious that the injuries on the O-Line that had Harrison and Wilson out partly led to a painfully conservative attack, but the lack of any real downfield attempts against an outmanned team is cause for concern going forward. Driskel was lucky 2 of his passes weren’t intercepted, as he stared down a few receivers.

The performance of the run defense was troubling as well. Even with Easley being held out, this group normally dominates a team like Vandy. But the lack of emotion combined with what appeared to be a lot of thoughts already looking ahead to S. Carolina led to the worst second-half performance of the season to date. I’m going to attribute this effort to the usual level of competition provided by the Commodores and the 2 big games coming up, but it’s time to ramp up the intensity again. The run defense was sloppy and uninspired, and there were some misjudged pass plays – Matt Elam in the end zone on Vandy’s first TD in particular, that were surprising. Again, it looked like the players were doing just enough to get the win, which will get you in trouble on the road in SEC.

Now it’s on to the biggest game of the season for Florida, with S. Carolina coming to the Swamp coming off of a tough loss at LSU. The Gamecocks have to win to stay alive in the East race, while the Gators can all but wrap up the division with a win. This is a difficult matchup for the Gators, as Carolina presents the best and most balanced offense they have faced.

The Florida defense won’t be able to load up against the run like they did against LSU, as QB Conner Shaw is a dangerous runner to go along with Marcus Lattimore. The Gamecock passing game isn’t terribly scary, but Shaw’s mobility seems to help get his receivers open at critical times. Ace Sanders is the deep threat, as well as a dangerous kick returner, as has to be contained. The Carolina O-Line has struggled at times this year, including last week, and if the Gators play at the level they exhibited against LSU, they could disrupt things enough to keep the score down and help a still-developing Gator offense.

I don’t believe the Florida passing game (or lack thereof) can be hidden any longer. It’s time to spread the ball to not just the TEs and RBs, but the WRs as well……and not just 3-5 yard throws. This Gamecock defense seems to be at or near the level of LSU’s this year, and I’m not expecting them to only score 6 points. Perhaps there are some formations and plays that Brent Pease has saved up to now, but the lack of balance in the Gator offense will catch up to them……there simply have to plays made downfield to loosen things up.

The injuries on the O-Line could doom the offense, because they rely first and foremost on a power running game, and will stick with it until the situation dictates otherwise……and that could happen this week.

Once again, the Pariah comes back to Gainesville to try and screw over his alma mater and former employer.  I’ll never understand why so many Gator fans give this guy a free pass – “if the Gators don’t win, then I’m glad it’s Spurrier”.  Forget that – I’m a Gator first, and hope Florida kicks his ass out of the Swamp.  This is probably his best chance to win the SEC, and he’s really showing the strain after the LSU loss, calling out his QB and having team meetings.

Again, I’m going in to this game thinking that the lack of a balanced offense will lead to a Gator defeat, and Carolina has enough balance on offense and a solid enough defense to win.  Driskel still has a lot of room for further development in the passing game, and until the WRs help stretch the field, it’s gonna come back to bite the Florida sometime against a quality opponent.

Prediction: S. Carolina 23    Florida 17