For the second time in two weeks, the South Carolina Gamecocks (5-3, 4-3 SEC) will be playing away from Williams-Brice Stadium. This time, they will be traveling to Gainesville, Florida, to take on long-time SEC East rival, the Florida Gators (6-3, 4-3 SEC).
The Florida Gators historically own the game series, having a 26-9-3 all-time record against the Gamecocks. However, the Gamecocks have challenged the Gators in recent years. South Carolina has won three of the last five meetings, including a 28-20 win in Columbia last year.
The Gamecocks look to beat the Gators in back-to-back years for only the fourth time in school history. To do that, South Carolina will need to play one of its best games of the year against a Florida Gator offense in transition.
“It’s a great opportunity for our football team on the road,” said South Carolina head football coach Will Muschamp. “A little uncertainty at the quarterback position, but (Florida quarterback) Feleipe Franks can make all the throws ... (Florida quarterback) Kyle Trask has done a really nice job in the opportunities that he’s had.”
After Florida lost to Missouri 38-17 last week with a poor performance from Franks, Florida head coach Dan Mullen announced that he doesn’t know who the starting quarterback will be against the Gamecocks, or when an announcement on the starting quarterback will come. If Franks does not start, the Gators will likely go with Trask.
Both Franks and Trask started in the loss to Missouri, with Trask out-performing Franks. Trask completed 10 of his 18 passes while throwing for 126 yards and one touchdown. Franks only completed nine out of 22 passes, threw for 84 yards and did not throw for any touchdowns.
Muschamp, who ironically was the Florida head coach from 2011-2014, knows that even with a quarterback controversy, both Florida quarterbacks will be prepared.
“I don’t know that they change a lot depending on who the quarterback is,” said Muschamp in a press conference on Tuesday. “Obviously, Dan's going to play to their strengths and the things that they like in the throwing game.”
The Gators have some uncertainty on the offensive side of the ball, but the Gamecocks also have some uncertainty — expect for them, it is on the defense.
Junior safety Javon Charleston, sophomore defensive back Jamyest Williams, senior defensive back Nick Harvey and senior defensive back J.T. Ibe will not play against the Gators.
Senior linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams, junior running back Rico Dowdle and sophomore defensive lineman Aaron Sterling are also injured, but have a chance to play. Their status could change as the week goes on.
Muschamp realizes that injuries are common this late into the season, and said that the team will embrace the challenge the comes with it.
“We’ll see how it goes. At this time of the year, everybody’s banged up,” Muschamp said. “Everybody’s got injuries. That’s part of the deal. Man down, man up.”
The players are excited for the challenge as well. Junior quarterback Jake Bentley knows that with the defensive injuries the offense will be challenged to have another high scoring game.
Bentley is eager to rise to the occasion and do what he can to put the Gamecocks in a position to win and clinch bowl eligibility for the third straight year.
“It definitely puts a little bit of added pressure on us to score,” said Bentley. “But I think we put that on ourself as well. We want to come out and score every time.”
Bentley also agrees with Muschamp in that he is confident that the defense will step up to the challenge on their side of the ball and adhere to the “man down, man up” attitude.
“Our defense did an outstanding job of adapting (against Ole Miss),” said Bentley. “Guys stepped up, whether it was playing a different position, or guys that maybe haven’t played a lot ... we have a lot of faith in them. Whoever is next up is gonna play well.”
The Gamecocks will take on the Gators, and try to win their sixth game of the season, which would make the Gamecocks bowl eligible. The game will kick off in Gainesville, Florida, at noon, and can be watched on ESPN.