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Florida vs. South Carolina preview: Can the Gators rattle Spencer Rattler?

Florida owes South Carolina’s quarterback a night of harassment. And the Gamecocks might need Beamer Ball to keep up in Gainesville.

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Momentum is real. (It’s complicated! — Andy) And in the first season for a new head coach, it is a precious commodity.

Florida’s win against Texas A&M was the first step in perhaps building some much-needed momentum to finish out Billy Napier’s initial season at the helm. However, one game does not a solid finishing stretch make. If the Gators want to go into the offseason feeling positive, they will likely have to win a few more games, make a bowl, and probably win that.

The next step on this drive for vibes is winning their final home game of the season against South Carolina.

Last season, the Gamecocks were in a similar situation to the one Florida is now in. They were 4-4 coming into their home game against the Gators under first-year head coach Shane Beamer. Then they emphatically beat Florida and also beat Auburn on their way to bowl qualification, where they also beat a favored North Carolina team. Ta da: Momentum, so much that they were one of the trendy teams to discuss all offseason.

This season, South Carolina has bounced back from a couple early losses to be 5-1 in their last six games. They are bowl eligible at 6-3, and will be attempting on Saturday to win a third straight SEC road games for the first time in over a decade.

Let’s take a look at the numbers and see how the Gators stack up to the Gamecocks.

Florida vs. South Carolina Statistical Comparison

Team Florida Gators South Carolina Gamecocks
Team Florida Gators South Carolina Gamecocks
Category Number Rank Number Rank
YPP Offense 6.83 13 5.88 56
YPP Defense 6.09 115 5.37 62
Available Yards % O 54.30% 30 43.80% 84
Available Yards % D 58.20% 121 46.50% 58
Third Downs O 38.89% 73 39.09% 69
Third Downs D 50.00% 128 39.17% 71
Explosive Plays O 53 24 44 58
Explosive Plays D 48 106 34 33
Turnover Margin 6 24 -5 100
Average Starting Field Position Own 27 103 Own 30 17
Player Average Rank Player Average Rank
Team Talent Composite 89.86 12 87.6 20

A few things stick out right away. In a similar story to last week, Florida appears to have both the strongest and weakest units in the game. South Carolina’s turnover margin really sticks out, and this is a week after a +3 against Vanderbilt. You can also see that “Beamer Ball” is alive and well in Columbia.

The average starting field position for the Gamecocks is ranked much higher than Florida’s, and South Carolina also boasts the top rated special teams in the country according to Bill Connelly’s SP+ Ratings. This is certainly a strength and then some for Shane Beamer.

Speaking of SP+ ratings and advanced stats, let’s talk strength of schedule. While numbers like SP+ are opponent-adjusted, I think it’s important to put stats in context when you can.

On his website, Brian Fremeau has a whole host of advanced stats including the available yard percentage listed above. He also has a ranking for strength of schedule split into three tiers: Expected losses by an elite team, expected losses by a good team, and expected losses by an average team if they faced that particular team’s schedule. Florida is in the top 10 of each category, with 1.81 losses expected for an elite team (1st nationally), 3.95 losses for a good team (3rd), and 6.03 losses for an average team (8th).

South Carolina also has an above average strength of schedule, but those metrics make clear it has not nearly been as difficult as Florida’s. Against South Carolina’s schedule, an elite team would have .95 losses (21st), a good team would have 2.25 losses (45th), and an average team would have 4.5 losses (56th).

This also tracks when looking at the average SP+ ratings of each team’s opponents. For the season, Florida’s average opponent has an offense rated 40th in SP+ and a defense rated 34th. South Carolina’s opponents average out to 57th on both sides of the ball. Over the last six games, Florida’s opponents have the 36th ranked offense and the 20th ranked defense. In South Carolina’s 5-1 stretch leading into this week, they have faced an offense with an average ranking of 72 and a defense ranked at 57.6.

One of these things is not quite like the other.

Scheme Things We May See

Offensively, South Carolina uses a lot of motion and misdirection. There will be a lot of screens, quick throws, and probably even a few trick plays mixed in. The Gamecocks also use a variety of personnel groupings. You’ll see some 11, a good bit of 12 personnel, some two-back looks and even looks where they play six linemen.

The Gamecocks have some weapons. Jaheim Bell is a unique player with both size and athleticism that they will line up all over the field. Running back MarShawn Lloyd missed last week with an injury, but it seems he will be back for this game. He is a good back and they get the ball to him in a variety of ways. And, of course, Florida fans all remember what Spencer Rattler can do to a defense when he’s on.

Rattler is good in a clean pocket, and he also does well on the move. He can extend plays with his legs, and the ‘Cocks will also roll him out quite a bit — they may be trying to move the pocket, because South Carolina has struggled at times with pass protection. The Gamecocks are 80th nationally in sacks allowed, giving up 2.2 per game.

Once Texas A&M decided they couldn’t run the ball in the second half — thanks again, Jimbo — the Gators were able to break out a variety of creeper looks. This confused the A&M pass protection and allowed Florida to harass Haynes King all half. If Florida can win early downs and get South Carolina into obvious passing situations, I think we will see a lot of the same creeper looks we saw against A&M.

Defensively, South Carolina has shown itself to be aggressive against the run. I would imagine that their safeties will be filling hard in the run game against Florida. This should open up some opportunities in the play-action and RPO game for Florida. Anthony Richardson has performed well when using play-action this year, and Florida cycled RPOs back into the game script last week. I’d expect to see more of that this week.

I think Florida can get some good looks using nub formations. It appears that South Carolina presents a softer edge to the nub side and that Florida could take advantage of it particularly in the running game.

With injuries mounting at receiver for Florida (first Justin Shorter, now Ja’Quavion Fraziars), I wonder if this is the week we see some two-back personnel looks. That would provide an interesting change-up to the offense — and would also get two of your best weapons on the field at the same time, something I’ve been looking for all season.

In the video below, I take a closer look at South Carolina’s schemes. If you want to get a head start on Saturday, check it out.