South Carolina at Florida

The Sports Xchange

November 07, 2018 at 6:21 pm.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Saturday, noon ET
SITE: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Fla.
TV: ESPN
SERIES: Florida leads 26-9-3. South Carolina won 28-20 in 2017.
RANKINGS: Florida No. 15

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Gamecocks

–QB Jake Bentley passed for a season-high 363 yards in the win over Ole Miss, giving the junior 5,880 in his career, sixth all-time in program history. Bentley has passed for 1,666 yards in seven games this season, completing 62.3 percent of his passes for 13 touchdowns against 8 interceptions.

–RB Mon Denson is making up for lost time after sitting out four games with a hamstring injury. His 102 rushing yards against Ole Miss were a season-high for the junior with his 69-yard run setting up Bentley’s 4-yard rush for the decisive score in the 48-44 victory over Ole Miss.

–DT Javon Kinlaw has been a steady force inside for the Gamecocks’ defense. He had a big sack in the win over Ole Miss, giving him a team-high 3.5 for the season. He has 29 tackles overall.

Gators

–RB Lamical Perine had 10 carries for 42 yards against Missouri last week. For the season, Perine has rushed for a team-high 480 yards on 5.2 yards per carry and three touchdowns.
–LB David Reese finished with a team-high 14 tackles against Missouri. Reese ranks third on the Gators in tackles with 58 despite missing the first three games of the season with an ankle injury.

–DB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, who plays the “star” position in Florida’s defensive scheme, was active on defense against Missouri with seven tackles, including two for loss and one sack. Gardner-Johnson has been one of UF’s top defensive performers this season with 60 tackles, eight tackles for loss, three sacks and one interception.

KEYS
TO THE GAME

As if Florida didn’t have enough issues coming off 36-17 and 38-17 whippings by Georgia (understandably) and Missouri (uh, no), respectively, in its last two outings, the Gators go into Saturday’s Southeastern Conference East matchup with South Carolina facing an apparent quarterback controversy.

Kickoff at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville is noon ET on ESPN.

The No. 15 Gators (6-3, 4-3 SEC) benched Feleipe Franks in the second half against Missouri last week after he was just 9-of-22 passing for 84 yards. Sophomore Kyle Trask took over and was 10-of-18 for 126 yards a touchdown in the loss.

Who will start this week remains unknown.

“They graded within one point of each other,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said. “Let’s see how the week goes. There were a lot of other problems besides the quarterback.”

Mullen said there’s a chance that all three of his quarterbacks, including true freshman dual-threat Emory Jones, could play. Franks started UF’s first nine games this season and 17 in his career.

South Carolina coach Will Muschamp doesn’t think it makes much of a difference who starts.

“I don’t know that they change a lot depending on who the quarterback is,” said Muschamp, the former Gators coach.

The Gamecocks (5-3, 4-3 SEC) have back-to-back wins for the first time this season and are looking to seal a winning conference record for a second consecutive year. They also will be looking to lock down bowl eligibility for a third consecutive year under Muschamp, who is emphasizing a steady-as-she-goes approach with his players.

“I think our guys have been pretty steady in their approach each week and understand the workman-like mentality on a Tuesday,” Muschamp said. “Same for Wednesday and Thursday.

“That’s the one thing these guys do is go in and work. I think their preparation has been very good to this point. Obviously, we’re a little inconsistent with our play on Saturdays earlier in the fall and, hopefully, we’re getting better.”

South Carolina is coming off a wild 48-44 win at Ole Miss in which junior quarterback Jake Bentley passed for 363 yards and two touchdowns. The junior is sixth in program history with 5,880 career passing yards. He’ll take aim at a Florida pass defense that gave up 250 passing yards and three touchdowns to Missouri quarterback Drew Lock last week.

Florida cornerback C.J. Henderson returned last week from a back injury that sidelined him for the majority of the game against Georgia to record two pass breakups against Missouri. He and the rest of the secondary will face a stiff test in man coverage against speedy Deebo Samuel, who has 39 catches for 407 yards and five TDs.

Samuel also had a 90-yard kick return for a touchdown to open last week’s game, the fourth kick return score of his career, tying an SEC record.

Florida has allowed 74 points in back-to-back losses, but it does have a standout pass rusher in defensive lineman Jachai Polite, a junior who is having a breakout season with seven sacks. His four forced fumbles are tied for the FBS lead among defensive linemen.
The Gamecocks have surrendered only 11 sacks all season, with four of those coming in the early loss to Kentucky.

The trip to Gainesville will be the second for Muschamp since he became South Carolina’s coach. The first was in 2016, when host Florida held on for a 20-7 victory after jumping out to a 20-0 lead after three quarters.

Muschamp was asked about the differences for this trip.

“We’re an older team, number one,” he said. “We have more experience on our football team. For me, it’s another SEC East opponent. I know y’all have a hard time believing that, but it really is.

“We spend as much time at the office this week as we do every single week that we have. It’s another great opportunity for our team on the road.”