Written by Ryan Lippert
After a very exciting weekend in the Southeastern Conference, we kind of have a slow week 8 coming up. Unfortunately, there aren’t any true marquee matchups in the conference this Saturday. However, there is one game that will have my attention. South Carolina shocked the country last weekend as they went on the road and upset the Georgia Bulldogs in double overtime. On the opposite side, Florida suffered their first loss of the season in a very good game against LSU. I’m interested to see if South Carolina can play the spoiler once again or if Florida will have a huge bounce back win. With that being said, let’s take a deeper look at this week’s SEC Game of the Week.
Can South Carolina Find Some Offensive Production?
As I just mentioned and we all saw, South Carolina pulled off a huge upset over Georgia last weekend. However, this wasn’t because of great offense from the Gamecocks. South Carolina somehow managed to win that game with only 297 yards of total offense and one touchdown. Quarterback Ryan Hilinski was their leading producer and he only threw for 116 yards and a TD. Hilinski left the game in the third quarter with an injury but looks to be ready to play this week.
Hilinski will be up for an even bigger challenge this weekend and will definitely need more production against a very dangerous Florida secondary. Their secondary has only allowed 199 passing yards per game and seven total passing touchdowns this season. They have also come away with 12 interceptions so far.
While Hilinski will need to step up in this game, the key for this Gamecocks offense to win will be the run game. The Gators have also been good against stopping the run, but this secondary is just simply too good to try to throw the ball against all day. South Carolina will look for the running back duo of Rico Dowdle and Clemson transfer Tavien Feaster to have a big game this weekend. Dowdle leads the team with 449 rushing yards and four touchdowns but I like Feaster as an impact player that definitely has the chance to make some big plays when he gets the opportunity.
Is This Gamecocks Defense Legit?
While South Carolina’s offense didn’t play too well last weekend, their defense stepped up to the challenge against Georgia. This is especially true when it comes to their secondary, as they held Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm to 295 passing yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. All of those interceptions were made by defensive back Israel Mukuamu, who finished with 11 tackles. It also helps that they have an outstanding front seven to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, led by future NFL defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw, who leads the team with five sacks on the season.
With South Carolina showing that they have a solid defense so far this season, the pressure will be on Florida quarterback Kyle Trask to put an end to their run. Even in a loss, Trask looked good last week against a very talented LSU defense. He threw for 310 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception against a secondary loaded with future NFL talent. He has unfortunately been without their top weapon in wide receiver Kadarius Toney who will be out until at least November, but he has had other weapons step up in the passing game. Trask has three targets to throw to with over 300+ receiving yards and three touchdowns each in tight end Kyle Pitts, and wide receivers Van Jefferson and Freddie Swain. If their offensive line can give Trask time to go through his reads and for his wide receivers to get open, he should find a way to have another big game.
It will also help if Trask can get some support from the run game. Running back Lamical Perine, who was highly touted going into this season, has had a lot of ups and downs in 2019, rushing for only 392 yards and four touchdowns so far. If he can get going this week against this solid front seven, they should have a very good chance of winning this game.
This will be a very interesting game as South Carolina is coming off the biggest SEC upset since 2014 and will be playing at home with a crowd that should be electric following that win. On the other side, the Gators know what is at stake as the SEC East is up for grabs between them and Georgia. I think South Carolina will find a way to make plays and keep this game close for three quarters. However, I see the overall talent of this Florida team taking over and running away with this game late. I’ve got the Gators winning this one 28-17 and getting their season back on the right track.