The last time Florida rose to No. 3 in the AP Top 25 rankings, its next opponent was South Carolina, and the Gators throttled the Gamecocks 44-11 in 2012. Ironically, that was during Will Muschamp's most successful of three seasons as the UF's coach. Now with Florida (1-0) ranked No. 3 for the first time since, the Gators' opponent is South Carolina again. This time, Muschamp will be on the opposite sideline attempting to direct the Gamecocks to another marquee October upset.
South Carolina (0-1) beat then-No. 3 Georgia on the road in October 2019, giving Muschamp his best victory of an otherwise dismal season that placed him on the hot seat. Guiding his team to another such victory would do wonders for the coach who owns a 26-26 record in the fifth season of his second gig as an SEC East coach.
But beating Florida will require slowing down an offense that set a school record by racking up 642 yards in a season-opening win against Ole Miss last week. The Gators defense looked susceptible in the team's 51-35 victory over the Rebels, however, which will put the onus on a revamped South Carolina offense to keep up in what could be a high-scoring affair.
Though Dan Mullen is 2-0 against Muschamp ina s many seasons, Florida's wins have been by an average of 9.3 points per game. Considering Saturday's spread is nearly double that, will the Gators be able to cover?
South Carolina: The Gamecocks offense put up a respectable 394 yards under new offensive coordinator Mike Bobo with graduate transfer Colin Hill at quarterback in a 31-27 loss to Tennessee last week. But the real star was Shi Smith. The senior receiver caught 10 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown while lining up in various receiver positions. South Carolina's defense got pushed around up front at times, but held Tennessee to just 1-of-11 on third-down conversions. The Gamecocks will need to be clutch on third downs again to keep Florida's aerial attack under control.
Florida: Kyle Trask threw for six touchdowns against Ole Miss as he picked up where he left off during a prolific 2019 season. The redshirt senior's 416 passing yards were the most by a Florida quarterback against an SEC foe since Rex Grossman threw for 464 yards against LSU in 2001. Kyle Pitts caught four of those touchdowns, showing why he is the top-rated tight end in CBS Sports' 2021 NFL Draft position rankings. Offense is clearly not an issue for the Gators, but there are questions about the defense, which surrendered 613 yards to an Ole Miss team playing its first game in a new system last week. But Florida played most of the game without starting safety Shawn Davis, who was ejected for targeting on the game's first series. Junior defensive back Brad Stewart Jr. is also back on the depth chart this week after missing last week's game for undisclosed reasons.
Date: Saturday, Oct. 3 | Time: Noon ET
Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium -- Gainesville, Florida
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Game prediction, picks
The Gamecocks are just 1-3 against Florida in Muschamp's tenure, but their average margin of defeat in those three losses is just 9.3 points. South Carolina scored 27 points against Florida last season and 31 in 2018. Given how vulnerable Florida's defense looked against Ole Miss, it's a safe bet that South Carolina will reach at least 20 points. And with some veterans in the secondary, South Carolina should be able to keep Florida from turning this into a complete blowout. Pick: South Carolina +17.5
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