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The Eve of the Eastern Division Championship

South Carolina
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I failed to post Phil Steele’s Week 11 Top 25 Forecast for #22 South Carolina, but it’s not good (Spoiler: His computer predicts a 31-17 Gator victory).  However, Steele’s computer has missed a few Gamecock games this year, including our win over Alabama, and our losses to both Kentucky and Arkansas.  Here’s to evening things out with an upset of Florida to win the East. 

Perhaps because of the way we looked last week, I’ve been unusually distant in terms of anxiety for tomorrow’s showdown.  Quite frankly, I don’t know what to expect.  We’ve been a tale of differing teams this season – looking exquisite in our dismantling of Alabama, looking very pedestrian in wins against Vanderbilt and Tennessee, and looking pitiful in the second half against Kentucky and the entire ballgame against Arkansas.  The huge downside is that the pedestrian and pitiful performances have all been strung together following a 28-10 lead against the Wildcats after two quarters of play.  It’s reminiscent of the tailspin South Carolina embarked upon after the first half against North Carolina in 2007, though we’ve won a couple since the second half in Lexington, unlike in ’07. 

IF Marcus Lattimore is 100% and IF our secondary shows improvement, I think we can capture our first win in The Swamp and our first East title.  The second ”IF” is a big one.  Florida may not have a prominent passing game, but you can bet they’ll try some things through the air against the worst defensive backfield in the SEC.  Along with those two “IF’s,” the Gamecocks have to have solid play from Stephen Garcia at QB.  Fumbles and/or interceptions without help from Florida will likely spell disaster.  A loss tomorrow will put us on the brink of turmoil and put tremendous pressure on the team to win at Clemson.  Going 7-5 at this point is unacceptable.

I’ll obviously be cheering hard for Carolina tomorrow, but I have little confidence that we come out of Gainesville winners.  There’s too much stacked against us to have valid confidence.  We’ve beaten the Gators once out of the previous nineteen meetings, and never in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.  The team seemingly always fails to produce in the latter part of its seasons.  The last time this same opportunity presented itself, we went up 21-3 on Florida, only to give up 38 unanswered points in a 41-21 loss.  Nothing would make me happier than to see us show up in Gainesville tomorrow and prove all of that wrong.  After all, each game presents its own opportunity.  Pulling for Carolina is like having a father that loves you but sometimes comes home drunk and beats you; especially during the holidays.  It’s that time of year.  I sure hope dad’s in a good mood.                   

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Gamecocks Work Out in Williams-Brice Monday

The No. 22 South Carolina Gamecocks (6-3, 4-3 SEC) worked out at Williams-Brice Stadium on Monday evening. The squad spent about 40 minutes on conditioning drills as they began preparations for Saturday’s SEC showdown at No. 24 Florida (6-3, 4-3 SEC).The winner of the South Carolina – Florida game will represent the SEC Eastern Division in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta on Saturday, December 4. Saturday’s 7:21 p.m. kick will be televised nationally on ESPN with Brad Nessler and Todd Blackledge working in the both and Holly Rowe on the sidelines.

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