KICKOFF: Saturday, 7:15 ET
SITE: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Fla.
SERIES: Florida leads 23-4-3 (last meeting, 2009, Florida 24-14)
RECORDS: South Carolina 6-3, 4-3; Florida 6-3, 4-3
POLLS: South Carolina (22 AP, 22 USA Today); Florida (24 AP, 24 USA Today)
PREDICTION: Florida 21-17
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- For South Carolina: Get a solid game out of QB Stephen Garcia. The line must open holes for freshman RB Marcus Lattimore, while Garcia supplements that by utilizing his big and talented receivers. Defensively, the Gamecocks must find a way to make Florida a one-dimensional team by cutting down the passing lanes and forcing the Gators to run.
-- For Florida: Make South Carolina a one-dimensional offense. Stopping freshman RB Marcus Lattimore, who is second in the SEC in rushing and tied for second in TDs (13), will be Florida's first priority. On offense, the Gators will try to continue to stay balanced.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
-- South Carolina had one of its worst offensive performances against Arkansas. QB Stephen Garcia, who has been solid throughout the season, struggled to find open receivers as the line gave him little time to get passes off. RB Marcus Lattimore suffered a sprained left knee in the first quarter and was ineffective the remainder of the game. He is believed to be back at full strength for Florida, however. WRs Alshon Jeffery and Tori Gurley continue to stand out, with Jeffery playing as well as any player at his position in the SEC.
The secondary allowed 303 yards against the Ryan Mallett-led Arkansas offense. Although Florida doesn't present the same challenges through the air as the Razorbacks, USC must find a way to limit the mental mistakes. The defense against the run also faltered, but it has been solid most of the season.
With the offense faltering, adding QBs Jordan Reed and Trey Burton to the mix has helped improve Florida's running game. The Gators are averaging 217 ypg on the ground during their two-game winning streak, averaging 4.3 per carry. QB John Brantley threw two TDs passes against Vanderbilt, his first two since Sept. 25 against Kentucky.
Florida improved last week on third-down defense, holding Vanderbilt to 2-for-16 on third-down conversions. The Gators are now second in the SEC in total defense, giving up 292.6 ypg. Florida ranks fourth in the SEC against the pass, giving up 171.3 ypg passing with a league-high 17 interceptions.
Gamecocks: South Carolina is looking for its first SEC Eastern Division title, but coach Steve Spurrier is no stranger to the conference championship game. He had his Florida team in it six times from 1992 through 2001, winning five titles. ... South Carolina's last win against the Gators came in 2005 by a 30-22 count. The Gamecocks' other wins in the series were in 1939, 1936, and 1913. The ties in the series were in 1911 (the first meeting), 1921, and 1931. ... The Gamecocks are bowl eligible for a seventh consecutive year and fifth time under Spurrier. ... Sophomore WR Alshon Jeffery leads the SEC in receiving yards per game with his average of 114.9 and receptions with 6.6 a game. ... RB Marcus Lattimore needs 97 yards to set a school freshman rushing record. He has 752.Thomas Dendy rushed for 848 in 1982. ... QB Stephen Garcia has completed 67.7 percent of his passes (151-of-223) and is on pace to top Steve Taneyhill's school record of 67.1 percent set in 1995.
Gators: Florida is looking for its 11th Eastern Division title since the SEC split into two divisions in 1992. ... After a sluggish start, the true freshman class has been developing nicely. DT Shariff Floyd had seven tackles, including three for a loss, against Vanderbilt. Ronald Powell had been excelling more since being moved to strong-side linebacker, and SS Matt Elam is being called upon more in blitz situations. ... RB Chris Rainey was named SEC special teams player of the week on Monday. Rainey blocked two punts against Vanderbilt that led to touchdowns and amassed 53 return yards. ... Over its last two games, Florida has averaged 44.5 points, 465 yards in total offense (217 rushing, 248 passing), and 23.5 first downs. ... The Gators had touchdown drives of better than 90 yards in each of their last two games. The 98-yard drive against Vandy was their longest since 2007 against Ole Miss. They had a 91-yard drive against Georgia.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
RB Marcus Lattimore -- South Carolina has shown little ability to run the football successfully when he either is not playing or is not 100 percent. Arkansas forced the Gamecocks throw more than they wanted to a week ago because of that. If Lattimore has a big game, USC normally wins.
QB Stephen Garcia -- The redshirt junior has earned Steve Spurrier's respect with his consistent play this season. He took a step back against Arkansas, however, and must right the ship against Florida.
CB Marty Markett -- The walk-on has played sparingly this season, but could find himself in the starting lineup against the Gators in place of the injured C.C. Whitlock. The Gators will probably pick on him early and often.
RB/WR Chris Rainey -- Rainey has made great strides on and off the field since serving a five-game suspension. Rainey blocked two punts against Vanderbilt that led to touchdowns. With Jeff Demps still ailing, look for the Gators to count on Rainey as an all-purpose threat as a runner, pass-catcher and return man.
CB Janoris Jenkins -- Two weeks after shutting down Georgia standout receiver A.J. Green, Jenkins will have his hands full again with South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffery. The 6-4, 233-pound Jeffery will be a bigger target to cover for the 6-foot Jenkins. Jeffery leads the SEC with 1,034 yards receiving.
P/K Chas Henry -- In a game that could come down to a kick, Florida may need Henry again in a clutch situation. Henry came through with a game-winning 37-yard field goal in overtime to beat Georgia, but he also missed a 42-yard attempt that could have forced overtime against Mississippi State. Henry has put together an excellent season punting the football, averaging an SEC-best 48.2 yards per attempt.