COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina pulled off perhaps the biggest upset of the 2019 college football season last Saturday, going toe to toe on the road with then-No. 3 Georgia and taking down the Bulldogs 20-17 in double overtime, ending a streak of 12 straight losses against ranked opponents. Now they take aim at No. 9 Florida as the Gators come to town Saturday after stumbling in the fourth quarter of a 42-28 loss to new No. 3 LSU that put an end to the team's 10-game winning streak.
TV: Noon ET, ESPN. LINE: Florida -5
"We've got a really good Florida team coming in here, and how are we going to respond?" Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp said to reporters. "We haven't been in this position as a program for 10 years. So, how are we going to respond to this? That's the big challenge for us this week." Avoiding a letdown is critical but the challenge will be helped by the expected return of freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski, who left early in the second half of last week's win with a sprained knee but Muschamp announced midweek that he "should be fine for Saturday." While the Gamecocks are feeling pretty good about themselves, the Gators defense has something to prove after getting manhandled by LSU to the tune of 511 yards and 42 points allowed, with no sacks and no takeaways, not the performance expected from a unit that entered the contest ranked 10th in the nation in yards allowed (276.3) and fifth in points (9.5). "It's kind of disgusting," Gators defensive lineman Adam Shuler said. "We know we're better than that. We know there was a lot of mistakes. We really didn't get outphysicaled, we just did stupid things. It's out the window now."
ABOUT FLORIDA (6-1, 3-1 SEC)
There are plenty of bright spots for the offense to build on after the unit matched LSU almost score for score until midway through the third quarter, with the Gators producing four touchdown drives of at least 75 yards, three totaling at least 11 plays. Quarterback Kyle Trask threw for a career-high 310 yards and three touchdowns, with one costly end-zone interception, and Emory Jones added one more -- the first time Florida threw four touchdown passes in a road game since Oct. 20, 2007 -- but head coach Dan Mullen was concerned about the Gators' inability to put points on the board in their last four drives, including two fourth-quarter trips inside LSU's 20-yard line. The defense, which entered the LSU game tops in the nation in sacks with 26, failed to apply much pressure up front against the Tigers with defensive ends Jabari Zuniga and Jonathan Greenard hobbled by ankle injuries and Mullen expects them to be game-time decisions for this week.
ABOUT SOUTH CAROLINA (3-3, 2-2)
The Gamecocks defense came up huge against Georgia with three interceptions and one fumble, but no one shined brighter than sophomore cornerback Israel Mukuamu, who accounted for all three of the picks, one of which he returned 53 yards for a touchdown to become the first Gamecock with three interceptions in a game since 1988. Hilinski, who has completed 62.8 percent of his passes for 1,028 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions, should be back to helm the offense but the Gators figure to prepare as well for Dakereon Joyner, who completed six of 12 passes for 39 yards and also rushed six times for 28 yards in relief. "They didn't change what they did offensively. He (Joyner) just brought a little flavor to it," Mullen told reporters. "He was able to come in and win the game for them, so I think it shows they have some good depth and they feel pretty comfortable with both guys playing."
1. Florida owns a 27-9-3 lead in this series but South Carolina has won five of the last nine meetings, although the Gators rallied late for a 35-31 victory last year.
2. The Gators follow up with three more games against SEC East teams - Georgia, Vanderbilt and Missouri.
3. Gamecocks WR Bryan Edwards has caught a pass in 44 straight games to break the school mark of 43 set by Kenny McKinley from 2005-2008.
PREDICTION: Florida 34, South Carolina 20