GAINESVILLE, Fla. - No. 21 Florida looks to get its resurgent season back on track Saturday at home against South Carolina in the final SEC battle of the season for both teams. The Gators have lost two in a row by nearly identical scores -- 36-17 to Georgia and 38-17 to Missouri -- but they are 14-2 at the Swamp against the Gamecocks, who are riding a two-game winning streak and need a triumph over Florida for a chance at an eight-win season.
TV: Noon ET, ESPN. LINE: Florida -6
For South Carolina coach Will Muschamp, the trip to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium will be his second -- the first, a 20-7 loss in 2016 -- since being fired as Florida's head coach in 2014. He hopes for better success this time around, bringing an offense that put everything together in last Saturday's explosive 48-44 comeback victory at Ole Miss, registering the second-most yards (510) and points (48) against a Power-5 school since Muschamp took over in 2016. But while it was the best performance of the year for Gamecocks quarterback Jake Bentley, who threw for 363 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, the Gators have some concerns with their own quarterback play after Feleipe Franks, who has started Florida's first nine games this season and 17 in his career, was ineffective for the second straight game and was benched in the second half of last week's loss to Missouri, replaced by redshirt sophomore Kyle Trask, who completed 10 of 18 passes for 126 yards and one touchdown. "They graded within one point of each other. Let's see how the week goes," Gators first-year coach Dan Mullen told reporters, adding freshman Emory Jones into the mix. "I might play two quarterbacks, we might play three."
SOUTH CAROLINA (5-3, 4-3 SEC)
Bentley ranks fifth in the SEC in passing (238 yards per game) and sixth in total offense (256.3), but the Gators are quite familiar with his antics as the Gamecocks' quarterback shook off three picks to pass for 249 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns in a win over Florida last year. The Gamecocks are also set at running back with juniors Rico Dowdle (490 yards), Ty'Son Williams (319), Mon Denson (169) and A.J. Turner (154) combining to help the team average 4.6 yards per rush after managing just 3.9 last year although the top two rushers -- Dowdle (ankle) and Williams (hand) -- left the Ole Miss game in the first half with injuries but may be available. The defense is decimated at safety, where senior Steven Montac, redshirt freshman Jaylin Dickerson and true freshman R.J. Roderick are the only players available after Jamyest Williams (shoulder) and Javon Charleston (foot) were the latest to be lost due to injuries.
ABOUT FLORIDA (6-3, 4-3)
While Mullen may wait until game time to name his starting quarterback, the winner of the battle needs help from an inconsistent ground game that only contributed 127 yards last week. Gamecocks receivers Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards give Bentley a pair of dangerous targets and the Gators' pass defense, which entered last week ranked second in the SEC and 12th in the nation (170.1), took a beating in allowing Missouri quarterback Drew Lock to throw for 250 yards and three touchdowns last week. A strong pass rush would help, led by defensive linemen Jachai Polite and Jabari Zuniga, who have combined for 18.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks after totaling 13.5 tackles for loss and six sacks last season.
1. The Gators have a huge 26-9-3 lead in this series, but the Gamecocks have won five of the last eight meetings.
2. The Gamecocks' last four games have been decided by four points or fewer.
3. Florida hasn't finished in the top 100 in the nation in scoring since 2014 but it currently ranks 57th (30.6 points per game).
PREDICTION: Florida 27, South Carolina 24
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