South Carolina Football: How to watch, storylines, injuries, expert picks, and predictions vs. Florida

South Carolina football defensive back KaJuan Banks making a tackle last season against Florida. [Alan Youngblood/Gainesville Sun]Ncaa Football Florida Gators Vs South Carolina
South Carolina football defensive back KaJuan Banks making a tackle last season against Florida. [Alan Youngblood/Gainesville Sun]Ncaa Football Florida Gators Vs South Carolina /

South Carolina football coach Shane Beamer and his squad are desperate for a win this Saturday. The game against the Florida Gators is almost a must-win for both teams as the path to bowl eligibility is much harder with a loss on Saturday.

Williams-Brice Stadium will be filled to capacity for the SEC East showdown, and the winner of this one will set themselves up for a chance at a top-half finish in the SEC East, while the loser all but ensures a finish near the bottom of the division.

South Carolina Football vs. Florida:
How to watch

The sold-out Gamecock crowd will be hungry for revenge on Saturday as last year’s game against the Gators was embarrassing for the program. 38-6 is bad enough, but when fans consider that the South Carolina offense didn’t score, that adds even more motivation for the crowd to be at its best.

The SEC East showdown will be broadcast on the SECNetwork and ESPN app at 3:30. Taylor Zarzour, Matt Stinchcomb, and University of South Carolina graduate Alyssa Lang will be the broadcast crew for the game.

South Carolina Football vs. Florida:
Storylines to watch

Shane Beamer has led his South Carolina football team to a 2-0 record after bye weeks in his first two years in Columbia. Can he make it 3-0? Both post-bye victories have come after an embarrassing loss to that week’s opponent in the previous season. Both of those victories also set South Carolina football scoring records for that opponent.

One of the major storylines for Saturday’s contest will be about two teams who have not been good enough in 2023 searching for six victories and a bowl game invitation. South Carolina sits at 2-3 and is likely to be underdogs in 4 of their 6 games after this Saturday. Florida is 4-2 but could be underdogs in every game the rest of the way.

The two head coaches in this matchup are doing a lot of good things for their respective programs, but neither fanbase is particularly happy with the men in charge right now.

Billy Napier is on the verge of being on the coaching “hot seat,” and missing a bowl in 2023 might seal his fate. Florida has lost three in a row to Kentucky for the first time ever, and the Gators seem destined for a 5-7 or 6-6 season in 2023, something that is completely unacceptable in Gainesville.

Shane Beamer is nowhere near the hot seat like Napier, but the Gamecock headman has had some of his “coaching direction” decisions questioned pretty severely. Fans aren’t happy at all with a couple of Gamecock assistant coaches, and the program doesn’t seem to have seen the type of improvement many expected after the strong finish to last season.

Saturday’s game will feature two of the most inconsistent teams of the past two seasons in the SEC.

South Carolina has had moments where they look like national contenders (blowout over Tennessee, win @ Clemson, etc.), but the Gamecocks have looked miserably bad at times, as well (North Carolina loss this season, Florida loss in 2022).

The story for the once mighty Florida Gators is similar. They looked unbeatable against Carolina last year and knocked off Tennessee this season by a comfortable margin. They also have lost to Vanderbilt.

Injuries are not as much of a storyline for these two teams as they were earlier in the season. Juice Wells again will not play on Saturday for the Gamecocks, and Cason Henry remains out, but no other expected starters are out. Florida starters Caleb Douglas (wide receiver) and Kingsley Eguakun (center) will miss the game, but UF isn’t expected to miss any other major players.

A false storyline might make the rounds on Saturday, as well. Billy Napier interviewed for the South Carolina football job before the Gamecocks hired Shane Beamer. Napier’s agent put out a false rumor that his client was offered the job first but turned it down. That did not happen, but it was mentioned during last season’s game nonetheless.

The Gamecocks are also set to host a number of big-time high school recruits for visits on Saturday.

South Carolina Football vs. Florida:
What experts are saying

The spread for South Carolina-Florida is tight. Some betting lines opened with the Gamecocks as a 1-point favorite, and others opened with USC as a 2.5-point favorite. Now, most lines favor South Carolina at that 2.5-point mark, but there are still some that have the Gamecocks listed at -1.0 or -1.5.

ESPN’s Football Power Index gives Carolina a 57.7% chance to earn a victory in Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday.

The college football team at FoxSports picked Florida to win the game by a score of 25-22.

The Greenville News’ Emily Adams picked South Carolina football to win and to cover. Her score prediction was 31-21 in favor of the ‘Cocks.

South Carolina Football vs. Florida:
Official Garnet and Cocky prediction

This Saturday’s game should be relatively close. The two teams have similar roster talent and are both somewhere in the bloated middle class of the SEC (currently closer to the bottom than fans would like to admit).

On the field, each team has one of the SEC’s top quarterback-wide receiver connections.

Spencer Rattler and Xavier Legette have combined for some of the best production of any duo in the country. Rattler was expected to have a nice 2023 season, but he has exceeded expectations. Legette, on the other hand, has come out of nowhere to dominate college football.

Graham Mertz has been one of the league’s biggest surprises at quarterback as he’s played at a higher level this season than at any point during his career at Wisconsin. Wide receiver Ricky Pearsall was a known commodity coming into the year but has been even better than expected.

If the Gamecocks are to avenge last season’s blowout loss, however, the running game could be the key.

Florida has played three quality opponents this season (Utah, Tennessee, and Kentucky). Billy Napier’s squad is 1-2 in those games. In the two losses, they combined to rush for 82 total yards. In the win? 183.

In the Gamecocks’ four contests against quality foes, Dowell Loggains’ offense has averaged around 300 yards through the air compared to less than 100 per game on the ground. As good as Spencer Rattler and Xavier Legette have been, the Gamecocks’ lone SEC win (Mississippi State) came when they had their season-high in rushing.

Florida’s offense has had its greatest success when Trevor Etienne and Montrell Johnson have run well and opened things up for Mertz and the passing game. South Carolina football has been among the country’s worst in run defense over the past two seasons, but they completely shut down Mississippi State when the Bulldogs were the top rushing offense in the SEC.

Similarly, Florida has had a porous defensive front against the run at times. The Gamecocks have struggled to run the ball for most of the season, but they have found their starting running back in Mario Anderson. Whichever team can stop the other ground attack better will have a decided advantage.

While the running games will be the key to the game, the quarterbacks will have something to say. Neither defense has generated much of a pass rush this season as the Gamecocks and Gators are among the country’s worst with just 9 sacks apiece.

If the two quarterbacks have time to throw, they will both be very efficient. Mertz and Rattler have completed over 70% of their passes this fall. However, where the Gamecocks might be able to have an advantage is Rattler’s ability to throw the ball downfield. Given plenty of time, Spencer Rattler is the clear choice over Mertz, even though he has been good this year.

In the end, if all other parts of the game are relatively even, Rattler will make the difference, propelling the Gamecocks to a much-needed victory.

840. 35. 850. Prediction. 27

After how the previous two seasons have gone in this rivalry, almost anything is possible on Saturday. However, the home team has won 6 of the last 7 in this series, and the winning team has scored at least 28 points in the previous 6 meetings. The most likely scenario is a South Carolina football win in an offensively-focused contest.

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