Florida and South Carolina have a lot in common heading into Saturday afternoon’s Southeastern Conference clash in Columbia, S.C.
Both are trending positively under relatively new head coaches and are led by quarterbacks who are entering their fourth season as the starter of a Power Five program.
In Shane Beamer’s third year, the Gamecocks (2-3, 1-2 SEC) are seeking their third winning season and another trip to a bowl game.
In Billy Napier’s second season at Florida, the Gators (4-2, 2-1) are trying to figure out how to win on the road. His teams are 9-2 at the Swamp but just 1-7 away from home.
“Williams Brice is one of the tougher venues and better venues in the country,” Napier said Monday. “We need to accept the challenge and take the next step.”
Florida is coming off an impressive 38-14 home win over Vanderbilt in which it flashed its balanced offense.
Graham Mertz completed 30 of 36 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, while Montrell Johnson Jr. (18 carries for 135 yards) and Treyaun Webb (four carries for 70 yards) thrived on the ground.
The Gators also got a breakout from freshman tight end Arlis Boardingham with seven receptions for 99 yards and two touchdowns.
South Carolina is coming off a bye week, good medicine after a 40-21 loss at then-No. 21 Tennessee on Sept. 30, the Gamecocks’ third defeat to a ranked team.
The Volunteers sacked quarterback Spencer Rattler six times, intercepted him once and limited him to 169 yards and no touchdowns. It was a stark departure from last year against Tennessee when Rattler threw for 438 yards and six TDs in a 63-38 romp.
“We have to play and coach better on the offensive line,” Beamer said Tuesday. “Part of the bye week was being able to step back and kind of re-evaluate everything and think outside of the box.”
Beamer hinted at a lineup change and said that veteran offensive lineman Jakai Moore will return after missing the Tennessee trip with an injury.
The Gamecocks will likely be without All-SEC wideout Juice Wells, who Beamer said is “doubtful.”