Florida Football Friday: Gators Host Gamecocks in Home Opener

by Mike Ferguson
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Photo credit: Courtney Culbreath/Florida athletics

At No. 3 in the polls, Florida has its highest national ranking since 2012.

After setting a school record for yards in an SEC game, the Gators will be at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for the first time this season on Saturday. The opponent will be the South Carolina Gamecocks.

South Carolina dropped a heartbreaker at home to Tennessee last week, 31-27. A muffed punt late cost the Gamecocks a chance to potentially win the game late.

For South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp, he’ll be in a familiar environment. Muschamp coached Florida from 2011 to 2014.

Colorado State transfer Colin Hill was solid for South Carolina in the opener. Hill passed for 290 yards while South Carolina managed just 2.5 yards per carry on the ground. Hill did throw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. The player to watch offensive for the Gamecocks is wide receiver Shi Smith, a senior, who caught 10 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown in the opener.

The Florida defense didn’t impress in last week’s 51-35 win over Ole Miss, but there is no shortage of talent. Florida yielded 613 yards in the victory. The Gators’ talented secondary underwhelmed, but the linebackers did play well.

Ventrell Miller finished with 15 tackles, two for loss and a sack. Brenton Cox Jr. had 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack. Mohamoud Diabate also tallied two stops for loss and a sack.

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The 642 yards racked up last week was the most-ever for Florida in an SEC game. Kyle Trask lived up to his Heisman Trophy hype with 416 yards passing and four touchdowns. Four of those went to tight end Kyle Pitts.

Pitts finished with eight grabs for 170 yards. Florida also managed 196 yards rushing on nearly seven yards per carry.

The South Carolina defense gave up 394 yards to Tennessee, but did a nice job getting off the field. The Gamecocks held Tennessee to 1-for-12 on third down.

Kingsley Enagbare had a monster game for South Carolina in the opener with two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss. Linebacker Ernest Jones may be the best defensive player for the Gamecocks while safety Israel Mukuamu headlines the secondary.

South Carolina has let fourth-quarter leads slip away in each of its last two meetings against Florida. The Gators have won four of the last five in the series, but the teams have split the last 10 meetings. Saturday’s contest begins at 12 p.m. ET and airs on ESPN.

Prediction: Florida 41, South Carolina 24

Other Games Across the State

College Football

South Florida (1-1) at No. 15 Cincinnati (2-0)
Saturday, Oct. 3 at 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

After getting blasted at Notre Dame two weeks ago, South Florida will have to travel to face another ranked team. Through two games, Cincinnati leads the American Athletic Conference in scoring defense.
Prediction: Cincinnati 34, South Florida 10

Charlotte (0-1) at Florida Atlantic (0-0)
Saturday, Oct. 3 at 4 p.m. ET (ESPNU)

After two postponements, Willie Taggart is finally set to make his debut as Florida Atlantic head coach. The Owls have won Conference USA in two of the last three seasons. Charlotte hung tough with Appalachian State in the opener after reaching a bowl game for the first time last season.
Prediction: Florida Atlantic 31, Charlotte 21

Jacksonville State (0-0) at Florida State (0-2)
Saturday, Oct. 3 at 4 p.m. ET (Raycom Sports)

Head coach Mike Norvell will return to the sideline after missing last week’s 52-10 loss to Miami with COVID-19. The Seminoles will try to avoid their first 0-3 start since 1976. Jacksonville State, an FCS school, went 6-6 last season.
Prediction: Florida State 34, Jacksonville State 17

Tulsa (0-1) at No. 11 UCF (2-0)
Saturday, Oct. 3 at 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

UCF heads into its home opener leading the nation in yards per game. The Knights will be facing a Tulsa team that finished just 4-8, but did upset UCF last season. The Golden Hurricane hung tough at Oklahoma State in their opener.
Prediction: UCF 41, Tulsa 21


Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-2-1)
Sunday, Oct. 4 at 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

After consecutive losses, the Jacksonville Jaguars will look to bounce back against No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals. Jacksonville will be looking for its first road win. The Jaguars have won the last two in the series.
Prediction: Jacksonville 27, Cincinnati 25

Seattle Seahawks (3-0) at Miami Dolphins (1-2)
Sunday, Oct. 4 at 1 p.m. ET (FOX)

Through three games, Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson leads the NFL in passer rating and touchdown passes. Last week, Miami played its most complete game with a 31-13 victory over Jacksonville. Seattle has not won in Miami since 1996.
Prediction: Seattle 34, Miami 24

Los Angeles Chargers (1-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1)
Sunday, Oct. 4 at 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

After dropping the opener, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers find themselves alone atop the NFC South. Tampa Bay ranks fourth in the NFL in total defense through three games. Rookie quarterback Justin Herbert will be making his first road start for the Los Angeles Chargers.
Prediction: Tampa Bay 27, L.A. Chargers 13

Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.

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