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November 14, 2008
Spurrier provides dangerous test for Florida
Two years ago, Spurrier-led South Carolina were on the verge of upsetting Florida until defensive end Jarvis Moss blocked a last-second field-goal attempt, allowing the Gators to escape with a 17-16 victory.
A loss would have eliminated Florida from national championship contention. Instead, the Gators went on to win the crown.
"If I have a vote I think that's the greatest play in the history of Florida football," Florida coach Urban Meyer said of Moss' block. "It was certainly a monumental moment in my life and our program's life. That is one of the finest plays that I have ever been a part of."
Florida (8-1) is in a similar position this season. Once again, a loss would eliminate Florida from the national championship picture. And once again, a solid South Carolina team (7-3) coached by Spurrier is coming to Gainesville.
Spurrier doesn't need to look back two years to give the Gamecocks proof that an upset is possible. Rather, he points out that six weeks ago, Ole Miss won in Gainesville. And South Carolina beat Ole Miss.
"Ole Miss beat them," Spurrier said. "Ole Miss went in there and got a break or two, hit a big play, hit a big run, hung in there and found a way to beat them.
"So, if Ole Miss can go in there and beat them, we've got to believe we've got a chance to go in there and beat them."
Meyer doesn't disagree.
Behind quarterback Tim Tebow and receivers Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy, Florida averages 42.8 points to lead the SEC. South Carolina, though, in its first year under defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, ranks in the top 10 nationally in total defense (third) and scoring defense (10th) . The Gamecocks have held six opponents to 17 points or fewer, and none have managed more than 24 points.
"We're going to have to be very efficient and make sure that our offensive line blocks their people," Meyer said. "If we don't, it's going to be a long day."
South Carolina's offense has sputtered at times, and last week Spurrier alternated quarterbacks Stephen Garcia and Chris Smelley. But with a good defensive effort, a couple of turnovers and a little luck, the Gamecocks could again put Florida's national championship aspirations at risk.
"We'll certainly go down there with the attitude that we really don't have anything to lose," Spurrier said. "We're pretty huge underdogs, which is OK. But we're going to go down there and pitch it around and line up and see how our defense ranks up with their offense."
Who gets the edge?
Florida rush offense vs. South Carolina rush defense
Florida pass offense vs. South Carolina pass defense
South Carolina rush offense vs. Florida rush defense
South Carolina pass offense vs. Florida pass defense
Florida special teams vs. South Carolina special teams
Florida coaches vs. South Carolina coaches
X-factor: Never underestimate the Spurrier mystique, especially when it comes to Florida. No victory is assured with Spurrier on the opposing sideline. Two years ago, he took a vastly inferior South Carolina team to Gainesville and only a last-second blocked field goal enabled the eventual national champions to escape with a 17-16 victory.
Florida will win if: Tebow and Co. must capitalize on early scoring opportunities to prevent South Carolina from staying in contention and gaining confidence as the game progresses. The Gators are more talented and should prevail unless they are thwarted by mistakes.
South Carolina will win if: The Gamecocks will have to play close to a perfect game. The defense is good enough to keep South Carolina close, but it can't allow big plays. Offensively, the Gamecocks have to have some running success and keep their inconsistent quarterbacks out of obvious passing situations. If the game is close in the fourth quarter, Spurrier may be able to manufacture a big play or two to pull off an upset.
Olin Buchanan: Florida 34, South Carolina 17
Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.