In the 1990s, Steve Spurrier dubbed Florida Field ‘The Swamp,’ where only Gators get out alive. Spurrier’s name and accomplishments, winning the Heisman Trophy as a player in 1966 and guiding UF to six SEC titles and the school’s first national championship during a dynastic 12-year tenure, can be seen all over Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
But on Saturday afternoon in Gainesville at 3:30 p.m. Eastern, Spurrier will lead the enemy, South Carolina, into The Swamp to take on the Gators in a crucial SEC East showdown.
On Sunday night, most betting shops opened Florida (6-0 straight up, 5-1 against the spread) as a three-point favorite with a total of 42 ½ for ‘over/under’ wagers. However, when word of injuries to Marcus Lattimore and Jadeveon Clowney broke early Wednesday night, most books adjusted to the Gators to 3 ½-point ‘chalk.’
The total also moved from 42 ½ to 41 ½. The money-line payout for the Gamecocks has increased to plus-150 (risk $100 to win $150).
On Friday morning, Lattimore was upgraded to ‘probable’ even though his only practice all week was Thursday on a limited basis. Spurrier has indicated that senior running back Kenny Miles will start regardless of Lattimore’s presence.
South Carolina (6-1 SU, 6-1 ATS) blasted UF by a 36-14 count as a 6 ½-point road underdog to clinch the school’s first SEC East title in 2010. As a true freshman, Lattimore shredded the Gators for 212 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 40 carries.
When these teams met in Columbia last year, South Carolina collected a 17-12 victory as a 2 ½-point home ‘chalk.’ The Gamecocks have covered the spread in three consecutive head-too-head meetings.
With last week’s spread cover in a 23-21 loss at LSU as a three-point underdog, South Carolina improved to 13-8-1 ATS as a road underdog during Spurrier’s eight-year tenure.
The Gators have covered the number in five consecutive games, including last Saturday’s 31-17 win at Vanderbilt as nine-point favorites. Jeff Driskel broke a school-record for rushing yards by a UF quarterback, tallying 177 yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries.
Florida is second in the SEC in rushing, averaging 233.3 yards per game. Senior RB Mike Gillislee is also second in the SEC in rushing with 615 yards and seven touchdowns. He is averaging 5.1 yards per carry.
Lattimore is tied for the SEC lead in rushing TDs with 10. The junior RB has rushed for 584 yards, averaging 4.5 YPC.
Like Driskel, South Carolina QB Connor Shaw is a serious threat with his scrambling ability. Shaw, who has a 9/4 touchdown-to-interception ratio, has rushed for 280 yards and one TD.
For the season, Driskel has thrown for 836 yards with a 4/1 TD-INT ratio. The sophomore signal caller has rushed for 326 yards and four TDs, averaging 5.7 YPC.
The ‘under’ is 4-2 overall for UF this year, 3-0 in its home games. The Gamecocks have seen the ‘over’ go 4-3 overall, 2-1 in their road assignments.
Spurrier has faced his alma mater seven times as South Carolina’s head coach, going 5-2 ATS with three outright victories.
CBS will provide television coverage.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
--Florida and South Carolina are tied for second in the SEC in scoring defense, allowing 12.3 points per game.
--UF is 4-3 ATS as home ‘chalk’ on Will Muschamp’s watch.
--The ‘under’ has connected in the last three USC-UF encounters.
--South Carolina starting DT Kelcy Quarles will not play due to a one-game suspension levied by the SEC for throwing a punch in last week’s game at LSU.
--Saturday could be a first for Georgia fans, who have to root for Florida is they want the Bulldogs to control their own destiny in the SEC East. UF and UGA will square off in Jacksonville next weekend.
--Although Vanderbilt has lost four of its six games, it will undoubtedly be favored to win at least four of its next six games. The Commodores, who are seven-point home favorites Saturday vs. Auburn, could be favored in all of their remaining games. The two contests in question will be at Ole Miss and vs. Tennessee.
--We’ve known that the Kentucky and Arkansas jobs are going to be available in December, and now it’s becoming increasingly clear that Auburn and Tennessee might also be conducting coaching searches soon. Now certainly, a win over top-ranked Alabama at Neyland Stadium this week will automatically change the fate of Derek Dooley, who inherited a tough situation that I outlined this past summer. Gene Chizik is only two years removed from winning a national championship, but it’s well documented how quickly the Auburn fan base has a propensity to turn on a head coach. With a 1-5 record, Auburn’s season is in the toilet. The Tigers are only going to be favored twice more in home games against New Mexico St. and Alabama A&M. Look for Louisville’s Charlie Strong to be a hot name in these coaching searches.
--The only teams remaining with unscathed against-the-spread records are Western Kentucky (6-0 ATS) and Utah St. (6-0-1 ATS). The head coaches of these schools, Willie Taggart and Gary Andersen, might not be ready for SEC jobs yet. However, both are outstanding young coaches who will be at more high-profile programs soon.
--Virginia is the only team in America that hasn’t covered the spread yet. The Cavaliers, who are 0-6-1 ATS, are 3 ½-point home favorites Saturday vs. Wake Forest.
--The ‘over’ is a perfect 6-0 for both Tennessee and La. Tech. The Volunteers have a total of 56 for their home game vs. Alabama. The Bulldogs will welcome Idaho to Ruston with a total of 73 ½.
--The ‘under’ is an NCAA-best 6-1 for Bowling Green.
--Since 2004, Va. Tech has only been a road underdog 10 times, compiling a 6-4 spread record. The Hokies are 8 ½-point ‘dogs Saturday at Clemson.
--Western Kentucky has won outright in 12 of its last 14 games. The losses came at LSU and at Alabama. That’s why head coach Willie Taggart will most likely have a more high-profile job next year.
Brian Edwards can be reached at email@example.com.
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