COLUMBIA - With an offense in disarray, Florida won't be expected to do much this season following a disastrous losing record in 2013.
The Gators are reeling from their shocking fifth-place finish in the SEC East last season. They finished behind Vanderbilt in the divisional standings, something previously thought implausible. Things got even rockier this offseason when receivers coach Joker Phillips abruptly resigned over potential recruiting violations.
Florida is a far cry from the SEC and national dominance it enjoyed with Steve Spurrier in the 1990s. Still, The Swamp is The Swamp. When South Carolina visits Gainesville in November, it will likely be a big favorite. It will also be entering dangerous territory, a place where even the best teams struggle. Just two years ago, South Carolina visited Florida as the No. 7 team in the nation. The Gamecocks lost 44-11.
Spurrier knows the power of Florida's home-field advantage. He's lived it. Surely the Head Ball Coach won't take the Gators likely. Here's what to expect from Florida.
Coach: Will Muschamp (22-16, fourth season)
Returning starters: 14 (seven offensive, seven defensive)
2013 record: 4-8, 3-5 SEC; fifth place SEC East
Scoring offense: 18.8 points per game (114th in the country)
Scoring defense: 21.1 points against per game (15th in the country)
Series: South Carolina trails 24-7-3
Last meeting: South Carolina beat Florida 19-14 last season at Williams-Brice Stadium. It wasn't pretty. Despite Gators quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg making his first career start, the Gamecocks trailed by one point entering the fourth quarter. Freshman kicker Elliott Fry connected on 4-of-5 field goals, including two in the fourth quarter that were the difference in the game.
Three things to know about Florida
1. Hot seat: Eighteen months ago, all was well in Will Muschamp's world. He led Florida to the Sugar Bowl with an 11-2 record. The Gators were flashing their dominance of old. Then they got smashed by Louisville in New Orleans and finished with their worst season in three decades last fall. The only power teams they beat were Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas, three programs that finished with a combined SEC record of 2-22. Florida was ravaged by injuries last season, but excuses never go over well with a fan base that expects to win titles every season. Muschamp must get Florida back into contention this season, or there could be trouble.
2. Rock fight: It's difficult to describe how bad Florida's offense was last fall. With increased scoring across the country, the Gators averaged fewer than 20 points per game. Their offense ranked last in the SEC. It was bad enough to ruin one of the nation's strongest defenses. Florida must identify playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. Of course, it all starts at quarterback.
3. Driskel's time: The expected quarterback battle never materialized at Florida. Jeff Driskel is the frontrunner to be the Gators' starting quarterback this fall, not that it gives any comfort to Gators fans. Driskel was supposed to be the next great Florida quarterback, extending a long lineage. Instead, he has been underwhelming - at best - through his first three seasons. Still, he's Florida's best option, and he quickly separated himself in spring practices. The bottom line is, Driskel has to give more production than he has in previous seasons, or the offense will continue to struggle.
Gamecocks schedule glimpse
Week before: bye
Next week: South Alabama
On the horizon: at Clemson
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