Inside the Game: Exploring No. 12 South Carolina’s matchup at Central Florida

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier. (AP Photo/Brett Flashnick)

After a bye week, No. 12 South Carolina returns for a noon kickoff Saturday against Central Florida on WCIV-TV (ABC). Here’s what to expect when the Gamecocks enter Bright House Networks Stadium on the campus of UCF:

USC coach Steve Spurrier said Tuesday he expects UCF to be “sky high” when it plays Saturday. The Gamecocks stand between the Knights’ football program and history. In UCF’s first game televised on network television, it will try to beat only its second ranked opponent in program history. A win would make UCF 4-0 for the first time in 25 years. Clearly, USC will get UCF’s best shot. The Gamecocks need to play Saturday like it’s the biggest game of the season, because that’s what it is for their opponent.

In reality, UCF will have to use a total team concept to contain USC’s star defensive end. Leading the way will be junior left tackle Torrian Wilson, an All-Conference USA Second Team member last season. Wilson is a good player, but he’s coming off a knee injury (MCL sprain) that required surgery. He missed UCF’s game at Penn State two weeks ago, so it’s been a while since he has played. There is no reason for Clowney to have a subpar game Saturday. The nation’s elite pass rusher must take advantage.

Perhaps the biggest key for USC’s offense Saturday will be establishing the run. Earlier this week, Davis told The Post and Courier his goal every game is to rush for 100 yards. At minimum, he wants to have 100 all-purpose yards. If Davis has a big game from the backfield, USC could win big.

The Gamecocks’ defense has done many things well this season, but a lack of momentum-changing plays has been troubling. USC has forced only three turnovers this season, tied for fewest in the SEC. However, it forced Vanderbilt into two second-half turnovers. If that trend continues, it will be a long day for UCF’s offense.

By far, the biggest area that needed improvement during the bye week was USC’s special teams. Blunders in the fourth quarter against Vanderbilt — a fumbled kickoff, an errant touching on a punt return — threatened to cost the Gamecocks a win. USC will be full strength against UCF on special teams, with Victor Hampton regaining his punt return duties after missing the Vandy game, and Bruce Ellington moving over to kickoff return. Spurrier has been unhappy with almost every phase of special teams. Saturday is a good time to fix that.

South Carolina 34, Central Florida 24

Ryan Wood