Florida-South Carolina Preview

South Carolina and Florida expect to have their starting

quarterbacks back after both were knocked out of their last

game.

Issues at quarterback are among the many obstacles the Gamecocks

have dealt with this season, but they still enter their SEC

regular-season finale in the hunt for a berth in the conference

championship game.

Connor Shaw looks to help No. 15 South Carolina boost its

Eastern Division title hopes Saturday when it hosts the Gators, who

expect to have John Brantley back under center.

South Carolina (7-2, 5-2) is one-half game back of East-leading

Georgia but owns the tiebreaker because it beat the Bulldogs 45-42

on Sept. 10. However, even if the Gamecocks defeat Florida, they

would still need Georgia to lose either Saturday to Auburn or Nov.

19 against Kentucky to claim a second straight SEC title game

berth.

Although South Carolina needs help to get the chance to play for

the conference championship, it’s somewhat surprising the team even

has a shot considering what it has gone through.

Star running back Marcus Lattimore suffered a season-ending left

leg injury against Mississippi State on Oct. 15, and starting

quarterback Stephen Garcia was dismissed from the team four days

earlier for failing a substance-abuse test.

Shaw took over for Garcia but was knocked out of last Saturday’s

44-28 loss to No. 8 Arkansas with a concussion after being sacked

for the fifth time. The defeat dropped the Gamecocks five spots in

the latest AP poll.

Steve Spurrier said Tuesday that Shaw was cleared to return to

practice and is likely to play against Florida, but safety DeVonte

Holloman, who also suffered a concussion against the Razorbacks,

has not yet been cleared by doctors and is questionable for

Saturday.

“We’ve won a bunch of games, so we’ve just got to look at where

we are and try to get ready to play our best this week with the

players we have,” Spurrier said. “And that’s what we’re going to

try and do.”

A victory Saturday would give the Gamecocks six SEC wins,

something they’ve never accomplished since joining the league 19

years ago. It would also give them back-to-back wins over the

Gators (5-4, 3-4) for the first time since 1936 and ’39.

“When you look at the way our team has played this year, you

have to say, ‘Hey those guys are 7-2 and have a chance to achieve

something this year,'” said Spurrier, Florida’s coach from

1990-2001.

Lattimore, however, was crucial to last season’s 36-14 win at

No. 24 Florida – just South Carolina’s second victory in 20

meetings. He rushed for 212 yards and three touchdowns on a

career-high 40 attempts.

The Gamecocks didn’t seem to miss a beat in their first game

since his season-ending injury, amassing 231 rushing yards in a

14-3 win over Tennessee on Oct. 29, but they were held to a

season-low 79 yards on the ground against Arkansas. New starting

back Brandon Wilds was limited to 21 yards on 10 carries.

Wilds and company are facing a Florida defense that ranks fourth

in the SEC against the run, allowing an average of 123.3 yards per

game and 3.4 per carry.

The Gators held Vanderbilt to 80 yards rushing in last

Saturday’s 26-21 win and snapped a four-game losing streak – the

program’s longest since 1988.

“We’re building our battle scars right now; we’ve got a bunch,”

coach Will Muschamp said.

Brantley missed the final two series against the Commodores

after being hit between his shoulder and elbow in the fourth

quarter and temporarily losing feeling in his throwing hand. The

senior, who sat out 2 1/2 games earlier this season with a sprained

right ankle, missed practice Monday but is expected to play this

weekend.

The Gators also could welcome back Chris Rainey, the team’s

leading rusher (526 yards) and receiver (305 yards), after he

injured his right ankle in a 24-20 loss to Georgia on Oct. 29.

Jeff Demps, who had been slowed by an ankle injury, picked up

the slack in Rainey’s absence against Vanderbilt, rushing for a

career-best 158 yards and two touchdowns.