No. 12 South Carolina at UCF
Saturday, Noon, ABC
Line: South Carolina -7
In one of the more intriguing matchups on the board, SEC East contender South Carolina makes the trip down to Orlando to take on UCF of the American Athletic Conference. That is not a typo. South Carolina is on the road for this matchup.
The Gamecocks are coming off of a bye after a fair to middling performance against Vanderbilt two weeks ago. South Carolina won the Vandy game 35-25 and did put up 579 yards of offense, but the Gamecocks can still play better.
UCF is coming off of a bye as well. Their last game was a 34-31 upset of Penn State on the road in Beaver Stadium. That game took the Knights to 3-0 for the fourth time in school history and the first time at that mark since 1988.
It’s a noon kickoff, and it will be UCF’s first sellout in over two years. Can UCF keep the momentum going from their monumental start? Or will South Carolina ruin the party atmosphere at the Bouncehouse?
For UCF to win: Force turnovers. UCF’s best shot in this game is to force South Carolina off the field. The Gamecocks are averaging 225 yards on the ground, and that means that the chains are moving, the clock is moving and you are not getting the ball. If UCF is going to pull the upset, they need takeaways. South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw has not thrown an interception in 74 attempts this season. Whether it is through interceptions or fumble recoveries, UCF is going to want to get the ball away from South Carolina as much as possible.
For South Carolina to win: Mix it up on offense. The 579 yards that the Gamecocks put up against Vanderbilt is the second best offensive output since Steve Spurrier came to Columbia. The diversity of the offense might be the key to the game. Keeping a sure to be aggressive UCF defense off balance by mixing up run and pass, especially early, could help take the crowd out of the game. Big plays in the passing game by Connor Shaw and/or Dylan Thompson might be the antidote to the upset recipe that UCF is sure to be brewing.
Key Player, UCF: Storm Johnson, running back. Quarterback Blake Bortles gets much of the attention for the Knights, but Johnson’s ability to pick up yards on the ground is just as important if the upset is to occur. Johnson rushed for a career high 117 yards in the upset of Penn State, and another day of production at that level or higher could mean a victory for the Knights.
Key Player, South Carolina: Connor Shaw, quarterback. He can make plays with his arm and his feet (see the 84 yards on 19 carries against Vanderbilt), and while he does make head scratching plays from time to time, Shaw’s ability to buy time with his feet make him a valuable weapon in this matchup. If Shaw’s decision-making becomes suspect, it will be a long afternoon in Orlando.
Key Stat: 17. The Gamecocks have won 17 straight games against non-conference opponents. Conversely, the last ranked team to visit UCF (No. 13 Houston) lost 37-32 on November 14, 2009.