Gamecocks need win over Gators to save title hopes

After taking a beating on the scoreboard and at quarterback last week, No. 15 South Carolina returns home looking to knock off struggling Florida and keep hope alive for a second straight SEC East title.

The Gamecocks fell 44-28 at Arkansas last week, dropping a half-game behind Georgia in the East standings. Quarterback Connor Shaw was knocked out of the game with a concussion, but is expected to start Saturday.

Florida, after a miserable October in which the Gators went 0-4, held off pesky Vanderbilt last week 26-21. Quarterback John Brantley, who missed the final two series with numbness in his throwing hand, did not practice early in the week but is expected to start against the Gamecocks.

The Gators lead the series 23-5-3. South Carolina won 36-14 in Gainesville last season, clinching its first East division title. This time the Gamecocks need to win and hope for Georgia to stumble to return to the SEC title game.

The Gators (5-4 overall, 3-4 SEC) snapped their longest losing streak since 1988 in part by holding Vanderbilt to 80 yards rushing. Jeff Demps rushed for a career-high 158 yards and two touchdowns as Florida played without Chris Rainey, the team’s leading rusher and receiver. Rainey injured his right ankle two weeks ago against Georgia. Rainey, who has rushed for 526 yards and accumulated 305 yards receiving, could play this week.

The Gamecocks (7-2 overall, 5-2 SEC) lost star running back Marcus Lattimore to a season-ending knee injury last month, and the void was apparent against Arkansas. South Carolina rushed for a season-low 79 yards, and the path doesn’t get easier this week against a Florida defense allowing just 123.3 rushing yards per game. Shaw passed for just 128 yards and was sacked five times last week. The Gamecocks must shore up a defense that allowed 435 yards last week.

TV: CBS, noon.  LINE: South Carolina -3.5

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