It’ll take some adjustments.
Few things have gone right for the No. 15 Florida Gators the past two weeks, but little hope has been lost as they prepare to host Will Muschamp and the South Carolina Gamecocks Saturday at noon.
It seemed the possibility of competing for an SEC East title was within the Gators’ grasp early this season, but a two-game collapse has all but eliminated them from contention.
The road forward in Dan Mullen’s first season as head coach should get easier from here, though. Florida is favored in each of its final three matchups, including a home game against Idaho and a regular-season finale against an erratic Florida State program.
But that success will take some adjustments.
They’ll need to adjust their mentality.
Redshirt senior R.J. Raymond was tired of fading into the background and silently hoping others would follow his example.
So he stood in front of his defeated teammates after their loss to Missouri and challenged them to play with a renewed mindset.
“You gotta play for that Gator logo on your chest and not just going out there after we’ve been eliminated from SEC Championship race,” Raymond said. “You gotta play for so much more. You gotta play for yourself, you gotta play to win the game, you gotta play for everybody else that’s been on this team before…play with pride.”
The Gamecocks sure will. Their hopes of making it to Atlanta to compete for the league title are long gone as they have the same 4-3 conference record as the Gators.
But South Carolina will do everything in its power to avoid being knocked out of bowl eligibility by a conference rival and its head coach’s former team.
“Y’all know (Coach Will Muschamp), you know (Muschamp’s) defense,” Gators center Nick Buchanan said. “They’re always good. He’s going to try to come after us.”
So Florida will need to adjust its offensive approach.
Two things have followed Muschamp through his coaching career: his defenses and his intensity.
The Muschamp blitz could doom a Feleipe Franks-led offense that seemed to disappear with the bye week.
The Gators only converted three of 15 third-down attempts last week against the Tigers and four of 12 against Georgia. Those woes may not be solved against a Gamecocks defense that’s only allowing its opponents to convert on 33% of third downs.
They’ll need to adjust their physicality.
Florida’s defense has lost some of the edge that headlined its five-game win streak earlier in the season.
The Gators will face a South Carolina team that hasn’t made much noise in the SEC, but if the Gamecocks win the physicality battle, they may have just enough pieces to stage an upset on Saturday afternoon.
South Carolina has plenty of experience in skill position players like redshirt senior Deebo Samuel, who’s No. 4 in the SEC in all-purpose yards (855).
And given they’ll face a veteran quarterback in Jake Bentley, who’s sixth in the SEC in total offense, Buchanan knows just what the Gators need to do to win.
“Compete,” he said. “Simple as that.”
Follow Alanis Thames on Twitter @alanisthames or contact her at [email protected].