One of the good things about a showdown between two division foes late in the year is that we have a pretty good sample size for comparing the two. In fact, South Carolina and Florida have both played their entire conference slate. And that includes an interdivision game against Alabama, giving us five common data points.
That said, I'm not sure it tells us much of anything.
|vs ALA||vs UGA||vs KEN||vs TEN||vs VAN|
|Florida||So Car||Florida (OT)||So Car||Florida||So Car||Florida||So Car||Florida||So Car|
Both teams went 4-1 against the slate, with South Carolina upsetting Alabama (as I'm sure you all remember) but then being upset by Kentucky. Meanwhile, Florida hasn't lost a game in the Eastern Division but took the expected loss in Tuscaloosa.
One thing, which seems somewhat intuitive but also is backed up by the data, is that both of these teams rely on the running game to key the offense. Both of them took their lone loss in the game in which they had the lowest rushing total. Also, they also have similar overall totals against three of the defenses: 30 yards more for South Carolina vs. Alabama, six yards more vs. Kentucky for South Carolina, four yards more for South Carolina vs. Vanderbilt. In the other two games, they swapped, with South Carolina doing much better against Tennessee offensively and Florida doing better against Georgia.
There's more difference in the defensive numbers, particularly -- and this will come as no surprise, if you've been paying atttention -- in the passing defense. We knew the Gamecocks secondary was in trouble, but the dimensions are clear: 212 more yards against Alabama, 91 yards against Kentucky, 53 yards against Tennessee and 79 against Vanderbilt -- more than twice what Florida allowed against the Commodores. The only game in which South Carolina outdid the Gators in pass defense was against Georgia, a difference that can be attributed part to overtime and part to the decidedly low-fi attack the Dawgs used in Columbia.
It's also clear that the South Carolina defense has faded down the stretch, something vividly illustrated by a game not on the chart -- the meltdown last week against Arkansas in Columbia.
So a defensive game favors Florida, while a shootout would be a draw? I'm not sure. It depends on whether South Carolina's decision to shake up the secondary results in any tangible gains, and if the three-quarterback system instituted by Florida continues to flourish. This game will pretty definitively answer both, though the latter is far more in need of some sort of confirmation. We know the South Carolina secondary is bad, and one good game against a team that can't settle on two quarterbacks -- let alone one -- probably won't tell us if it's real improvement or the quality of the opposition.
We have plenty of common data points, but it still points to which team is going to have a better game being decided where it usually is: On the field.