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Florida Vs. South Carolina Preview: Battle for the SEC East, Part I

Florida Gators vs. South Carolina Gamecocks, 12 p.m., CBS

When, if ever, was the last time that this game happened this way -- with something on the line for South Carolina, and nothing on the line for Florida? Nothing tangible, at least; the Gators still have pride on the line when they face off with the Gamecocks on Saturday.

But perhaps for the first time ever, this game has SEC East championship implications for South Carolina, but not for Florida. The Gators are mathematically eliminated from the division race. But if South Carolina can win this game, and Georgia loses against Auburn or -- less likely -- Kentucky, then the Gamecocks will head to Atlanta instead of the Dawgs.

Sure, both teams have gone into the game with an outside shot at the division before, and both have sometimes had nothing to gain by winning. And there have been plenty of times when Florida has needed a win and South Carolina had little to gain, as I'm quite sure you're all aware.

Not that either of these teams has done much to deserve a berth in Atlanta, but that's the SEC East for you nowadays. Someone has to win the division at the end of the year -- it's in the rules -- and it might yet be that divide that saves the Gamecocks. After all, Auburn took away South Carolina's lead in the standings with a win in Columbia, and the only teams Auburn has lost to are clearly better than the Tigers. If Auburn can replicate the results in South Carolina when it goes to Athens, South Carolina will take the trip to the Georgia Dome.

South Carolina's immediate challenge, though, is to set things up in the game with Florida so that the contest in Athens matters. Their offense is marginally better than Florida's statistically, and the defenses are about even. And "give ourselves a chance to win the division" is a slightly better motivational ploy than "keep our streak of non-losing seasons in the SEC East alive," which gives South Carolina the slightest edge in the most unlikely way.

South Carolina 20, Florida 17