Staff predictions, USC-UCF game preview

September 26, 2013 

Josh Kendall: Gamecocks' offense can handle the load

The math has changed for South Carolina.

For the past three seasons, the Gamecocks have run off 31 victories by relying on mostly the same formula – a standout defense and an efficient offense. The new reality, for South Carolina and almost every team in the SEC, is that the offense now is going to have to carry the larger burden.

That will be true today in Orlando, Fla., when the Gamecocks take on UCF. The Knights have an NFL-caliber quarterback in Blake Bortles and a Miami transfer at running back in Storm Johnson. UCF will score on South Carolina.

The good news for the Gamecocks is they will score, too, and maybe a lot. South Carolina’s offense has shown signs through three games that it is capable of carrying more weight. That is especially true of sophomore tailback Mike Davis, who quietly is fourth in the SEC in rushing with 113.7 yards per game. The Knights have given up 119.3 yards per game on the ground and have yet to face a back like Davis.

On top of that, South Carolina senior quarterback Connor Shaw believes he is playing the best football of his career.

It might not be a shootout in central Florida, but the Gamecocks will win by controlling the game with their offense.

PREDICTION: South Carolina 30, UCF 20

David Cloninger: USC defense ready to play a full game

UCF’s offense has been rolling, averaging over 36 points per game and taking a 21-7 lead over Penn State two weeks ago, forcing the Nittany Lions to play catch-up.

But the Knights haven’t faced a defense like South Carolina’s, which, while it has struggled, played very well two weeks ago to start the game and (much because of poor field position due to special-teams turnovers) wasn’t great late. Lorenzo Ward has been stressing that start to his squad for two weeks, and I know USC has listened.

The Gamecocks have more talent than the Knights and have played in far more intimidating venues than this one. Sure, it’s an interesting game because of UCF’s record, but that plays into USC’s favor – the Penn State game ensured that nobody at USC could overlook the UCF game.

The Gamecocks are hungry to show what they can do, and know that with Kentucky next week, they can be feeling very good at 4-1 and perhaps get some good news from another game today – LSU’s tilt at Georgia.

This is the game where it all comes together, and because UCF has been planning on this one for a while, the Knights will get off to a fast start. It won’t be enough to overcome, though.

PREDICTION: South Carolina 35, UCF 24

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GoGamecocks' Josh Kendall and David Cloninger preview Saturday's game between South Carolina and Central Florida.

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