Florida football: How to bet Week 8 at South Carolina

BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA - OCTOBER 12: Trevon Grimes #8 of the Florida Gators runs the ball as Marcel Brooks #9 of the LSU Tigers tries to defend at Tiger Stadium on October 12, 2019 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Marianna Massey/Getty Images)
BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA - OCTOBER 12: Trevon Grimes #8 of the Florida Gators runs the ball as Marcel Brooks #9 of the LSU Tigers tries to defend at Tiger Stadium on October 12, 2019 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Marianna Massey/Getty Images) /

Florida football is favored by five points at South Carolina. But I want to play the total on this game. My bet is: first-half under 23.5 points.

The situation makes it, in my mind, impossible to like either side. South Carolina is coming off a massive upset of Georgia. Riding an emotional high, the Gamecocks are primed for a letdown performance.

On the other side, the Gators are coming off two massive games against high-profile SEC teams. Both games were physical and emotionally intense. Now it will be hard for the Gators to be excited about playing South Carolina.

Plus, they have a bye week upcoming.

To add to the story, the early kickoff time promises to further limit the excitement factor. Plus, the forecast predicts heavy rain all day in Columbia.

Weather.com, for example, calls for a 95% chance of precipitation beginning at noon continuing throughout the afternoon.

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All SEC Football /

All SEC Football

Given the situation, I expect neither team to be sharp on offense.  In particular, Dan Mullen seems to reserve his best play-calling for higher-profile games like LSU.

Mullen thrives on primetime, where he had Florida collecting first down after first down thanks to clever short passes that counteracted LSU’s pressure and thoughtfully timed run plays.

Florida’s offense seems to dial back its creativity and quick-strike potency in games that the team expects to win. This observation is substantiated by the fact that Florida is very much an “under” team.

The “under” is 5-2 with both “overs” coming in games (against Kentucky and LSU) where Florida fell behind and needed to come back.

Against Kentucky, it took a tricky play where Kentucky sold out to stop a run up the gut and gave up a 76-yard touchdown run with less than a minute to go to bring the total “over.”

One may worry about the potential absence of Florida’s top two pass rushers as both Jabari Zuniga and Jonathan Greenard will be game-time decisions. But South Carolina’s protection unit isn’t healthy, either, as Sadarius Hutcherson and Hank Manos may also miss this game.

Most importantly, quarterback Ryan Hilinski will not be 100% thanks to an ugly-looking injury to his already less than 100% knee that he suffered in Saturday’s game. Officially, his injury is a knee sprain. But he was wearing a cast on his leg and it seems unlikely that he could (fully) recover so quickly.

South Carolina injury report ahead of Saturday clash with No. 9 Gators. light. Hot

South Carolina will be desperate for Hilinski to play well enough as there’s a major drop off to his backup, third-stringer Dakereon Joyner. Since Joyner entered in the third quarter, South Carolina scored zero points in regulation.  There is zero confidence in Joyner’s ability to pass the ball. If he plays on Saturday, the Gamecocks will be one-dimensional on offense, being forced to run.

Still, even if Hilinski plays, his mobility will be tested even if Zuniga and Greenard are out. I think the pressure is on Todd Grantham after his defense got gashed by LSU. Grantham makes his living on being creative and scheming up ways to get pressure on the opposing quarterback and otherwise wreak havoc.

He can confuse what will be an inexperienced Gamecock quarterback. Whereas South Carolina ranks 69th in sack rate allowed, Florida’s defense ranks ninth in sack rate.

With an ailing backup quarterback and especially if the weather report holds, it seems likely that Muschamp will call for a run-first offense. Florida’s interior d-line is a weak point and it would have a major qualitative drop-off without Zuniga and Greenard. South Carolina would clearly benefit from attacking this part of Florida’s defense rather than the likes of C.J. Henderson and Marco Wilson.

Trending. Gators injury report ahead of South Carolina game. light

Heavy rain would also deter Florida from exploiting South Carolina’s defensive weakness. The Gators have superb pass-catching depth and, under normal conditions, would love to line their wide receivers plus Kyle Pitts up and sling it for mostly methodical gains.

One obstacle, besides rain, to Florida’s preferred tactic is a South Carolina front seven that has looked really strong in its past two games, accruing four sacks and eight tackles for loss against Kentucky and three sacks and six tackles for loss against Georgia.

The Gamecock front seven played a significant role in forcing a total of four interceptions from Sawyer Smith and Jake Fromm while preventing any big opposing run plays. Credit Muschamp for South Carolina’s defensive improvement and two-game win streak because he made the decision to replace a smaller corner or nickel with an extra linebacker. His revised defense held Kentucky and Georgia to combined 24 points (including overtime).

Running has been a weakness all season for Florida behind an offensive line that ranks towards the bottom nationally in several run-blocking metrics. While Lamical Perine has improved his form, the increased presence of Sharod Greene and the game speed that he brings will help keep Perine from breaking free for any big gains.

Betting Record: 5-2

Next. Trask and Jones to be in sync Saturday against South Carolina. dark

Remember, No. 9 Florida football takes on South Carolina at noon Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia.