South Carolina Gamecocks (9-4) vs. Florida State Seminoles (9-4)
Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
South Carolina take by SEC blogger Chris Low: South Carolina had only played one game indoors in its entire history prior to last Saturday’s 56-17 loss to Auburn in the SEC championship game.
Now, the Gamecocks (9-4) will play their second game indoors in less than a month, as they return to the Georgia Dome to face Florida State on Dec. 31 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Merely getting to the SEC championship game was an accomplishment for the Gamecocks when you consider they’d never previously been. Their performance would suggest they didn’t belong, but a lot of that had to do with Auburn.
South Carolina has some of the finest young talent in the SEC in freshman running back Marcus Lattimore, sophomore receiver Alshon Jeffery and sophomore cornerback Stephon Gilmore, although Gilmore is coming off a rough outing in the SEC championship game.
When Lattimore has had big games this season, the Gamecocks have won.
Defensively, they’ve been shredded through the air and were again against Cam Newton and Auburn last Saturday. But they’re good up front and led the SEC with 39 sacks this season. Their undoing has been giving up too many big plays, and they’ve also been an inconsistent tackling team.
Still, this is the consolation prize for the Seminoles, the runners-up in the ACC championship game, and it’s not going to get any easier. Florida State’s defense, which has made significant strides this year under first-year coordinator Mark Stoops, couldn’t find an answer for Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor in the 44-33 loss to the Hokies. It’s going to have to find one for standout South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore and receiver Alshon Jeffery.
The Seminoles rank No. 2 in the nation sacks and are No. 17 in tackles for loss, but really struggled to get Virginia Tech off the field on third downs. Florida State has also had problems at quarterback, where starter Christian Ponder missed the title game because blood was found in the fluid drained from his elbow last week. Backup E.J. Manuel threw for almost 300 yards but had two interceptions in his place.
FSU was also held to just 53 rushing yards against Virginia Tech, so there are plenty of areas for improvement heading into the final game of the season, but also much to build on for next year.