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November 12, 2011

USC-Florida: Key battles

GamecockCentral.com breaks down the key matchups for South Carolina's game against Florida. At what positions will the game be decided?

Devin Taylor vs. John Brantley
Brantley may not be an all-star, still looking flustered under pressure and dealing with a high ankle sprain that was re-aggravated last week, but he's still plenty good enough to carve apart South Carolina's secondary if the Gamecocks' defensive line gives him time to do so. While offenses have figured out how to contain Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney, that leaves Taylor open, and he responded against Arkansas with the team's only sack and a pick-six. He'll have to get in Brantley's face early and often, and put the signal-caller on his behind a few times as well. Florida's speed and trick formations are useless without a guy to get the ball to them.
Marty Markett vs. Andre Debose
Debose ought to be a familiar antagonist to USC - it was he who dashed 99 untouched yards for a touchdown on the opening kickoff of last year's game. Obviously, that was soon forgotten, but at the time, it was yet another game where the Gamecocks had a chance to do something great and were throwing it away. After a special-teams meltdown against Arkansas, including a 98-yard kickoff return for a TD, USC is going to have to be wary - after all, the Gators are very proud of their special teams prowess. Markett, usually the first one down the field, has got to hit and wrap up, or at least hit long enough to slow Debose down so somebody else can wrap up.
Antonio Allen vs. Jeff Demps
Who knows how big of a difference Allen would have made if he had played last week, but he would have made some difference. This week, he'll be vital. Demps can run between the tackles or skirt the edges, and with the ball in his hands, watch out. Allen, USC's most versatile and athletic defender, has got to shadow him like he has him for a Siamese twin.
T.J. Johnson vs. Jonathan Bostic
Johnson has played much better recently, fixing the issues that had him unable to get a strong push against enemy defenses, and USC's running game (at least, before Arkansas) benefited. He needs to keep doing it, since it's very clear that the Gamecocks have to have a strong running game to be competitive. Bostic, Florida's middle linebacker and run-stopper, will be on hand to try to shove Johnson back on his feet and then get to the tailbacks. Can't let that happen.
Alshon Jeffery vs. Marcus Roberson
Will this be the game that Jeffery finally breaks loose? Florida has been susceptible on defense and you know the Gamecocks are dying to get the ball to their biggest playmaker, and not just on a screen pass. Roberson, the Gators' cornerback, has got to be feeling good about his chances with Jeffery's lack of production this year, but he still has to cover Jeffery as if he's about to win the game. He may have an easy day, he may have a hard one, but if the Gamecocks are going to win, they have to at least test Roberson one time.

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