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College football historians remember the days when a young buck name Steve Spurrier was leading the Florida Gators into battle against the Florida State Seminoles each and every year. He's traded in his blue and orange visor for a red and black one, and he is set to face his old nemesis for the first time since leaving Gainesville when he brings his South Carolina Gamecocks into the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
Chick-Fil-A Bowl Matchup: South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Florida State Seminoles
Date: Friday, December 31st, 7:30 ET
Location: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
Chick-Fil-A Bowl Line: South Carolina -3
Gamecocks Notes: It was a year of firsts for the Gamecocks. They went into the Swamp in Gainesville with the Head Ball Coach and beat the Gators for the first time, and as a result, they went to the SEC Championship Game for the first time as well. Sure, SC was destroyed by the Auburn Tigers, but we're quite possibly talking about the BCS National Champions here that killed them. QB Stephen Garcia really took a major stride and was the difference maker in the game in which the Gamecocks beat the BCS Champions, the Alabama Crimson Tide. Garcia ended up throwing for 2,816 yards and 20 TDs against 11 picks this year, and he clearly had a breakout season. Of course, it really helps when you have a 6'5" target in WR Alshon Jeffrey to throw to. Jeffrey is really one of the best receivers in the land, and he showed his worth this year, catching 79 passes for 1,387 yards and nine trips to the end zone. This was a well balanced attack though, as RB Marcus Lattimore was a real workhorse. He rumbled 40 times in a game against the Gators, and he ended up carrying the football 248 times this year. Lattimore had 1,198 yards and 17 scores on the ground, and he was third on the team in receiving with 26 grabs, 364 yards, and two more TDs. This was a defense that was tremendous against the rush but horrid against the pass. The Cocks allowed less than 70 yards per game this year on the ground to every team save the Auburn Tigers, but the unit also gave up 253.6 yards per game through the air, ranking just No. 108 in the land.
Seminoles Notes: The Noles made it back to the ACC Championship Game for the second time in school history this year, but this time around, the Virginia Tech Hokies got the best of them and dropped them into the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Still, the garnet and gold aren't going to mind, as they really did have a great first season under the direction of new Head Coach Jimbo Fisher. FSU still has its problems and it isn't quite back to a position where it can dominate the ACC, but it is getting there. Allowing 347.9 yards per game this year is a marked improvement from a team that allowed over 400 yards per game a year ago. Still, there were some lapses this year against teams like the Virginia Tech Hokies, Oklahoma Sooners, and North Carolina Tar Heels that really hurt. When this team allowed more than 20 points, it went 0-4 SU and ATS. When it allowed 19 or fewer, it went 9-0 SU and 7-2 ATS. QB Christian Ponder is likely to be on the lineup after missing the ACC Championship Game with a bursa sac injury in his throwing elbow. He's going to need to improve upon his 20 TDs against eight picks on the year to make sure that the Noles can get going against this SC defense.
The Final Word: South Carolina really needs to have this game to carry some momentum into next season. Everything does set up perfectly for this crew, as there are plenty of returning members next year. However, if there is one knock of the Cocks, it is that they haven't played well in bowl games under Spurrier. Fisher had a great first year with FSU, and it would be pivotal to end this season with a 'W' to carry some mo' into 2011 as well. However, Carolina is the team that will snare it on New Year's Eve with its well balanced offensive attack.
Chick-Fil-A Bowl Free Pick: South Carolina -3
Chick-Fil-A Bowl Prediction: South Carolina 27 – Florida State 20