This season has been an unmitigated disaster for Florida. And unfortunately for coach Will Muschamp, it’s not over yet.
The Gators have lost four straight and are staring at their first losing season since 1979. The team has been absolutely decimated by injuries, with the season-ending injury count at 11. Eight starters won’t be in uniform for today’s game at South Carolina.
The latest casualty is leading tackler Antonio Morrison, who went down in a 34-17 home loss to Vanderbilt last week. The Commodores had not won in Gainesville since 1945 and snapped a 22-game losing streak against Florida.
Tyler Murphy, who became the starting quarterback when Jeff Driskel broke his leg in the season’s fourth week, is considered doubtful for today. Murphy has not practiced all week because of a shoulder injury he suffered Oct. 12 at Louisiana State.
If Murphy can’t go, redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg will get the starting nod, and Mornhinweg never has taken a collegiate snap.
South Carolina, a 13-point favorite, has had two weeks to get ready for coach Steve Spurrier’s alma mater. Spurrier thrives off the open date. While at Florida, he went 11-1 against Georgia in a game that’s always preceded by a week off. In 2010, he led South Carolina to a 35-21 win over top-ranked Alabama after a bye week.
There’s also the revenge angle for the Gamecocks, who got destroyed in an embarrassing 44-11 loss at Florida last season.
South Carolina has won 15 in a row at home, compiling a 10-5 ATS record. As a home favorite during Spurrier’s nine-year tenure, the Gamecocks are 24-17 against the spread.
Connor Shaw is enjoying an outstanding senior season. He has an 18-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and three rushing scores. Mike Davis has rushed for a Southeastern Conference-best 1,058 yards and 10 touchdowns. Davis, who originally committed to Florida during the recruiting process, is averaging 6.4 yards per carry.
Much has been made about defensive end Jadeveon Clowney having a quiet year. Facing a Florida offensive line that is without its three best tackles, Clowney is poised for his best performance of the season.
This is just the second time the Gators have been double-digit underdogs on Muschamp’s watch. The last situation was similar in that Jacoby Brissett, a third-stringer like Mornhinweg, took his first career snap as the starter at LSU in 2011. The Tigers won 41-11 to easily cover the number as 13½-point favorites.
With Shaw, Davis and Clowney leading the way, I expect South Carolina to win in blowout fashion.
Four more plays for today (home team in CAPS):
■ Houston (+17) over LOUISVILLE — Houston has been a spread-covering juggernaut, posting an 8-1 ATS record. The Cougars suffered their only outright defeats to quality foes Brigham Young (47-46) and Central Florida (19-14). They have an outstanding freshman quarterback in John O’Korn, who has 23 touchdown passes. Louisville has a 7-12 ATS mark in 19 games as a double-digit favorite under coach Charlie Strong.
■ AUBURN (-3) over Georgia — The Tigers have covered the spread in seven consecutive games. Auburn has won six in a row since suffering its only loss at LSU. During the six-game stretch, the Tigers covered the number by at least 8½ points each time.
■ Alabama-MISSISSIPPI STATE (Over 52½) — The “over” has cashed in four consecutive Alabama games and is 2-0-1 in its three previous road trips. The Crimson Tide average 40.9 points, and there’s no reason to believe they won’t hit their norm in Starkville. Mississippi State might be without its second-leading tackler, Deontae Skinner, who is questionable after missing last week’s loss at Texas A&M with a back injury. We won’t need many points from the Bulldogs, but they should score at least 14.
■ Troy-MISSISSIPPI (Over 69½) — I made this total 75. The “over” is 9-1 in games involving the Trojans, who have a weak defense that’s allowing 35.2 points. Expect a big game from Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace.
Last week: 3-3 against the spread
Brian Edwards of VegasInsider.com and BrianEdwardsSports.com is providing college football analysis for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.