November 14, 2014

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Florida's Will Muschamp and South Carolina's Steve Spurrier spend a few hours together each summer, sharing a flight to Connecticut for a Southeastern Conference media tour.

They trade stories and talk football, and it's made the coaches close friends. It could also create a somewhat awkward situation for the winner Saturday in Gainesville. After all, neither can really afford another loss this season.

''I'm pulling for him to make it down there,'' Spurrier said. ''Of course, I'm pulling for us to beat him down there.''

Florida (5-3, 4-3 SEC) must win to remain in the hunt in the SEC's Eastern Division. The Gators also need Auburn to knock off Georgia later Saturday and Missouri to lose at Tennessee next week and drop one of its remaining two games against Texas A&M (Saturday) and Arkansas (Nov. 28).

None of those outcomes would be considered huge upsets.

So the Gators believe they have a chance, especially after thumping Georgia and Vanderbilt the last two weeks. They also want to turn things around at home, where they've lost five of their last seven games, including both last month.

Muschamp has challenged his players to ''take back the Swamp.''

''Our fans do deserve something to cheer for in the Swamp,'' center Max Garcia said. ''We've got to defend it. The Swamp is a place where other teams should fear coming into. Only Gators get out alive. So we've got to make that happen again.''

If not, Muschamp's job could be in jeopardy. A three-game losing streak at home, especially with the last two coming against Mizzou and struggling South Carolina (4-5, 2-5), could mean the end for Florida's fourth-year coach.

Spurrier, who won the 1966 Heisman Trophy as Florida's quarterback, spent 12 years coaching the Gators and led them to the 1996 national championship.

He's been on the visiting sideline four times before, going 1-3, and might be less confident in this trip than any of the others.

The Gamecocks have lost four straight conference games for just the second time in Spurrier's 10 years. South Carolina needs to win two of its remaining three to finish .500 and become bowl eligible.

''We have had our chances,'' Spurrier said. ''That's just the way it is. Everybody is trying as hard as they can; I think we are. We are not as smart sometimes as we should be, but I think effort-wise maybe everybody is doing about as good as they can.''

Aside from the coaches, here are some other things to know about South Carolina and Florida:

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DIFFERING DEFENSES: South Carolina ranks last in the league in total and scoring defense, giving up 223 yards rushing, 237 yards passing and 34 points a game. The Gamecocks have been even worse lately, surrendering at least 42 points in losses to Kentucky, Auburn and Tennessee. Florida, meanwhile, has played considerably better since getting torched by Kentucky and Alabama early in the season.

CAROLINA SHUFFLE: South Carolina is shuffling several starters for the game. Linebacker Skai Moore will return to the lineup and move to the middle, and Jonathan Walton will slide outside. Cornerback Brison Williams will shift to safety, and backup Rico McWilliams will take over his spot. Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward wants to get his most athletic players on the field.

GAMBLING GATORS: Florida's recent turnaround has been aided by a few fourth-down gambles. The Gators seized momentum against Georgia with a fake field goal and went for it twice on fourth-and-goal at the Vanderbilt 1-yard line last week. Florida is 7 for 12 on fourth down this season, already topping its fourth-down attempts in 2011 and 2012.

ANOTHER COOP: The Gators didn't fare very well against Alabama's Amari Cooper, but they're hoping for better results against dynamic South Carolina receiver Pharoh Cooper. The 5-foot-11 sophomore has 51 receptions for 786 yards and eight touchdowns in nine games. He also has a rushing score and a passing touchdown.

GAMECOCKS IN G'VILLE: South Carolina is 1-13 all time at Florida Field, with the only win coming in 2010. The Gamecocks clinched the East with the 36-14 victory in the Swamp, prompting Spurrier to joke afterward that ''sometimes the Gamecocks get out alive.''

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