#13 South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Kentucky Wildcats Game Day Links

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Sep 7, 2013; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach Mark Stoops talks with safety Ashely Lowery (5) during the game against the Miami (Oh) Redhawks at Commonwealth Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 7, 2013; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach Mark Stoops talks with safety Ashely Lowery (5) during the game against the Miami (Oh) Redhawks at Commonwealth Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

In roughly 10.5 hours your Kentucky Wildcats square off against the South Carolina Gamecocks down in South Carolina.  It’s going to be a tough road game against the #13 Gamecocks and the pressure is always compounded when Steve Spurrier is prowling the opposite sideline.  We own only one (1) win against him in 20 games.  We never beat him at Florida and only once at South Carolina.  Pages can be written on what are the “keys to the game” and who are the “key players” and it would be pure conjecture.  I mean, that’s why they play the game, right?  But it’s always good to be “in the know” so here we go.

Kentucky’s biggest question mark is the QB position.  Having employed a “dual QB” system through the first 3 games before Maxwell Smith went down, they have been leaning toward having a primary starter though who isn’t yet known.  If Kentucky can pick the right QB to run the “Air Raid” then our season could turn into a positive.  This would get the defense some rest during the game and energize our fan base.  Going into today’s game, here are how Mark Story at the Lexington Herald Leader scores the matchups.

Spoiler Alert:  It’s not good.

QUARTERBACKS

Kentucky’s two-QB rotation of Maxwell Smith (90 passing yards) and Jalen Whitlow (35) was ineffective against Florida. Will the Cats choose one quarterback and stay with him this week? If so, the guess is Whitlow. South Carolina starter Connor Shaw, knocked out with a shoulder injury against Central Florida, is expected to play. In two starts against Kentucky, Shaw is 41-for-57 passing for 459 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions. Backup Dylan Thompson went 2-0 (East Carolina and Clemson) as a starter in 2012 and rallied the Gamecocks past Central Florida last week.

Advantage: South Carolina

RUNNING BACKS

UK true freshman Jojo Kemp is averaging 8.9 yards a carry but has rushed the ball only eight times total in the past two games. Raymond Sanders ran for 98 yards vs. Western Kentucky, but has only 71 total in UK’s three games since. South Carolina’s Mike Davis leads the Southeastern Conference in rushing yards (127) per game. His backup, Brandon Wilds, is out with an elbow injury.

Advantage: South Carolina

WIDE RECEIVERS

Kentucky true freshmen Ryan Timmons (six catches) and Alexander Montgomery (four) were the Cats’ leading receivers against Florida. South Carolina two-sport standout Bruce Ellington, the basketball point guard, leads the Gamecocks with 14 receptions. With Shaq Roland serving a suspension at Central Florida, Damiere Byrd caught five passes for the Gamecocks.

Advantage: South Carolina

TIGHT ENDS

After UK’s Anthony Kendrick caught five in the season’s first two contests, Kentucky tight ends have not caught a pass in the past two games. South Carolina junior Rory “Busta” Anderson has eight career touchdown catches, though none so far this season.

Advantage: South Carolina

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

Former walk-on Max Godby is slated to make his second straight start at left guard ahead of returning starter Zach West for Kentucky. Left tackle Darrian Miller had a rough go against Florida and will get to block Jadeveon Clowney this week. South Carolina has allowed only four quarterback sacks all season. Left guard A.J. Cann has made 29 career starts and leads a unit that returned four starters from 2012.

Advantage: South Carolina

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

Kentucky end Alvin “Bud” Dupree made seven tackles and shared a sack with tackle Donte Rumph against Florida. South Carolina has three linemen among the SEC sack leaders, tackle Kelcy Quarles (three) and ends Jadeveon Clowney and Chaz Sutton (two apiece).

Advantage: South Carolina

LINEBACKERS

UK middle linebacker Avery Williamson had “only” seven tackles against Florida, but the senior still leads the SEC in stops with 42. Paducah Tilghman product Josh Forrest is first-string at strong-side linebacker after intercepting a pass against the Gators. South Carolina sophomores Kaiwan Lewis (22 tackles) and Marcquis Roberts (21) are in their first seasons as starters.

Advantage: Even

SECONDARY

Nate Willis, the junior-college transfer cornerback, tied for the Kentucky team lead with seven tackles vs. Florida. South Carolina senior cornerback Jimmy Legree has an interception in each of the last two games. Still, the Gamecocks’ pass defense is allowing 252 yards a game which is 10th in the SEC.

Advantage: South Carolina

SPECIAL TEAMS

UK senior place-kicker Joe Mansour is 6-for-6 this year on field goals (long of 37 yards) and ran 25 yards for a touchdown on a fake field goal vs. Florida. Punter Landon Foster is 11th in the SEC in kicking average (40.7 yards a punt) and has pinned foes inside the 20 only once. South Carolina punter Tyler Hull is last in the SEC in average (37.5 yards a punt) but has forced opponents to start from inside their 20 five times. Gamecocks place-kicker Elliott Fry has made all three of his field-goal tries with a long of 39 yards.

Advantage: South Carolina

Chief among Mark Stoops biggest concerns is South Carolina’s DE Jadeveon Clowney who is an absolute monster.  Though he’s been questioned a lot this season on his stamina and work ethic, he will be a nightmare for the Wildcats offensive line.

Kentucky’s offensive line coach John Schlarman admitted the Gamecocks’ defensive end has caused him to wake up in the middle of the night wondering how he’ll stop Clowney.

“When I get to go to sleep, I do” wake up thinking about him, UK’s offensive line coach said this week. “He’s a great player.”

Clowney, who has 12 tackles, including three for a loss, two sacks and four quarterback hurries this season, is one of several South Carolina players causing sleepless nights.

“Those guys are really good at getting tackles for losses and, obviously, (Clowney)’s probably the most dangerous pass rusher in the country,” Schlarman said. The Gamecocks have had 12 sacks in four games this season. “So you’d better be on your ‘A’ game.”

If UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown had his way, he’d put more than two on Clowney, who helped South Carolina collect 45 sacks last season, sixth-best in the nation.

“If they’d let us play with 15, we’d do that for sure,” Brown said. “You have to account for him. There’s no question. He’s a dynamic player. Any adjective you want to use, it’s accurate. He’s big, he’s strong and explosive. You have to account for him because he’s so disruptive.”

Brown said if Clowney’s numbers are slipping from a season ago when he had 54 tackles, 23.5 for a loss and 13 sacks, then it’s because he has two or three players blocking him at all times.

That will be part of UK’s plan against the likely first-round NFL Draft pick, sometimes sending multiple players to hold him off, but also a few one-on-one battles with Darrian Miller.

Kentucky’s offensive line has given up the most sacks in the league with 10 for 70 yards, but four of those came in the fourth quarter last week against Florida. Until then, coaches were pleased with the Cats’ front-line production.

As I said earlier, with any game of this magnitude, the keys to the game will be in plenty so here are a few more from Mark Story.

THE KEYS

Start fast

Two years ago in Columbia, Kentucky experienced an epic all-systems failure. The Wildcats were trounced 54-3 on a day when South Carolina ran almost as many plays (91) as UK had yards of total offense (96). If the Cats can get out of the gate quickly Saturday night it should prevent any lingering hangover effect from that traumatic 2011 trip.

Actually move the chains

Amazingly, Kentucky has converted only one of 21 third-down tries in its past two games combined, albeit against the teams ranked No. 2 (Florida) and No. 3 (Louisville) in the country this week in total defense. For all the pre-season hype that surrounded star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina is only No. 58 nationally in total defense. The Gamecocks have struggled in the secondary (10th in the SEC, allowing 252 yards a game). It will be disappointing if UK doesn’t do a better job this week of sustaining drives.

Stop the run

South Carolina’s Mike Davis leads the SEC in rushing yards a game (127). Kentucky is 13th in the league in run defense (allowing 200.8 yards a contest). To have any hope of ruining Steve Spurrier’s Saturday night, UK has to stand strong against the 5-foot-9, 215-pound Davis.

THE MOOD

Is growing a bit restless with the Kentucky offense. It shouldn’t be, given the strength of the defenses UK has been facing and the youth of the Wildcats offensive skill players. Still, Saturday would be a good time for the Cats to show some punch.

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