Kentucky Wildcats Football: An early look at the South Carolina game


South Carolina – October 8, 2011 – Columbia, SC

The Kentucky-LSU game will undoubtedly be a brutal contest for the Cats to get through, and the following week won’t be much easier. The Gamecocks will be waiting in Columbia for the Wildcats and are likely to be looking for blood after Kentucky knocked them out of the top 10 with last season’s upset victory. This isn’t one of the South Carolina teams from the 1990’s either. Steve Spurrier has assembled talent that fans in the palmetto state have always been accustomed to seeing at Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, and you can bet there is plenty of excitement for the 2011 season. After surprising a lot of folks and taking the Eastern division title in 2010, South Carolina will be picked to win the SEC East again this season by most publications. And there’s good reason for that. The Gamecocks will be returning the nations best freshman in running back Marcus Lattimore and he’ll have plenty of help around him. The defense will be bringing in the consensus top overall player in the country as well in Jadaveon Clowney, and there’s a good chance he won’t even be a starter until later in the season. The only concern South Carolina will have in 2011 will be keeping everyone healthy after a season that saw several players on the injury report at one time or another. Luckily, the beginning of the season should be easy enough to keep most of the roster healthy. The Gamecocks will start the season out with ECU, before traveling to Athens to take on a tough Georgia team. They’ll follow that up with four straight home games taking on Navy, Vandy, a depleted Auburn, before finishing up their home-stand with the Wildcats.

Why Kentucky will win…
Kentucky won last year in commonwealth with what might very well be the worst defense the Wildcats have fielded in this decade. The addition of Rick Minter and his multiple-look schemes should give Kentucky the ability to attack the USC offense from different angles and force an inconsistent Stephen Garcia into the mistakes he tends to make. The maturation of Mister Cobble and Donte Rumph on the interior of the defensive line and the addition of a beefed up Collins Ukwu should also keep the Gamecocks from running the ball down Kentucky’s throat again this year. When Kentucky has the ball, they should have an advantage when attacking the interior of the defense. The gamecocks have a lack of ideal size playing experience at defensive tackle and their 4-2-5 base alignment will leave them susceptible to big gains up the middle. Stuart Hines, Matt Smith, and Larry Warford make up one of the best interior offensive line groups in the country and their strength is expected to be the USC defensive weakness. While the Gamecocks have two of the SEC’s best players on offense (Alshon Jeffery and Lattimore), they are not invincible and the team is historically likely to choke when it is least convenient. If Kentucky can take advantage of South Carolina’s mistakes without making their own, the Cats should leave Columbia with a win.

Kentucky will lose if…
The Wildcats let the Gamecocks intimidate and overpower them. On offense, South Carolina looks to be a formidable team. The offensive line will return three starters and several experienced backups. The aforementioned Alshon Jeffery is probably the best receiver in the country and a first round draft pick this spring. He has abused Kentucky in the past and will likely look to do the same again this year. Marcus Lattimore could be in contention for the Heisman Trophy by the end of the season, and while he’s raised more than a couple questions in his time at USC, Stephen Garcia has proven that he is capable of beating anyone. The Kentucky defense cannot afford any mistakes, blown coverages, or missed tackles, because this offense will turn them into six points more times than not. The USC defense is going to be an evolving work in progress throughout the season, but it looks like it will only get better with time. Delvin Taylor is one of the best defensive ends in the country and he could very well be bookended by Jadaveon Clowney by the time the Cats come to town, which could spell a lot of trouble for Morgan Newton. If he’s pressured into mistakes, Stephon Gilmore and an experienced group of defensive backs will be there to capitalize. And to top it all off, the contest will be held in Williams-Brice stadium, where South Carolina typically plays very well. This will be a tough one for the Cats as South Carolina will likely be looking to avenge last season’s loss.

What I think happens…
The Kentucky rushing attack is effective throughout the game and wears down a thin South Carolina defense. Stuart Hines and Larry Warford control the line of scrimmage and allow Ray Sanders to pickup 4-5 yards on each carry. The heavy dose of the rush allows Newton to catch the defensive backs sleeping and he gets a cheap touchdown on a LaRod King double move before halftime. The Kentucky defense picks of a Garcia pass early and recovers a Lattimore fumble late, but Alshon Jeffery is once again too much to handle. UK scores late to pull within three, but Jeffery leads South Carolina to a tougher-than-expected win over the Wildcats with 150+ yards receiving and two touchdowns.

Final Score: USC 24 – UK 21

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