It's Kentucky week again, which during the year 2000-2013 used to be the same as 'Guaranteed SEC Win Week.' Recently times have changed a bit, as Kentucky brings a 2-game win streak into the match-up. Historically Kentucky's biennial trip to Williams-Brice coincided with the South Carolina State Fair, which either meant post-game funnel cakes or the loss of your reserved parking space in the fairgrounds, depending on your perspective.
Another thing about Kentucky week is that it lets me post this video again of (currently injured) Kentucky QB Drew Barker getting dropped like a sack of red-headed potatoes by former teammate Patrick Graffree. Take a look:
OK, time for football talk. Kentucky is not a good team. In the first game of the season they gave up a 21-point lead to lose by 9 to Southern Miss at home. They then got absolutely steamrolled by Florida. They finally got their first win of the season while giving up 42 points to New Mexico State and spending the 1st Half of that game either trailing or tied. Looking at the statistics after three games it becomes readily apparent that Kentucky is a very weird team. On offense they're currently 5th in the SEC in points per game, but 1st in interceptions thrown. Conversely on defense they're at the bottom of the conference in points allowed, but 1st in interceptions. Like I said, weird.
Given the production seen so far this year I think it's safe to say that Kentucky has the edge on offense. Junior college transfer Stephen Johnson will get his first start at QB due to Barker's injured back, and he performed extremely well last week. He's capable of making plays with his legs, and combined with Boom Williams, JoJo Kemp, and true freshman Benny Snell creates a very formidable rushing attack. If the Gamecocks have the same issues tackling on the perimeter that they had in Starkville, it'll be a long night (actually, it'll be a short night, because UK will keep the ball on the ground the entire game and run out the clock.....).
As for the Kentucky defense, let's just say this will be easiest time the Gamecock o-line will have the rest of the SEC schedule. The Kentucky front seven is not playing well, has no depth, and appears to have a problem with motivation. This is the perfect opportunity for SC to get the ground game going. David Williams had arguably his best game in the garnet and black last week against ECU, and I think this is the best chance he'll ever have to build on that performance. I expect the Gamecocks to come out trying to run the ball on 1st and 2nd downs exclusively until it's proven that they can't get >5-yards per carry.
This is a difficult game to predict. Comparing relative strengths and weaknesses I have to give Kentucky the edge because I think their advantage on offense is bigger than any advantage USC may have in other areas. But I can't escape the feeling that SC is a team on the rise while Kentucky is trending downwards and on the verge of giving up this season. Given the youth on offense I expect the Gamecocks to continue to show improvement and take advantage of a weak UK defense. Kentucky has never beaten the Gamecocks three years in a row, and that won't change this week.
Prediction: USC 27 - Kentucky 24
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