Injury report, five game storylines, five questions with Hutch Eckerson and more.
USC - TE Weslye Saunders (ankle) and OL Terrence Campbell (neck) are out; LB Shaq Wilson (neck) is probable.
Kentucky - CB Trevard Lindley (ankle), CB Paul Warford (quad) and OT Justin Jeffries (Achilles) are out; LB Danny Trevathan (flu-like symptoms) is probable.
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Kentucky 0-for-Spurrier | Steve Spurrier is 16-0 against Kentucky, including some lopsided victories at Florida over former Wildcats coach Bill Curry, who did not retain Spurrier on his Georgia Tech staff in 1980. USC also has had the 'Cats' number of late, winning the past nine meetings. A 15-game streak vs. Wofford is the school's only active win streak that is longer.
Daytrippers | After five night games, USC will need an early wake-up call for the 12:30 p.m. kickoff. With temperatures expected to reach 90 degrees, both teams likely will call on their reserves to try to keep the starters fresh. Though the Gamecocks lost to Vanderbilt in this time slot two years ago, they won consecutive afternoon games last season at Mississippi and at Kentucky.
Locke down | Kentucky has a tradition of dangerous all-purpose backs that includes former stars Derek Abney and Anderson native Rafael Little. The 'Cats' do-it-all back this year is Derrick Locke, who piled up a career-high 204 all-purpose yards in last week's 38-20 loss to Alabama. The SEC's leader in all-purpose yardage had season highs in rushing (75) and receiving (63) yards vs. Alabama.
Missing corner | Sophomore cornerback C.C. Whitlock makes his second consecutive start in place of the suspended Akeem Auguste, who is not eligible to return until after the Alabama game on Oct. 17. Whitlock played decent last week against S.C. State, although defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward wants to see the Chester native get more aggressive in man coverage. Kentucky quarterback Mike Hartline is certain to test Whitlock.
Missing corners, part II | While USC has one starting corner out, the Wildcats' situation at the position is worse. Starters Trevard Lindley (ankle) and Paul Warford (quad) are both sidelined with injuries. Taking over for Lindley, an All-American candidate, will be freshman Martavius Neloms. Gamecocks quarterback Stephen Garcia will likely go after the youngster (see below).
QB Stephen Garcia vs. CB Martavius Neloms
About Garcia: The redshirt sophomore came off the bench in the second half to lead the Gamecocks' to a comeback victory at Kentucky last year. Garcia completed 10 of 14 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown in the 24-17 win. The right-hander has completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,035 yards, and is making better decisions and avoiding the turnovers that plagued him last year.
How he'll win: Expect Steve Spurrier to test Neloms early be taking some chances downfield. Garcia completed five passes of 17 yards or longer last year at Kentucky, and that was with All-SEC corner Trevard Lindley in the lineup. As long as Garcia does not get careless and force throws, he should find open spaces in the Wildcats' injury-depleted secondary.
Key number: 115, Garcia has thrown 115 passes without an interception, dating to the second quarter at Georgia.
About Neloms: The true freshman from Memphis makes his first start in place of Lindley, who is out with a high ankle sprain. The 6-1, 180-pound Neloms did not begin playing football until his junior year of high school. He led the state of Tennessee with eight interceptions last fall, including two he returned for touchdowns.
How he'll win: The Wildcats might play more zone coverages than usual with starting corners Lindley and Paul Warford both out. Kentucky coach Rich Brooks believes Neloms is confident and physical enough to succeed in the SEC. Neloms, who played nearly the entire fourth quarter vs. Alabama after Lindley was injured, must avoid biting on the ball fakes from Garcia and double moves from the USC receivers.
Key number: 60, combined career starts for Lindley and Warford, both of whom are out today with injuries.
Five Questions Hutch Eckerson, No. 66/Right tackle/Lumberton, N.C.
The redshirt junior, who returned to the starting lineup last week against S.C. State, talks about his renewed commitment and love of hunting.
You've experienced everything here. How have you endured the peaks and valleys?
It's been a lot of ups and downs. It's just keeping faith in the team and just coming out here and really telling myself that better times are going to come along. I like where we're at this season. We're just going to keep working and see what happens.
Some of the past criticism we'd hear about you is not being 100 percent committed. Have you had to learn to make more of a commitment?
We all just got to make ourselves committed to come out here and work hard every day. I've really put myself on the spot this year to make sure I'm just doing everything exactly right and exactly how the coaches tell me to do this play. I think everybody has put a lot of extra time in this year and it's really showing and paying off.
Aren't you a big hunter and fisherman?
Yeah, I love hunting. I try to go on Sundays after we come in and watch game film. I try to get out on Sunday afternoons when I can. Obviously, football and school takes up a lot of my time, but hunting is definitely my other passion besides football.
Where do you go and what's in season?
Well, it's deer season right now. I have some friends in Kingstree that I go down and hunt with all the time. ... I got a good (buck) last September - a 13-point (that) weighed 215 pounds. That was definitely the biggest one. I haven't gone too much this year, but hopefully try to beat that one.
Did you mount it? You must have been eating venison for six months.
Oh, yeah. We mounted it, and it's in the room right now. We used (the meat) for everything. It was good.