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Gameday forecast, prediction for USC-Kentucky

Before the season started, you looked at the Gamecocks’ two-game SEC road trip in October and knew it would be a critical juncture.

It became even more so when USC lost at Vandy in September.

After beating Ole Miss in Oxford last week, the Gamecocks can set themselves up for a nice season by winning in Lexington.

To say Steve Spurrier has had Kentucky’s number would be an understatement. The HBC has had the wallets, American Express cards and ID’s of every Wildcats’ coach he’s faced.

You’ve seen the stat: Spurrier is 15-0 all-time vs. Kentucky, his best record against any opponent after he lost to Vandy the past two seasons. And then this one: USC has won eight straight against the ‘Cats, dating to the winless ’99 season.

But as Spurrier pointed out early in the week, this does not look like those Kentucky teams from the Bill Curry era.

The ‘Cats are big, fast and athletic … on defense.

They have some playmakers on offense, as well (see Lyons Jr., Dicky). But they’re young at quarterback and most of the receiver spots, and banged-up along the offensive line.

USC will find the running yards scarce against Kentucky’s physical front four. And though the UK defense is third nationally against the pass – one spot below the Gamecocks – USC should be able to move the ball through the air if the line protects Chris Smelley and the right-hander can build off his impressive showing last week in Oxford.

Having Kenny McKinley at nearly 100 percent also should help.

All signs point toward a low-scoring game. But if the Gamecocks can hold on to the ball, I think they could potentially get up by a couple of scores. If the ‘Cats get to Smelley and force him to rush throws or put the ball on the ground, all bets are off.

Prediction: McKinley breaks Sterling Sharpe’s career receptions record, Smelley settles down after a couple of early sacks, both defenses play well, but Spurrier and the Gamecocks extend their streaks.

USC 27, Kentucky 17.