USC-UK preview: Gamecocks prepare for third SEC road trip
1. WHO’S PLAYING?
South Carolina’s defense has enough trouble stopping one offensive system, so what will it do against Kentucky, which is likely to use multiple styles due to injury? Stephen Johnson, who can run, is the starter at quarterback. Do the Gamecocks prepare for tailback JoJo Kemp (who gashed them two years ago) or Benny Snell, who scored four touchdowns last week?
2. GOTTA HAVE IT
Each team needs this win to help their cause for six wins and bowl eligibility. Kentucky (1-2) feasibly has seven games left it could win, but that’s counting Georgia and Tennessee. The Gamecocks aren’t out of any game on their schedule (except perhaps Clemson) but no games are gimmes. USC does have five straight at home after this game, though, so if it could just get this one, three more wins are very possible. The Wildcats lose this one … and Mark Stoops may be on the bread line.
3. BABY STEPS
USC is trying to protect Brandon McIlwain as much as possible, considering he is a freshman who’s just now learning the speed of the college game. The Gamecocks have to get a running game established since their offensive line is so bad, and that hinders what they can do with the downfield passing game. Yet the long ball could be their friend this game – Kentucky’s pass defense is the worst in the league.
4. PLOWED UNDER
Speaking of that offensive line, at some point it has to get better, right? USC is big, strong and experienced, yet couldn’t keep East Carolina from breathing on McIlwain’s hips. The Wildcats will come right at USC, led by 6-foot-7 nose tackle Matt Elam, who tips the Toledo at 360 pounds.
5. BIG DAVE
David Williams played a masterful game last week, and that needs to continue this week. USC will have to run the ball and Williams, sturdy in the shoulders and able to survive a cross-check from a heat-seeking linebacker, can be a first down-producer. He’s said all the right things, about how he didn’t pout when he was publicly called out and kept working, and it paid off against East Carolina. There can’t be a step back this week.
Where South Carolina’s offense, and Kentucky’s defense, ranks in the SEC.
The Gamecocks’ record against the Wildcats in the last six years, after winning all of 10 meetings before them.
Rushing yards per game allowed by USC. They’ve allowed 207 and 239 to Kentucky in the series’ last two games, each USC losses.
Turnovers USC recovered in its last game. The Gamecocks had 20 all of last season.
Consecutive home games USC has after returning from Kentucky.