David Cloninger

Five storylines: A closer look at the USC-Kentucky matchup

USC quarterback Connor Mitch (6) will make his second start Saturday.
USC quarterback Connor Mitch (6) will make his second start Saturday. gmelendez@thestate.com

A look at five gameday storylines and five key numbers for South Carolina’s Saturday game against Kentucky.

1. EXPONENTIAL

Nobody expected Connor Mitch to become Steve Young after one game. He was so beaten up against the Tar Heels he was barely Steve DeBerg. With Kentucky expected to clog the run and force Mitch to throw, he needs to live up to the “most improvement is between Games 1-2” tag.

2. I’M OPEN!

It wasn’t just that no receivers beside Pharoh Cooper failed to do much of anything. It was that anybody other than Cooper had a hard time getting open. Whoever is out there – Jamari Smith added to the rotation? – has to get a sliver of space and help out Mitch. And catching the ball when it’s thrown in the chest would help.

3. HANDS TEAM

Shannon Dawson has instituted a pass-happy system at Kentucky, and Patrick Towles threw for 257 yards in his opener. The Gamecocks intercepted three passes against another pass-happy quarterback last week. They need a Take 2.

4. MIDDLE MEN

Elijah Hood galloped barely touched through the Gamecocks’ defensive front, bringing reminders of last year. One of last year’s most bitter memories – Kentucky’s JoJo Kemp – is back and doubtless wants more. He only rushed three times for 34 yards last week, but Stanley “Boom” Williams had 135 on 10 attempts.

5. HOME STYLE

Williams-Brice Stadium beckons. The Gamecocks need to re-take what made it so special during their glorious 2011-13 run. Kentucky has been deplorable on the SEC road and that needs to stay intact. USC is going to have a hard enough time making this a winning season without letting home games slip away.

GoGamecocks' Josh Kendall and David Cloninger preview and predict South Carolina's Saturday game against Kentucky.

FIVE NUMBERS

17

Consecutive years that Kentucky (1-0) has won the second game of the season. Only two were against Power-5 teams, and the last time the Wildcats played an SEC team in the second game, they lost.

17-0 and 3-2

Steve Spurrier’s record against Kentucky pre-2010 ... and Spurrier’s record against Kentucky 2010-present.

0

Number of SEC road wins Kentucky has under Mark Stoops in eight tries.

11

Career catches by USC receivers not named Pharoh Cooper after Terry Googer and Carlton Heard played last week (Shamier Jeffery has eight in his career).

29

Percentage of 2014’s total sacks (14) that USC nabbed in its season-opener (four).

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