Josh Kendall

Kentucky remains favorite in Las Vegas but maybe not on field

What does Las Vegas know that we don’t?

Saturday’s matchup between South Carolina and Kentucky is one of the games that makes you wonder that. The Wildcats, who lost to Southern Miss and allowed 42 points to New Mexico State and never even competed against Florida, are 2.5-point favorites against the Gamecocks.

Sure, South Carolina’s no powerhouse on either side of the ball at the moment. And, sure, the Gamecocks have played some really bad football in Lexington, Ky., in recent years. But still, who feels comfortable with Kentucky as a favorite against its own scout team at the moment?

The game provides an interesting contrast for South Carolina. The defense will face its stiffest test of the season, while its offense will have the easiest time it’s likely to have in the SEC.

The Wildcats offense averages 7.23 yards per play, the 10th-highest total in the country. Kentucky, despite having backup quarterback Stephen Johnson at the helm Saturday, will move the ball. If the Wildcats can cut down on their turnovers (they’ve had 10 and only one team in the country has had more), they will put up points against the Gamecocks.

The good news for South Carolina is that its offense should put up some points of its own. So far, the Gamecocks haven’t managed more than 20 points in each game. They should top that in freshman quarterback Brandon McIlwain’s second start of the season. If they can’t, it will be a very bad sign.

Head coach Will Muschamp has pointed out to his team that it didn’t comport itself very well in its last road game.

“We need to play better than we did last time, and that’s the bottom line,” he said. “That’s kind of my message to our guys. Every time we have a team meeting, we talk about winning the East, and this is an Eastern division opponent we’re going to be playing every single year, and we need to play well.”

Kentucky has never beaten the Gamecocks three years in a row. It won’t start this year.

South Carolina 28, Kentucky 21