South Carolina has opportunities on several fronts heading into Saturday’s game against Kentucky.
The most important of those is the Gamecocks can improve to 3-0, which would be their best start since the 2012 season in which they went on to start 6-0 and finish 11-2.
In order to do that, South Carolina must snap a three-game losing streak to the Wildcats, its longest losing streak against any division opponent.
In order to do that, the Gamecocks will have to continue burying the two narratives that defined their 2015 season, namely that they can’t run the ball or stop the run. Last season, Kentucky rushed for 216 yards and South Carolina rushed for 91 in a 17-10 Wildcats win.
Through two games this year, South Carolina is starting to show progress in both running the ball itself and stopping the opponent from doing so. Granted, the numbers aren’t great (USC is 12th in the SEC in rushing and ninth in run defense), but the Gamecocks have not had the ball stuffed down their throat as they did so many times a year ago and were able to use the run game to burn clock in the second half when they had a big lead against Missouri.
It’s not perfect by any stretch, but it’s progress.
If South Carolina can continue its progress in those two areas, it won’t have a tough time beating Kentucky. The Wildcats have looked underwhelming two games into a season that had as much hope as any recent ones in Lexington, Ky., and South Carolina is a 6.5-point favorite.
This will be the Gamecocks’ first home game of the season, and the athletic department has asked the fans to create a “blackout” environment. Williams-Brice likely will be as intimidating an atmosphere as it has been since the 2014.
Even if South Carolina wasn’t the better team in this game, that would help. It helps more that South Carolina is the better team in this game.
Prediction: South Carolina 35, Kentucky 14