Josh Kendall

South Carolina vs. Kentucky: Five burning questions

Gamecocks must have right mindset to stop Kentucky’s Benny Snell Jr.

South Carolina Gamecocks face the No. 17 Kentucky Wildcats at Kroger Field Saturday Sept. 29, in Lexington, KY.
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South Carolina Gamecocks face the No. 17 Kentucky Wildcats at Kroger Field Saturday Sept. 29, in Lexington, KY.

South Carolina (2-1, 1-1 SEC) takes on No. 17 Kentucky (4-0, 2-0 SEC) on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in a game that will be televised by SEC Network.

Here are our top five questions headed into that game:

Can South Carolina run the ball?

The Gamecocks rushed for 273 yards against Vanderbilt last week, but that was against Vanderbilt. Running the ball against Kentucky will be a different type of challenge. The Wildcats held Mississippi State to 56 rushing yards last week. They held South Carolina to 54 rushing yards last year. That kind of total is not going to get it done for the Gamecocks, who haven’t topped 100 yards on the ground against Kentucky since 2015. The Wildcats are sixth in the SEC in rushing defense this season, allowing 106 yards per game on the ground. South Carolina will have to get that and more to have a chance in Lexington.

Can South Carolina stop the run?

That means stopping Kentucky running back Benny Snell, the SEC’s leading rusher with 135 yards per game. The Wildcats have outrushed the Gamecocks in each of the last four games in this series, all of which have been Kentucky wins. Snell gained 175 yards against Florida earlier this year, but he’s not the Cats’ only rushing threat. Sophomore backup A.J. Rose had 104 yards against Central Michigan and is averaging 7.4 yards per carry, and quarterback Terry Wilson, a former Oregon commit at quarterback, had 105 yards against Florida and is averaging 5.6 yards per carry.

Can Gamecocks win another road game?

The Gamecocks have had trouble finding consistency on the road. In fact, the last time South Carolina won back-to-back road games was Oct. 26, 2013 and Sept. 20, 2014. The last time the Gamecocks did it in the same season was in 2012. Kentucky is coming off a decisive win against then-No. 14 Mississippi State last week and has sold out Kroger Field for the South Carolina game. The last time South Carolina won at Kentucky was in 2012.

Will Deebo Samuel get revenge?

Samuel broke his leg in the third quarter against Kentucky last year and did not play again that season. He (and linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams, who also suffered a season-ending injury in that game) promises this game doesn’t have any special significance for him. Samuel is South Carolina’s top receiving target this year with 20 catches, but he’s yet to break out. His 7.2-yard per catch average ranks 10th on the team. Kentucky cornerbacks Derrick Baity and Lonnie Johnson both have the size to make things tough on Samuel on Saturday.

Who will finish second in the SEC East?

South Carolina came into this season hoping to establish itself as the second-best team in the SEC East (if it couldn’t get to the championship game in Atlanta). The Gamecocks finished second in the division last year and doing it in back-to-back seasons would be an impressive sign of progress in head coach Will Muschamp’s third season. At the moment, it looks like Kentucky is the biggest challenge to that positioning. It will be difficult for the Gamecocks to feel like they are making progress this season if they lose a fifth straight to the Wildcats.

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