Kentucky faces off against the South Carolina Gamecocks today, and as usual in this game, there are many subtexts, sub-plots and questions.
The big sub-plot of this game is Steve Spurrier himself. Spurrier has led his team to victory over Kentucky 17 straight times, whether it was at Florida or as the head man of the Gamecocks. That is a streak that UK fans have long wanted to see end, although not quite as badly as the streak against either Florida or Tennessee.
To this end, it looks to some observers that Kentucky has been having a run of tough luck against the Gamecocks, and might be due for a change. Maybe so, but luck has been more of a factor than a cause in several of the most recent defeats at the hands of the Gamecocks.
The biggest factor working in favor of Kentucky this year is of course, home field advantage. The road is always tough in the SEC, as Auburn nearly found out last weekend and the Alabama Crimson Tide unquestionably found out in Columbia. That gives Kentucky a decent chance in this game, even though the Gamecocks surely do look better than the Wildcats on paper.
Chip Cosby of the Herald-Leader has his keys to the game in this article, and I want to highlight this one:
Attack the secondary
Kentucky's running game will take a hit in the likely event that tailback Derrick Locke can't go. South Carolina has some holes in its pass defense. With Mike Hartline playing well, UK's best recipe for a win might be an all-out aerial assault.
This is unquestionably the best way for Kentucky to win this game. With Locke out, they will have to establish the passing game to develop the run. Kentucky had a lot of success against a weak secondary versus the Auburn Tigers, and if Kentucky can get into a rhythm against the Gamecocks, they should be able to move the football and open up the run.
Defensively, though, Kentucky has to worry not only about Marcus Lattimore, who has been pounding the ball between the tackles with great success all year, but also Alshon Jeffery, who really lit up UK last year in Columbia for 3 touchdowns and over 100 yards receiving. Jeffrey is just too big for our defensive backs, and he is going to be a major concern in this game, even though the both Randall Burden and Martavius Neloms are more experienced than they were last year when they were forced by injury to face the Gamecocks as starters.
All in all, this shapes up to be a tough game for Kentucky, but the Wildcats do have enough horses to pull off the upset. It all boils down to the defense, as it has all year. If the Kentucky defense steps up and delivers two solid halves, something it hasn't done all year, this game could be a memorable one.