Taking a look at #13 South Carolina

Kevin C. Cox

If you feel something in the air for this game, it might be rain. South Carolina has a better offense than Florida.

The question of the day: "How in the world are we going to stop Jadeveon Clowney?" Answer: We won't.  So, we're going to have run our plays to the other side of the field or we can run right at him. On the ground, some zone reads or veer might work. Clowney has a foot injury that will require surgery at the end of the season. It has had an effect on his explosiveness, but he is still the 400 pound gorilla on the field. In other words, he is always to be reckoned with.

Steve Spurrier has never quite captured the "fun-n-gun" at South Carolina like he did at Florida. He's never quite had a great passer and great receivers in the same year in Columbia. He's had years with great passers and he's had years with great receivers, but rarely at the same time. That hasn't stopped him from winging the ball anyway. Remember the game in Lexington where he played four quarterbacks because he wasn't happy with the play of any of them? He has always been the best quarterback that South Carolina has had to offer.  It will remain that way until a Carolina QB wins a Heisman.

The thing I love about Spurrier is his passing game. There is no fear of risk as he slings the ball down the middle of the field. His receivers are usually wide open and I wonder how he does that.

Another thing I like about Spurrier is his brutal honesty. He hasn't been kind to Kentucky in that regard. No one, however, can claim he hasn't spoken the truth about Kentucky. He never liked Bill Curry and that dislike carried over to Kentucky.  I believe that goes back to Curry's days at Georgia Tech.  His teams have always scored big against Kentucky when he had the players that could do it. I never had a problem with that as many UK fans do. I've always felt it was Kentucky's job to stop the opponent and we've not been very good at it over the years. That, however, made beating Spurrier all that much more enjoyable back in 2010. The lopsided beat-downs were when he was the head coach at Florida. The games have been closer since he's been at South Carolina. The lone exception was in 2011 when he put 54 points on the board to Kentucky's 3.

The Gamecocks stand at 3-1 with the loss coming at the hands of the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens (41-30).  South Carolina has beaten North Carolina 27-10, Vanderbilt 35-25 and struggled to beat an inspired Central Florida 28-25 in Orlando.

Quarterback Connor Shaw will not be playing against the Wildcats due to injury. Dylan Thompson will be calling the signals. For the optimists, Florida's Murphy also replaced an injured starter. Don't get your hopes up. South Carolina opened as a 21 point favorite over Kentucky. You can bet your bottom dollar that Spurrier will try to beat the spread and Thompson played well enough to beat the previously undefeated Golden Knights after Connor went down.

South Carolina is averaging 482 yards per game in total offense which is ranked 32nd in the current NCAA stats. 257 of those yards come from the passing game which is good enough for a tie with Mississippi State at 45th. Expect a balanced attack because the Gamecock ground game ranks 27th an averages 225 yards per game. When they throw the ball, they're averaging 14.31 yards per completion. Compare that to Florida's 11.8 yard average and Louisville's 15.31 yards.  With the Shaw injury, expect South Carolina to do what WKU, Louisville and Florida did: ground and pound. They will throw when they need to or if they feel Kentucky is asleep at the wheel.

Statistically, the Gamecock defense isn't as good as Florida (#2), Louisville (#3), WKU (#34) or Kentucky (#52) in total defense. They rank 58th, giving up 381 yards per game compared to the Wildcats' 375 yards per game. They are giving up 129 on the ground (#40) and 252 yards in the air (#86).

On paper, the game looks closer than the 21 point spread. Kentucky's stats are somewhat skewed thanks to Miami. Sagarin ranks USC's schedule as the 5th toughest while UK's ranks at #46. Just for what it's worth, Louisville's keeps dropping like a rock. They're sitting there undefeated with the 174th toughest. Of course, we all know that everyone is afraid to play the Cards. I digress, but couldn't resist.

The Gamecocks control the ball for 30 minutes compared to Kentucky's 25 minutes. They convert on 3rd down 51% of the time while allowing the other team to convert 38% of the time. They have given up 77 first downs to Kentucky's 74.

Scoring by Quarter: 1st 41; 2nd 31; 3rd 28 and 4th 20. USC is averaging 30 points per game. To see how one writer saw the UCF game, read it here.

Scores since 2002 (UK Probation):

2002 SC 16 UK 12 (Lexington)

2003 SC 27 UK 21 (Columbia)

2004 SC 12 UK 7 (Lexington)

2005 SC 44 UK 16 (Columbia)

2006 SC 24 UK 17 (Lexington)

2007 SC38 UK 23 (Columbia)

2008 SC 24 UK 17 (Lexington)

2009 SC 28 UK 26 (Columbia)

2010 UK 31 SC 28 (Lexington)

2011 SC 54 UK 3 (Columbia)

2012 SC 38 UK  17 (Lexington)

Guess which year Granny Holz left and Steve Superior began.

Kentucky's offense is going to have to click if we are to have any chance of success. We've not shown yet that we are capable of doing that with any consistency. I would love to see us score in the third quarter and I would like to see some first downs along with some 3rd down conversions in addition to an improvement in time of possession.  A win is always possible, but being a 21 point underdog doesn't translate into a very good probability. What say you?

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