This is one of those games that can change the entire direction of a college football season. Kentucky, after snapping a 2+ season SEC losing streak, finally snapped it last week against the Vanderbilt Commodores. The South Carolina Gamecocks dropped their second SEC contest (first against an SEC East team) last week when the Missouri Tigers eked out a 1-point 201-20 victory. The Gamecocks had much higher hopes than to be 1-2 coming into Lexington. Another loss would put them in a very deep hole for any chance to win the SEC East.
Kentucky has no such aspirations, at least not yet. They just need victories, and they don’t much care who they come against. This UK team is more talented, more confident, and more competent than any UK team I’ve seen take the field since 2007. But to defeat the Gamecocks, who are still more talented overall, Kentucky must:
Score — If there is anything the Gamecocks have not done particularly well on offense this season, it is scoring touchdowns. If Kentucky can put 21 or more points on the board, I like their chances.
Avoid turnovers — Turnovers could have easily cost Kentucky the game last weekend. The Wildcats must do a better job of ball security.
Attack the South Carolina secondary — the Gamecocks are going to be blitzing a lot to protect their young secondary, so Kentucky must avoid putting themselves in obvious passing situations as much as possible.
Get to Dylan Thompson — Thompson is not as mobile as Conner Shaw, so the Wildcats pass rush needs to be excellent. If Bud Dupree and Za'Darius Smith can get to Thompson, Kentucky will be in a good spot.
Create big plays — South Carolina this season has given up a bunch of big plays. Kentucky must leverage this tendency.
Here we go, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation — another chance to excel is set before us, and an opportunity to become relevant in the SEC East at least as a spoiler if not a genuine competitor for the division title. This team has improved significantly, and just how much will be further defined with today’s outcome.
UK has historically given South Carolina difficulty in Commonwealth Stadium, and I see no reason why that trend should not continue.