If the Kentucky Wildcats are to make a bowl this season, the game against South Carolina is a must-win game for Mark Stoops and company. That is what losing to Southern Mississippi does to your season. It puts you in a "win or give up the ghost" game in week three.
Fortunately, for the Wildcats, they could not find a better opponent to come into Commonwealth Stadium. To say that both teams have problems is an understatement.
South Carolina ranks 93rd or lower nationally in 7 offensive categories while UK ranks 90th or lower nationally in 10 defensive categories.— TheCatsPause247 (@TheCatsPause247) September 19, 2016
Even though the Gamecocks are 2-1, their offense has been the standard definition of the resistible force. They currently are ranked 121st in points scored (15.7), 93rd in passing yards per game (197.0) and 122nd in rushing yardage per game (90.7). The saving grace for the Gamecocks has been a defense that is tied for 28th in the country giving up just 17.3 points a game.
On the other side of the field is Kentucky's movable object defense. The Cats have the 113th-worst pass defense (285.0 yards), and the 116th-worst rush defense (243.0 yards). Only five teams have given up more yardage per game, and the Cats are getting gouged for 43.7 points a game. Kentucky can score, however, with 34.7 points a game and come off a 62 point outing.
Both fanbases seem to get that while their respective team does not really deserve a bowl, they want to go to one. And neither fanbase is optimistic about getting that necessary win this weekend.
The fact is that this might be the most beatable opponent for the Gamecocks in the pre-open week slate. And the reason is despite the fact that, well, the Gamecocks aren't much better than the Wildcats despite their 2-1 record. They have major issues on their offensive line, their rushing attack hasn't shown a huge amount of traction, and they have a quarterback that has shown some very good tendencies but is still finding his way as a true freshman. Of course, they're going up against a Wildcats team that's given up gobs of points, which, in a Gamecocks universe, probably means that they'll get blown out of the building by halftime or lose in frustrating fashion.
Pessimism aside, the one thing Kentucky should have going for them is confidence. This is a Gamecock team that the Wildcats have beaten twice in a row, and this game is in Lexington. While it would be a win over an equally bad team, this may be what this team needs to boost their battered psyche and set the framework for a bowl bid season.
We have been here before with the South Carolina game being possibly a defining moment in a Kentucky football season. Just two years ago, Kentucky seemingly turned the corner with a 45-38 win over the Gamecocks and Steve Spurrier. That turned corner led straight into a brick wall and a 7-15 record since.
Hopefully, a third straight win over the Gamecocks can finally set this team on course to that elusive bowl bid.