The Kentucky Wildcats and South Carolina Gamecocks will battle at Kroger Field on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Each team is trying to position itself for a shot at winning the SEC East, and Kentucky is trying to extend their winning streak over South Carolina to five games.
Kentucky (4-0) looks the part of a favorite and hopes to take care of business at home on Saturday. South Carolina (2-1) is looking to take the next step forward under head coach Will Muschamp and to snap their losing streak to the Wildcats.
Which team will emerge as a contender in the SEC East?
The staff at A Sea of Blue offer up their opinions on Saturday’s matchup.
Kentucky has beaten South Carolina four years in a row. It is difficult to maintain winning streaks like that (unless you are Tennessee or Florida, apparently). But no matter how I have looked at this game, it is tough to see a way that South Carolina wins at Kroger Field on Saturday.
Kentucky is better on paper. They are the more physical team. They have the momentum. After looking at every angle, I think the Wildcats are going to have to lay an egg to lose this one.
If Kentucky does walk away with a win and they strut into College Station at 5-0, the hype around this team will be out of control. They will be knocking on the top 10 and Benny Snell will take another leap in the Heisman race.
I, for one, am here for all of that.
Prediction: Kentucky 27, South Carolina 14
What a magical ride it has been so far in 2018 for Kentucky. Wins over ranked SEC opponents Florida and Mississippi State has the team ranked in the AP top 25 for the first time in 11 years.
This week, they will be the team ranked taking on an unranked opponent. This unranked opponent, however, is a very good one.
The South Carolina Gamecocks have dynamic players on offense led by Quarterback Jake Bentley and also some nice players on the defensive side of the ball.
They are off to a 2-1 start and have beaten the teams they were supposed to, as their only loss has been to No. 2 Georgia. They’re coming off a road win against an improved Vanderbilt team; however, this doesn’t even compare to the win the Cats are coming off of.
They just stunned the college football world by beating No. 14 Mississippi State who was averaging 50 points a game coming in by three touchdowns and holding them to just seven points.
They rallied behind an electric home crowd which on Saturday they will get to play in front of again Saturday.
This Kentucky team is for real and a win should put them ranked in the top 15.
The Cats have a plethora of playmakers on both sides of the ball for South Carolina to have to stop. The last four seasons, Kentucky has beaten the Gamecocks with less talented rosters. No way they lose to them at home with their most talented roster in almost a decade.
Prediction: Kentucky 31, South Carolina 13
I think this game could be a more difficult matchup for a couple of reasons. First, I wonder how UK will react coming in as a top 20 team in a primetime game against a South Carolina team they have a four-game winning streak over. The possibility of a letdown exists. But if I know Mark Stoops and this program, every effort will be made to avoid it.
I look for a lower scoring game with both clubs laying the lumber on each other. If the Cats are able to pull out a victory Saturday night, their case as the primary challengers to Georgia in the SEC East is solidified. I think we will see Kentucky do what they do best: run the ball, make S.C. one dimensional in the passing game by stopping the run, and play solid special teams.
With that in mind, I believe UK goes to 5-0 and 3-0 in the SEC.
Prediction: Kentucky 27, South Carolina 21
After a dominating performance against Mississippi State last Saturday, the Kentucky Wildcats were still underdogs at the outset of the week. The line finally moved toward the Cats, but c’mon. When are people going to start showing some respect for the Wildcats?
If Kentucky can get the same kind of production from its defense that Mark Stoops and the coaching staff saw against the Bulldogs last weekend, then the Gamecocks chances in Lexington will be slim to none. I expect the defense to be up for the challenge and South Carolina’s 34.3 points per game to be cut in half against the Wildcats’ D.
Look for a heavy dose of Benny Snell and AJ Rose. If those two get going, it really opens up the passing game and run-pass option for Terry Wilson. I think three touchdowns are enough for the Cats to win this game, but I’ll add a field goal in for good measure.
Prediction: Kentucky 24, South Carolina 17
Like most of the fan base, I am completely bought into the hype that is Kentucky football. There is not much anyone could say that would convince me that South Carolina wins this game on Saturday. Kentucky has a luxury that no other team in college football has, and that is Benny Snell. With Benny, a sold-out Kroger Field, and UK’s ferocious defense, the Cats should be able to take care of business before traveling to College Station next week. Beating an SEC team 5 years in a row will be a tall task. You know that Will Muschamp has reminded his juniors and seniors that UK has owned them. The Gamecocks will fight hard for 4 quarters so Kentucky will have to execute.
Prediction: Kentucky 24, South Carolina 14
Saturday night the Cats are going to be playing in front of a loud and crazy sold out Kroger Field when they take on South Carolina. The 4-0 Cats will be looking to continue their win streak over USC and make it five wins in a row. If the Cats can come away with the victory, it will be big for this program. Although 8 wins are already a real possibility, a win Saturday will put them at 5-0 with a real chance to get to that 9-10 win range.
In my opinion, Kentucky is the more talented team. Kentucky has shown to this point in the season that they are a very physical team and have controlled the offensive and defensive lines in every game this season, including the highly praised lines of Mississippi State. It was disrespectful for Kentucky to open as a two-point underdog and if one thing has been proven this year, it’s that this team loves proving people wrong and they will do that yet again this week.
Prediction: Kentucky 28, South Carolina 13
I think this weekend’s matchup against the Gamecocks is important for Kentucky for a few reasons, the first reason being the fact they’ve beaten this team the last four years. Yet still, Kentucky doesn’t get any respect, as earlier this week, South Carolina opened up as a 2-point favorite. Even though the line has moved in Kentucky’s favor, they’re still only a one-point favorite.
The second reason being a win this weekend could absolutely propel Kentucky into talks of competing for the SEC East title with the Georgia Bulldogs, depending on how the next couple of weeks play out.
Finally, I think a win this weekend would bring a lot of respect from the national media toward Mark Stoops and buy into this team and even the program moving forward.
My prediction for this week's game will be a little bit more favorable then it was for last week’s game against Mississippi State. I believe that Kentucky is absolutely a better overall football team right now than South Carolina. If the Wildcats go out and plays with a chip on their shoulder like they have the first four games this season, I don’t see how they don’t come away with a win and move on to 5-0 and 3-0 in the SEC.
A couple of things to watch and they will sound familiar to you: Terry Wilson and Benny Snell just need to take care of the ball and limit their turnovers. The run game will be key, because Kentucky has shown so far they can run against anyone.
Watch out for Lynn Bowden, as I expect a good game from him as well, and defensive pieces such as Josh Allen and Kash Daniels need to apply some pressure so Kentucky can get USC’s quarterback out of his comfort zone. I believe the game will be closer than the Mississippi State game, but Kentucky comes away with the win
Prediction: Kentucky 27, South Carolina 17
With both South Carolina and Kentucky averaging 34 ppg., I think it’s going to be a shoot-out this weekend at Kroger Field. It’s more about who shows up on the defensive side, and Kentucky has an edge by the numbers. They’ve limited opponents to 13.3 ppg. through the first four games this season, so I think they will slow South Carolina down enough for the offense to run smoothly.
On top of that, I think Kentucky finally learned what it takes to win in the SEC. Terry Wilson isn’t the best QB in the SEC, but he fits this offense very well. On top of that, Benny Snell is finally getting the national attention he deserves. Finally, the defense is making the winning plays they need too, which was on full display against a good Mississippi State offense last week.
I don’t see how South Carolina would even try to slow the ride Kentucky is on right now, especially on the road. The Cats are putting the pieces together, and I don’t see them slipping up here. South Carolina has a 53.7% chance to win and, honestly, I think the Wildcats love it this way as the continuously overlooked underdogs. I believe Kroger Field will be rocking again after another Cats win that will propel them even further up in the AP Poll.
Prediction: Kentucky 34, South Carolina 20
The Kentucky Wildcats have beaten the South Carolina Gamecocks four straight seasons for one of the most underrated streaks in the SEC. I don’t expect that streak to end Saturday.
South Carolina is a very talented team. Led by star QB Jake Bentley and star WR Deebo Samuel, the Gamecocks have a lethal passing attack.
Their run game is decent, but it was absolutely shut down by the Georgia Bulldogs. Then again, whose run game would Georgia not shut down?
Their defense is formidable. They are currently ranked 32nd in the nation compared to Kentucky at number 11. However, their rushing defense sits at 75th in the country, which is good for bottom 1/4 of the SEC.
Kentucky should be able to run all over the ‘Cocks. However, I’m nervous this could be a trap game for the Wildcats. Coming off a huge win with another big game coming next week could smell trouble for the Cats if they don’t come out ready to play.
With that being said, I think Kentucky will handle their business Saturday. Kentucky will run the ball a lot and South Carolina will use the intermediate passing game to methodically drive down the field, but I think Terry “Touchdown” Wilson comes to play Saturday and takes a bit of the load off Benny Snell.
Prediction: Kentucky 31, South Carolina 14
John Morgan Francis
Kentucky is 4-0 for the first time under head coach Mark Stoops. It’s also the first time they’ve been ranked in the AP Top-25 since 2007.
With that being said, the South Carolina Gamecocks aren’t a team to sleep on this week. They actually rank ahead of the Wildcats in terms of yards/game.
The recipe to contain Kentucky’s Benny Snell Jr. seems to be to load the box. However, for a team that is last in the SEC via passes defended, that could lead to a big day for a struggling Terry Wilson.
Kentucky’s passing attack ranks dead last in the SEC, averaging just 158 yards through the air after four games.
With a sellout crowd looming for Kroger Field, along with a team that loves to play for their coach, expect Kentucky to bring the intensity for their second consecutive night game.
Wilson will post his best game as a Wildcat as Kentucky gets Benny Snell rolling early to later pick apart South Carolina’s secondary. Kentucky’s defense will show just how special they are and the offense will continue to put points on the board.
Prediction: UK 24, SC 13
While there’s a lot of reason to think Kentucky wins this one comfortably, I believe it comes down to the wire and could easily go either way. The Gamecocks don’t have the kind of physicality and talent in their front seven that Mississippi State had, but they do have a lot of speed and athleticism that will prove to be a unique matchup.
South Carolina isn’t going to out-physical this Kentucky team, but they could be fast and quick enough to get around Kentucky’s lineman and hit Snell and Wilson in the backfield.
Then, South Carolina has arguably the best secondary Kentucky has faced so far, so if they force Kentucky into a lot of 3rd and longs, they could make life hard for Wilson to get anything going.
South Carolina’s passing game is balanced enough to negate Kentucky’s pass rush thanks to a nice mix of quick throws that lull defense closer toward the box before a deep strike down the field. Their receivers will get open down the field when Jake Bentley does have time.
Deebo Samuel and Shi Smith have become one of the best SEC’s receiver tandems, and Kentucky had a lot of trouble last year holding up against good passing attacks, something they’ve really not faced yet this year, and there were a lot of wide-open passes against Mississippi State that Kentucky allowed that were either dropped or overthrown, which the rain attributed to. That won’t happen this week with clear skies and no rain projected for game time.
I actually feel better about Kentucky since they feed off doubters and the early games lines had them being a home underdog. Had Kentucky been a 3-4 point favorite like I thought they would, it would have been a lot easier to overlook a team they’ve beaten four straight years, but that “disrespect” is what this team has fed off, and that helps keep them sharp in a narrow win.
Prediction: Kentucky 27, South Carolina 23
I’m probably in the minority here, but I keep feeling like Kentucky is in for a letdown this week.
Maybe it’s due to Kentucky winning four in a row against SC, and it’s hard to maintain long winning streaks in the SEC, especially when Kentucky is on the winning side of those streaks. Maybe it’s the national spotlight on Kentucky. They’re one of the main talking points of the SEC and that “us against the world” mentality falls apart when people start singing your praises. Maybe it's the fact that Kentucky is coming off of a huge win and a big road trip looms next week.
Regardless, I think the elements exist for Kentucky to have a letdown game. That said, the game being in Lexington helps tremendously with a large crowd expected to be on hand.
It also helps that many of the numbers point to success for Kentucky. The Gamecocks rank 75th in the country in rushing defense, allowing 163 yards per game on the ground. That stat bodes well for Kentucky, but it is a tad bit skewed with Georgia accounting for 271 rushing yards in their matchup. Vanderbilt only picked up 92 yards on 33 carries and Coastal Carolina only had 126 yards on 39 carries.
Will Kentucky still be able to find success on the ground against the Gamecocks? I think so. But I don’t think it will come easily and South Carolina is among the best in the country defensively on third downs. If Kentucky is forced into multiple third-and-medium or third-and-long situations, I worry about how much success the offense will have.
Overall, I just have a bad feeling about this game, and I think Kentucky falls in a close one.
Prediction: South Carolina 17 Kentucky 14