The Kentucky Wildcats (2-2, 0-2) have often been on the side of long losing streaks against individual opponents.
This Saturday, the Wildcats will match-up with an opponent they happen to have the recent edge over when they travel to Columbia to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks (1-3, 0-2). Kentucky enters Saturday’s game winners of the last five meetings between the two programs.
This year’s game may be the most important however, as both schools are looking for wins to turn around their 2019 seasons. Can the Wildcats get the job done? Here’s what the staff at A Sea of Blue thinks.
While I’m not usually a believer in must-win games in college sports unless a chance at a national championship is on the line, this is a must-win game for Kentucky. If they want to go bowling in Tampa at the Outback Bowl, they need to take down South Carolina and win the rest of their remaining winnable games.
While the Gamecocks aren’t a great football team, their homefield advantage is one of the best in the nation, and they have a quarterback who can run the ball. Will it be enough to beat a desperate Kentucky team? I don’t think so.
Prediction: Kentucky 23, South Carolina 17
The Cats will be looking to get back on the winning side of things this weekend when they go on the road to face South Carolina.
This is a tricky one for me, as the Gamecocks have looked very good at times this season and very bad at times. They were surprisingly competitive against Alabama for a half before the Tide pulled away in the second half. The Gamecocks were in firm control of their Week 1 matchup with North Carolina before a second-half meltdown cost them victory.
Obviously, Kentucky has handled the Gamecocks the last six years, but this one feels like a must-win for both teams.
If Kentucky wins and continues the streak, then Muschamp could be out the door at some point this year.
The Cats need a good performance and need to come away with the victory in order to have the chance for yet another special season.
And I think they get the job done Saturday night.
Prediction: Kentucky 31, South Carolina 24
What was the price of gas the last time South Carolina beat Kentucky in football? 30 cents? A dollar fifty? Was it above or below the Will Muschamp’s future salary of $2.50? And, speaking of Will, his best coaching job yet at South Carolina would be convincing this 1-3 Gamecocks squad that they can win six and make a Bowl. They still have Texas A&M, Florida, Clemson and Georgia remaining on the schedule—who are all ranked and will all trounce SC.
So that’s depressing, but so is losing to Missouri by 20, which they accomplished last weekend. The Muschumps are cooked. No momentum, no Jake Bentley (these are dark days for Cole Cubelic) and no, I can’t find a win over Kentucky anywhere in the past half-dozen years. Cats roll behind a million rushing yards.
Prediction: Kentucky 27, South Carolina 16
This game comes down to how Kentucky responds to yet another game they lost that they should have won. Kentucky is the better team, but can they put together four good quarters following a disappointment?
South Carolina isn’t very good. Their new starting quarterback might be better than Jake Bentley was anyway, but he’s banged up after taking a beating against Missouri. At the same time, he also scares me to death. Our secondary was picked apart against Mississippi State who used a quarterback not nearly as good as Ryan Hilinski. So, that will be a key matchup.
More importantly, Kentucky needs to get a pass rush. They have to rattle the freshman. I expect to see Xavier Peters for the first time this weekend to help generate pressure in the pocket.
Lastly, Kentucky should be able to extend their winning streak over the Gamecocks by dominating the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball for the sixth consecutive year. Expect Kentucky to run, run, run all night long Saturday. And they’ll shut South Carolina down in their run game.
The crowd will be rowdy, but not as much as a usual Saturday night home game. And the motivation for a win is there, but it was there against Mizzou as well, and we saw how that turned out. Kentucky bounces back in a big way, and Will Muschamp will be looking for a new job come Monday morning.
Prediction: Kentucky 27, South Carolina 13
As much as South Carolina has struggled this season, they still have plenty of weapons on both sides of the ball to take down a team like Kentucky. The Gamecocks have a dynamic group of running backs, highlighted by former Clemson back Tavien Feaster, who is averaging 5.2 yards per carry. It’s actually Rico Dowdle who’s averaging 6.5 yards per rush, the third-highest among SEC running backs.
At wide receiver, the duo of Brian Edwards and Shi Smith will really put the heat on Kentucky’s rebuilding secondary. The two have combined for 501 yards and four scores this season, which is even more impressive when you realize true freshman Ryan Hilinski is throwing to them.
Speaking of Hilinski, he’s shown a lot of promise at times this season, including when he went for 36/57 and two scores vs. one pick vs. Alabama. He did have a poor outing vs. Missouri last week, but that was after an elbow injury held him out of practice leading up the game.
This week, Hilinksi has been fully healthy and should be a major test for Kentucky’s secondary on Saturday.
While South Carolina’s defense leaves a lot to be desired, their defensive line is outstanding, highlighted by a potential NFL first-round pick in defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw. Their d-line will be a great test for Kentucky’s o-line, and that battle will go a long way in deciding who wins Saturday.
The x-factor for me is Sawyer Smith. His shoulder and wrist injuries led to him having a terrible second half last week as he finished 15/41 passing. Smith is much better than that, so you have to think those injuries are really affecting him, and I don’t think he’ll be healed enough to be effective Saturday.
If I knew Smith would be close to 100% for this game, I’d pick the Cats, as he’d pick apart the Gamecocks’ secondary, who would be no match for Ahmad Wagner and Lynn Bowden. It will be a close game, but I think this is the year South Carolina ends their losing streak to the Cats.
Prediction: South Carolina 27, Kentucky 23
Kentucky and South Carolina need this game in a big way, but for very different reasons. Both are rocking backup quarterbacks and both are on losing streaks, but the Wildcats are looking to win their sixth straight over the Gamecocks.
Sawyer Smith is a little banged up, but seems okay. South Carolina has been largely underwhelming, and they do not seem to be improving.
However, this will be a very hostile environment under the lights in Columbia. The Gamecocks are probably more desperate for a victory than Kentucky, they have to hate their losing streak to the Cats, and they may be looking to save their coach’s job.
Regardless, I do think Kentucky is the better team and picks up a win on Saturday. In the preseason, I predicted the Wildcats would split the Mississippi State and South Carolina games, and I am sticking to that prediction.
Prediction: Kentucky 27, South Carolina 17