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Early Kentucky football preview: South Carolina

The Wildcats’ first road trip is a very winnable one.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 16 Kentucky at South Carolina Photo by Jim Dedmon/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Today, we continue previewing each of Kentucky’s 12 football games this fall with South Carolina in Colombia in Week 4.

The last time Wildcats played the Gamecocks they cruised to an easy 41-18 victory (their largest margin of victory over the Gamecocks ever). But the year before, Kentucky lost 24-7 on the road.

This year’s game might get Kentucky to a 2-0 start to SEC play and 4-0 start overall, so there’s a lot at stake here.

South Carolina was the worst team in the SEC not named Vanderbilt last year, going a putrid 2-8 in the 10-game conference-only schedule. The only wins were over Auburn (??) and, you guessed it, Vandy.

As mentioned before, UK had no trouble dispatching the Gamecocks at home in the season finale, and there’s not much reason to assume Carolina will improve at all this year. Before we chalk up a W, however, we need to remember two wild-card factors that could jeopardize a Kentucky victory:

1. South Carolina has a new coach, Shane Beamer, a former standout Oklahoma Sooners assistant.

2. It’s a road game.

You never know what a coach will do in his first year in the SEC. Sam Pittman and Lane Kiffin led their programs in a charge out of the SEC West cellar with seasons that blew away expectations (even though Arkansas just went 3-7, many people, including me, expected 1-9 or worse, especially since Vanderbilt wasn’t on the schedule).

Missouri also played above their projections, going 5-5 in the conference.

On the other hand, Mike Leach underwhelmed after his big win over LSU that lost its luster as the season progressed. So who knows, maybe South Carolina will charge out of the gate and come into this game ready to dominate.

Also, we all know that an SEC road game is never a guarantee. While Kentucky has won two of their past three trips to Colombia, that doesn’t ensure anything this September.

Will a road trip to South Carolina be too much for Kentucky to handle and trip them up? Will they be caught looking ahead to Florida? I don’t think so. The better team almost always finds a way to win, and UK is definitely the better team.

One big x-factor going Kentucky’s way is that the Gamecocks travel to Georgia the week before. If they get completely pummeled by the Bulldogs, Kentucky might be able to kick them while they’re still licking their wounds.

I’m not sure how that happens to teams whose games are a week apart, but it does and it might really boost Kentucky’s chances. I think UK can handle this one.

Prediction: UK 27-14