#6 South Carolina packs a heavy punch on offense through the air and ground, ranking 31st nationally in scoring offense. Tailback Marcus Lattimore is a Heisman candidate that does it all for the Gamecocks. Lattimore made a huge impact as a freshman, winning SEC Freshman of the year, but is coming off of a sophomore season ending knee injury. Lattimore has more size and speed than anyone Kentucky has faced, but he has a past filled with fumbles.
Last year Conner Shaw used the Kentucky game to solidify him as the commander of Spurrier’s offense. Last weekend agaisnt Mizzou, he completed his final 20 passes, just 3 shy of Tee Martin’s SEC record. Shaw is probably Spurrier’s best QB since becoming the coach at South Carolina, allowing Spurrier to “take the gloves off” and throw the ball down the field.
Bottom Line: The Cats did a good job of forcing Florida to run the ball inside the tackles last week in the first half. If they can keep Lattimore inside, they can eliminate the big play on the ground and maybe get him to cough up the ball once or twice. Shaw is very accurate, and has to be pressured constantly or he will have a field day against the Cats’ young cornerbacks.
The South Carolina defensive line is nasty. Point, blank, period. Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowny lead a unit that is ranked 7th nationally in sacks per game with 3.75 per game. Clowny and Taylor both are NFL-size standing over 6’6 tall, with athletic ability that makes you scratch your head. UK has done well protecting Max Smith (allowing only 4 sacks all season), but they will have their hands full keeping Max from further injuring his shoulder.
Their linebacking core is a senior-heavy group, that is tough against the run only allowing an opponent to go over 100 yards rushing once this season. They have used a variety of players in the secondary so far this season due to injury and suspension, but SR Safety D.J. Swearinger is back in the lineup this week. He is one of the hardest hitters on the field, and is a big-time playmaker after already returning a fumble 65 yards for a TD this season.
Bottom Line: The Cats will have to pass very effectively this week if they expect to put points on the scoreboard. It will be difficult to slow down the pass rush if they do not establish a run game (which is not likely, considering the RB injuries and their astute rush defense). The O-Line will have their hands full in what will most likely be a tough game to watch.