One week ago, WhatIfSports prediction engine pumped out its simulation for the Kentucky versus Florida game in The Swamp. The Cats were coming off an inexcusable loss to Western Kentucky at home, and headed down to Gainesville to one of the toughest venues to play in the nation. There are better situations for football teams to be in, no doubt.
However, WIS was quite generous in their prediction, suggesting a 23-12 Gators win. All things considered, an 11-point loss and beating the spread would have been a good day for the Cats. But that prediction couldn’t have possibly accounted for Morgan Newton.
Sticking with the current trend of the offense, Kentucky was projected to collect 169 passing yards and 95 rushing yards. Without Max Smith, they amassed 60 and 159 yards respectively. Looking for positives in a game filled with negatives, the run game was the bright spot. Jonathan George and Raymond Sanders led the rushing attack which averaged five yards per carry. The ground game has been abysmal through the first part of the season, so it’s surely an encouraging sign to see that unit is capable of picking up yards when necessary.
Moving forward to this week, the Cats take on the South Carolina Gamecocks. WIS doesn’t stray too far from last week’s projection that ended up being about three touchdowns off. The simulation gives USC a 25-11 victory, and gives the Cats its lowest win probability yet, of only 11.9%. According to Vegas, Kentucky is a 21-point underdog.
No. 6 South Carolina returns to Commonwealth Stadium — having exited on their last visit with a loss. That Gamecocks team was good. Unfortunately this one is better, and surely looking for even more payback; just in case last season’s 54-3 drubbing in Columbia wasn’t enough. Steve Spurrier is just that kind of coach that he’ll pile on if he feels like it.
Quarterbacks Dylan Thompson and Connor Shaw are both being used by Spurrier in different situations. Shaw as a scrambler, and Thompson for pocket presence. Both are very capable of leading this team, which is having no trouble putting points on the board, to victory. In the backfield is a healthy Marcus Lattimore, one of the elite backs in the league. He is averaging 4.6 yards per carry and has already found the end zone six times this season. He is without a doubt their primary back and will take nearly every snap on Saturday.
The simulation suggests South Carolina will collect 352 yards of total offense, 168 on the ground and 184 through the air. With Florida doing what they did and piling up over 400 yards of offense, the Gamecocks may do even more damage than that.
Kentucky’s offensive attack will once again be led by Maxwell Smith, barring an unexpected setback before kickoff. The Cats passing game entered last week ranked 13th in the country in total yards. After Morgan Newton was finished with it, it dropped all the way to 43rd. Smith will likely be called upon to resurrect the high octane passing game, looking to go deep early and often to keep the chains moving. Jadeveon Clowney is coming off the edge and the Cats don’t want to run in his direction.
As mentioned before, the running game finally showed signs of life against Florida — because it had to. Jonathan George and Raymond Sanders will return to the backfield, leading the charge after CoShik Williams is being ruled doubtful for Saturday, following his aggravation of a hip strain. Projected for 92 rushing yards, it will be interesting to see how Max Smith responds with his bum shoulder, and if the run game will be relied upon once again. That number could either go way up, or way down.