Despite Kentucky winning three consecutive battles against the South Carolina, just about everyone is counting out the Wildcats on extending the streak to four.
Vegas currently has the Gamecocks favored by seven points, but the way some fans and analysts are talking, this is (apparently) going to be a Saturday night massacre with the home team committing the violent crime.
As we told you guys earlier, ESPN’s FPI gives UK just an 18.1% chance to defeat the Gamecocks.
CBS Sports’ Barrett Sallee says: “The offense will light up Kentucky’s defense, hunker down defensively and win by double digits over the visiting Wildcats.”
ESPN’s Alex Scarborough says: “Maybe (South Carolina) is the dark horse to win the East. The combination of Jake Bentley and Deebo Samuel is so much fun to watch. I’m going to go with the Gamecocks. Kentucky, to me, just doesn’t have enough firepower on offense.”
South Carolina is the latest “hot take” team to not only come out on top tomorrow night, but to win the entire SEC East.
More media folks voted South Carolina (5) to win the SEC East than Tennessee (3).
— Tony Barnhart (@MrCFB) July 14, 2017
South Carolina might be the biggest hurdle for UGA to win the SEC East.
— Kevin Parten (@kevinparten) September 2, 2017
— Chris Hummer (@chris_hummer) September 13, 2017
But I’ll let you in on a little secret… South Carolina is not the juggernaut people make them out to be.
As of today, the Gamecocks are 13th in the SEC in total offense and 14th in total defense. For those keeping track at home, that’s the second-worst offense in the conference and dead last in defense. The unit has been outgained by nearly 350 yards in two games, and even against Power 5 competition, that’s still rough.
Keep in mind, Missouri fired their defensive coordinator just two weeks into the season for a reason. The Tigers gave up 43 points to Missouri State to open the season. The Gamecocks are statistically worse than the team that gave up 74 points in two games.
UK’s defense is currently giving up just 16.5 PPG, good for 35th in the nation. They are also only giving up 58.5 yards on the ground per game, good for ninth best in the entire nation.
We’ve seen a productive defensive line, linebackers are making plays, and the secondary is living up to the hype. There are injury question marks, but just about everyone is pleasantly surprised in the defense’s ability early in the season to make a substantial impact.
Now let’s head on over to the “deadly” offense South Carolina possesses. Everyone hypes up QB “sensation” Jake Bentley, with some putting him in the Heisman conversation before the year started. But Stephen Johnson is putting up better numbers across the board.
Bentley has thrown for 402 yards, four touchdowns, one interception, with a completion rate of 61.4%, and a QBR of 140.3.
Stephen Johnson has thrown for 400 yards, two touchdowns, zero turnovers, with a completion rate of 61.9%, and a QBR of 157.6.
Johnson has also rushed for 58 yards and two scores compared to Bentley’s six total rushing yards.
UK’s gunslinger has been more efficient, accurate, and productive through the air, and he has dominated the opposing QB on the ground.
Speaking of on the ground, let’s talk about UK’s dominance against USC in the run game. In the past three years, the Wildcats have rushed for an average of 220 yards per game against Carolina, with the Wildcat as the primary method of attack. Fans are adamant about minimizing use of the Wildcat, but the Cocks have done nothing to prove they can even slow it down in past years.
This year, USC has given up nearly 150 yards on the ground a game against two relatively pass-happy teams. The Cats have been trying to get the run game firing on all cylinders to start the season, and it started working relatively well against EKU last week. UK is going to shove the run game down the opponent’s throat, and it’s going to work.
(You’ll see a whole lot of Wildcat tomorrow, so be prepared.)
What I will tell you, however, is that this team is extremely disciplined and will absolutely capitalize on any and all Wildcat miscues. UK will not get away with careless turnovers and penalties, as South Carolina has preyed on this in the first two games. I’d never thought I’d say this, but Will Muschamp has been extremely impressive this season and has coached his team up well. He wants this victory bad, and so do his players. He’s going to have his team well-prepared for this matchup.
But Kentucky is more talented than the Gamecocks, plain and simple.
If they do their job, the Wildcats can and will win this football game.
Make a statement tomorrow night.