This is your Gameday Open Thread, folks. So hold forth below. In real time, even. As always, five reasons to hope for the best and fear the worst.
1. Chris Smelley. No, he's not the second coming of Peyton Manning. I'd be surprised if he's the second coming of Steve Taneyhill. But he's also not apparently as (cough, cough) inconsistent as Blake Mitchell. The last thing South Carolina needs to do tonight is give Kentucky a short field, something that is less likely with Smelley under center than with Blake.
2. Cory Boyd and Mike Davis. Kentucky's defense is allowing 203.2 rushing yards per game, something that will need to change if they hope to stop Boyd and Davis. Of course, if they allow another 200 yards, that'll be just fine with the Gamecocks. And Spurrier, who might want to try to give Kentucky as little time to score as possible. Look for the team to try to grind out some yardage before putting things in the air.
Hopefully, he can celebrate again tonight.
3. The passing defense. Yes, the running defense has been atrocious. Terrible. Awful. Pick a word. But (perhaps because of that) the secondary is allowing just 106.4 yards a pass. And more encouraging, with the likelihood of teams running because of the slack ground defense, is the fact that the Gamecocks are holding opponents to 4.0 yards an attempt. Tonight, though, will be their toughest test.
4. First quarter and red zone. Playing a high-scoring offense like Kentucky, there's one rule on offense: Score early and often. Check and, when the Gamecocks get in the red zone, check. South Carolina has outscored its opponents 52-24 in the first quarter, and has converted 90 percent of its red zone opportunities into scores. But the Gamecocks will have to make it into the red zone more often.
5. The streaks. Spurrier is 14-0 against Kentucky. Again: He has never lost to the Wildcats. South Carolina, meantime, has won seven straight against Kentucky. How much do either of those streaks mean? Probably not a lot, given that this version of UK might be the best since Bear Bryant walked the sidelines. But they're something.
1. Andre Woodson. Good pass defense or not, the Gamecocks are going to have a hard time containing a quarterback who would be the front-runner for the Heisman if he played at the other USC, Florida, Texas or any other schools that people pay attention to just 'cuz. Even as things are, he has to be on your Top 5 list. He's just that good. Last year? He just completed 63 percent of his passes for 3,515 yards and 31 TDs against 7 INTs. This year? 67.1 percent of his passes, 1,309 yards in five games, 16 scores and one pick. Oh, and the pick? Yeah, that ended a streak during which Woodson established the NCAA record for most consecutive pass attempts without and interception.
Could have been Reasons 1-3, but that would be cheating.
2. Keenan Burton. And did I mention that Kentucky has a pretty good receiver in Keenan Burton? That is, if you consider 84.4 yards a game and five scores in as many contests a "pretty good" receiver. The second option, Dicky Lyons, isn't too bad himself, with 51.4 yards a game and 3 TDs. In fact, five Wildcats have caught more than 10 passes this year. Tonight might answer the question of how good they are -- and how good the Gamecocks secondary is.
3. Rafael Little. And did I mention that Kentucky has a pretty good running back in Rafael Little? That is, if you consider 547 yards and three TDs in five games a "pretty good" running back. Little rounds out one of the most explosive offenses, if not the most explosive offense, the Gamecocks will face all year. In all, they pile up 492.2 yards and 46.6 points a game. Yeah, most of that came against inferior competition. But if you think that means this team isn't as scary as it looks, you're wrong.
4. The scoring defense. As mentioned above, the Wildcats will allow you to move the ball. Scoring, though, is another matter, with Kentucky allowing just 22.0 points a game. Again, look at the level of competition, but don't knock 'em until they've played a team capable of moving the ball.
5. The streaks. The Gamecocks are 4-7 against ranked teams under Spurrier, went 1-5 last year and lost four of those games (Tennessee, Arkansas, Auburn and Georgia) at the WB. (This year's record against ranked teams is 1-1, with both games on the road.) So much for homefield advantage...
RESULT: This is probably the most frightening game so far for the Gamecocks. But they have the WB, and for all of Kentucky's improvement, South Carolina appears to be better this year as well. So give them the slightest of edges. South Carolina 34, Kentucky 31
P.S. -- Be sure to visit A Sea of Blue, SB Nation's Kentucky blog, if you get a chance.