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Carolina takes on the struggling Kentucky Wildcats tomorrow evening at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington. The game will be televised on ESPN2. Be sure to stop by the game thread to chat with us during the game. Here are my final thoughts.
Three Keys to Victory
3. Special Teams Play
No, we don't need great special teams play to win this game. However, I'd love to see it anyways. Our play in the return game last week was the story of the game, and the more we can do to established ourselves in this regard, the more confident I'll feel in the potential for this to be a special team.
2. Limit Maxwell Smith
One of the lone bright spots for Kentucky this season is the improved play of QB Maxwell Smith. Smith has played respectable football this season, although his four interceptions were instrumental in the 'Cats stunning loss to Western Kentucky. One key goal for Carolina will be to put some pressure on him. Kentucky tries to get the ball out quickly, which has helped it not give up too many sacks so far this year, but UK hasn't seen Jadeveon Clowney or Devin Taylor yet, so hopefully that will change. It will help if he can force plenty of third-and-long situations, which seems likely. Smith is coming off an injury, so he might fold under pressure. La'Rod King, by the way, is the main guy to watch for among the receivers.
1. Connor Shaw Must Avoid Mistakes
Shaw doesn't need to have a Heisman-esque performance for Carolina in this one. He will probably have some chances to make big plays against a bad Kentucky defense, but if he struggles to do so, it's not the end of the world. What he can't do is turn the ball over. Aggressive Kentucky DC Rick Minter will likely take some chances with blitzes to try to force Shaw to make the kinds of mistakes that could allow Kentucky to make a game out of this. Shaw has to play these situations intelligently, taking what he can but not forcing the issue. This is very important because Kentucky isn't likely to put many points on the board unless we give them some short fields.
I wouldn't be surprised if Kentucky empties the playbook early in this one. Joker Phillips's back is against the wall, and a win in this game could be the difference in his career. If Carolina can withstand the early charge and build a lead, though, this one will get out of hand quickly. Something in between is probably most likely. Carolina might not play a perfect game, but the outcome won't seriously be in doubt. Let's say 38-10 Carolina.