Fresh off a cathartic win against Vanderbilt, the South Carolina Gamecocks travel to Lexington tomorrow in hopes of purging more demons -- this time in the form of vanquishing their four-game losing streak to the Wildcats. The GABA gang weighs in.
Kody: This matchup has been giving me heartburn since before the season even started. An unprecedented four-game skid to the Wildcats is one thing, but the way South Carolina has lost those contests is another. I’m also worried about this being a 7:30 kick in Lexington, because typically, the Gamecocks don’t play well up there -- especially at night. But enough about my neuroticism! I think South Carolina has been unfairly maligned after losing to Georgia, while the Kentucky hype might be a little out of control. I see these teams as very evenly-matched, and as most recent games in this series have come down to the fourth quarter, I expect another hard-fought slugfest. I’m going with the Gamecocks, 28-24, mostly owing to the absence of Kurt Roper, the presence of a healthy Deebo Samuel, and just my plain old desire to see this win.
Cole: The game every South Carolina fan cannot stand to think about. The Kentucky Wildcats look to make it five straight against the Gamecocks. Just typing that makes me want to throats punch someone. A mixture of self inflicted mistakes and some fantastic individual performances from Kentucky have seen them silence Gamecock nation. Which is mind boggling. With all due respect to the Wildcats, there is NO way South Carolina should lose four straight to Kentucky in football. But, it has happened and they could extend the streak Saturday in Lexington. The difference this year is Kentucky is the favorite, coming off of two huge wins for their program against Florida and Mississippi State. We all know Benny Snell. We know what he is capable of and we know he is one of the best backs in the SEC. Honestly, this game comes down to the running game of the Gamecocks for me. If Rico can get going like he did last week against Vandy, it’s hard to see South Carolina losing this game. Talent wise, the Gamecocks have the edge and should win this game. Now let’s all pray that we can break the streak and move forward. USC 34, UK 17.
Demetri: I want to believe Carolina will win this game. My concern is less about can the defense stop Benny Snell and more about can the offense answer what he does with enough points.
Kentucky’s running back is getting so much press that the country seems to be overlooking Joshua Allen Jr. and just what a wrecking ball he is on the edge. We haven’t paid enough attention to a back seven that may not create a lot of turnovers, but has a knack for batting balls out of the sky. Overall, it doesn’t seem like there is an area where opponents have had an advantage against the Kentucky defense.
That’s why the Carolina offense is going to have to be versatile, both in terms of play calling and in terms of formations. To win, the Cocks need Rico, AJ, and anyone else that gets a carry to be threatening enough to force Kentucky to think twice before blitzing, thus giving Jake Bentley time to stay on his feet and complete passes. They also need Bentley to be accurate enough to make Kentucky respect the passing game and drop one more defender back into coverage, giving the running backs an advantage against a really aggressive line.
I think this ends up being a game where both teams are in the endzone more than the opposing defensive coordinator is comfortable with, but neither team is really able to pull away. I’ll say Carolina wins 30-28.
Sydney: It’s just super weird to see a team like the Wildcats have the Gamecocks’ number: from that shootout loss in 2014 to last year, which was a bit of a slog. This year turns out to be the best Kentucky team they’ve faced in years - led, of course, y Benny Snell on offense and Josh Allen on defense - but I wonder how they’ll hold up now that they’re getting into the meat of the SEC schedule.
Fortunately, the rushing defense, outside of getting gashed by Georgia, has done well, holding Vandy to under 100 yards on 33 carries. How will it adjust to a much more viable threat out of the backfield in Snell? If he gets going, it’s going to be a long day for the Gamecocks, which is what I fear is going to happen on Saturday. 31-20 Wildcats.
Katie: I am really tired of seeing South Carolina lose to Kentucky in football, so this should absolutely be the year the Gamecocks put an end to that streak. Y’all already know I’m predicting a win because that’s just what I do, but I hardly think this is going to be an easy game (and it’s debatable whether it will even be enjoyable). The offense alternated between clicking on all (most?) cylinders last weekend and then forgetting how to hold onto the ball, so they’re going to need to make sure that doesn’t happen again on Saturday. The defense will obviously have to contain Benny Snell, so it’ll be helpful if the offense can make sure the defense has time to rest and doesn’t have to spend the entire game on the field. I’m going to call this one a close victory for USC, but I’m getting the puppy gifs ready for twitter just in case.