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South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Kentucky Wildcats: Keys to the game and prediction

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What's required for a home opener victory you ask? I'll tell ya.

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Here's some tips for the Gamecocks to redeem themselves of last year's 4th quarter collapse in Lexington:

Three Keys to Victory

3. Find an offensive identity. Whether it's a few sure fire passing plays or run plays, in the words of quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus, "Come hell or high water," the Gamecocks offense needs, "to have something to hang your hat on." While Connor Mitch and the receivers put on an underwhelming display throwing the ball last week, I expect the running backs to be featured a little more, early in Saturday's game. The Gamecocks allotted over 100 yards on the ground in the 4th against UNC. Look for the backs to ride that momentum in the first half against UK. This isn't to say Mitch and the pass catchers won't have any success; I think they'll look much improved after more than a week of practice, but I just think the running game is further along to provide those key yards when needed. As of now running the ball is South Carolina's offensive identity, it's just a matter of proving that against an SEC defense.

2. Slow down Kentucky's offense. As proven on Kentucky's first play from scrimmage in 2015, they know how to reach the end zone, and in all likelihood, will put up more than 13 points. Sure, they put up 40 against a weaker foe not from the Power 5, but those 40 give Kentucky's players the mindset that they expect to score points. I think we'll see a very similar performance from USC's defense as we saw last week, implementing that bend, but don't break style. Therefore, it's imperative to make plays or force mistakes from Kentucky's offense in the red zone, and to not get discouraged after a big play here or there. South Carolina didn't see Kentucky playmaker, running back Boom Williams last year. Slow him down, and you slow down Kentucky.

1. Find Pharoh. The Gamecocks coaches did all they could to get Pharoh Cooper involved last week once they realized it wasn't going to happen through the air, but seven touches on offense isn't enough for the Gamecocks biggest play making threat. Whether it's screens or short slants, Connor Mitch and the coaches need to get Cooper involved, and early. All eyes in Kentucky's secondary will be on Pharoh from the start, and the more he can prove himself as a threat, the more passing lanes open for other guys, like Deebo Samuel and Jerrell Adams. I'm optimistic for a big game from both the Gamecocks offense and from Cooper. 200+ all purpose yards and 2+ TD's from the much-hyped Cooper should please the masses at Williams-Brice.

Prediction

As the HBC stated Tuesday, blow-outs are just not in the Gamecocks DNA. Don't expect anything different Saturday night. Sure, Kentucky may believe they have South Carolina's number after last year, but this Gamecocks team, especially defensively, is out to prove 2014 was merely a fluke. Look for a tightly contested game into the fourth, where the Gamecocks finish like they know how to best; taking a lead and sustaining a drive to kill the clock. The Gamecocks win 31-24.

Quotes courtesy of The State Newspaper.