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South Carolina vs. Kentucky: Keys and a pick

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The big day is finally here.

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Before every Gamecocks game, I’ll dive into the matchup and give you my thoughts on what South Carolina needs to do to win. I’ll also pick the game’s winner and the score. This week, the Gamecocks look to go 3-0 on the season - 2-0 in the SEC - as they welcome Kentucky to Williams-Brice Stadium for their home opener.

The keys

Bend, don’t break. South Carolina’s defense has allowed 927 yards of offense in their first two games. While that’s certainly an eyebrow raiser, the good news is that in the end, they’ve outscored the other team, which is the most important stat to look at. While keeping Kentucky’s offense from accumulating chunks of yardage is important, the Gamecocks need to be careful that it doesn’t turn into points. The Wildcats will be entering the game having put up 436 yards against FCS Eastern Kentucky last week; against the only FBS defense they’ve faced thus far (Southern Miss), they were held to just 254. We’ll see what happens in this setting.

Contain the running game. Benny Snell will be interesting to keep an eye on as he had to leave the EKU game after suffering a rib injury. Mark Stoops said that it was a bruise that Snell suffered; however, the sophomore should be available for the Cats this evening. Kentucky managed just 78 yards against Southern Miss in the season opener before putting up 207 against EKU last week (courtesy of Snell - 13 for 103 - and Stephen Johnson - 6 for 48), and you know they’ll be looking to break out a big game on the ground tonight.

Don’t let the moment get too big. Williams-Brice will be rocking on Saturday night with a sellout crowd showing up for not just the home opener, but for a 2-0 team looking for a chance to pick up their second SEC win in as many tries. It’s easy in that situation for a team to get too “hyped up” that they lose focus on the game itself. I’m confident this team will be able to harness their adrenaline and maintain a consistent performance throughout the game, but that’s just something to be mindful of.

The Pick

As I said in our staff prediction piece, I picked the Gamecocks to lose both their games thus far. This week is different: I’m picking them to win. 31-21 South Carolina as they break the losing streak against the team in blue.