South Carolina vs. Kentucky: Gamecocks Cannot Become Complacent Against Wildcats

William RenkenCorrespondent IIISeptember 23, 2012

COLUMBIA, SC - SEPTEMBER 22:  Ace Sanders #1 of the South Carolina Gamecocks breaks away from the Missouri Tigers defense for a long gain during play at Williams-Brice Stadium on September 22, 2012 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

This past Saturday gave South Carolina fans plenty to celebrate in their team's convincing victory over Missouri, and also plenty to potentially celebrate about against next week's opponent, Kentucky.

After all, Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks scored over 30 points for the third game in a row and kept their opponent to 10 points or fewer for the third game in a row as well.

The Wildcats, on the other hand, continue their struggles after being shut out by Florida 38-0 on Saturday, dropping to 1-3 on the year and 0-1 in the SEC. Quarterback Morgan Newton was in the spotlight of the Wildcats' loss for his woeful and struggling performance that saw him garner a -49 passer rating in the first half of their game against the Gators.

The "Join the Conversation" section for the South Carolina-Kentucky game is already full of jokes on the ESPN College Football site. Everyone is calling for the Gamecocks to hang at least 40 on the Wildcats and for Kentucky fans to start looking forward to basketball season.

And therein lies a cautionary tale 12 years in the making.

But why? Hasn't South Carolina dominated Kentucky over the last 12 years?

Yes they have.

In fact, out of those 12 meetings since 2000, the Gamecocks have won 11 of those matchups, including the 54-3 thrashing they gave the Wildcats last year.

But when you look more closely at the series over the last decade, nine of those 12 games (including the Gamecocks' 31-28 loss two years ago) have been decided by seven points or fewer.

What it means is that Kentucky always plays South Carolina tough, even if they've come out on the losing end more times than not. It also goes to show South Carolina's habit of letting weaker teams they should take care of stay in contention.

So far this season, the Gamecocks have kept teams like East Carolina, UAB and Missouri out of reach once the game was in hand, and there is no reason to think any different with Kentucky next week.

But with South Carolina's big matchup with Georgia coming the week after, which will give the victor prime position in the battle for the SEC East, the Gamecocks can ill afford to play at half speed against Kentucky and risk dropping an SEC game they should win comfortably if they play at full speed for 60 minutes.

Let's also face facts: Newton will play better (if he's still the starter for the South Carolina game) than he did against Florida. He should, at least, after being the butt of numerous jokes on Twitter and sports shows.

As for Kentucky, they might be ranked No. 43 in passing and No. 99 in rushing, but as history has shown, none of that matters against the Gamecocks.

The close games have favored South Carolina against Kentucky over the last decade.

But it doesn't mean they need to let them in the barn next week in Lexington.