South Carolina Football: Slim Win Still Sets Up Monster Showdown vs. Georgia

Michael FelderNational CFB Lead WriterSeptember 29, 2012

LEXINGTON, KY - SEPTEMBER 29: Marcus Lattimore #21 of the South Carolina Gamecocks is tackled by Avery Williamson #40 of the Kentucky Wildcats at Commonwealth Stadium on September 29, 2012 in Lexington, Kentucky.    (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
John Sommers II/Getty Images

For the South Carolina Gamecocks the game against Kentucky started slow, but in the end Spurrier's team was able to stay on the right track and setup the big SEC East showdown against Georgia in Columbia.

As the Georgia game in Athens ended, with the Bulldogs winning a wild contest against a dangerous Tennessee team, South Carolina kicked off in sleepy Commonwealth Stadium and found themselves with its hands full.

Kentucky freshman quarterback Jalen Whitlow was forced into action after starter Maxwell Smith left the game after being sacked on the second play from scrimmage. Whitlow, a shifty kid from Prattville, Alabama came in and inspired the Kentucky offense.

The Wildcats outmuscled, outworked and ultimately caught the Gamecocks out of sorts for the entire first half, taking a 17-7 lead into the locker room.

As the Gamecocks offense struggled, it was their defense that had the real issues early. They could not tackle, they could not get to the quarterback and Kentucky took advantage of the confused unit (and some lucky bounces) to build a 10-point lead. 

Then, halftime happened. South Carolina regrouped, and as anyone who knows football understands, the cut playbook for the freshman would finally catch up with Kentucky. In the second half the Gamecocks defense was dominate. They put Whitlow in the dirt, shut down the running game and were the force that one expects a top-20 defense to be.

On the other side of the ball, Connor Shaw and the offense got serious about scoring. They shoved the ball down Kentucky's throat and piled up rushing yards against an overmatched Wildcats defense. Marcus Lattimore seems to be back to his old self and, in closing the game out 38-17, the Gamecocks looked worthy of their Top-10 ranking.

What we're setup for now is a Top-10 showdown at Williams-Brice Stadium next Saturday.

Georgia, a team that played sloppy at times against Tennessee, heads to Columbia looking to avenge its loss from a season ago. South Carolina looks to start faster than they have the last couple weeks and beat the Bulldogs.

Heading into this week, look for the Gamecocks to shore up their rush defense. While Aaron Murray will not be the threat that Whitlow was, the Bulldogs offensive line is coming together and both Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall are formidable running backs to deal with. We know South Carolina can get to the quarterback and pressuring Aaron Murray in passing situations is going to be a must.

On the other side of the ball, the Gamecocks will not be able to take advantage of Georgia the way Tyler Bray and Tennessee were able to through the air. However, with Marcus Lattimore the Gamecocks do have a legitimate run game that will draw Georgia's attention and force the safeties and linebackers to think run first. Connor Shaw will have opportunities to hit his spots, but he'll have to be smart with the football against a talented Dawgs secondary.

The week leading up to this contest should be interesting; both teams need this contest if they want to represent the SEC East in Atlanta come December. Each team has played some solid contests, winning both defensive struggles and high-scoring games.

It should be a slugfest, both squads want to establish their physical dominance. With both teams winning today, what we're staring at is a ball game that will likely knock one team out of the Top 10.