This Saturday’s game against Kentucky presents a great opportunity for a young Gamecocks squad looking to win its fourth game in a row.
But a loss in this game at home would be devastating—especially when looking ahead toward the rest of the schedule.
And so the Gamecocks find themselves at somewhat of a crossroads this weekend.
In what might be called “Buyer Beware Day” at Williams-Brice Stadium, Gamecock fans may want to look through the history section of a media guide before they drink too heavily from the South Carolina Kool-Aid.
Because I come with sobering news, fellow droogs: A heavy dose of reality will descend upon Columbia come Saturday afternoon, when Carolina will unfortunately lose a home game to Kentucky.
How soon we forget that just three days ago the Gamecocks held a slim 10-7 halftime lead over outmatched South Carolina State. And before that, a 17-16 halftime lead over Florida Atlantic.
Before I’m called a Benedict Arnold, though, let me outline the reasons I’m predicting the Wildcats to upset South Carolina.
1.) Trevard Lindley
The Wildcats' senior cornerback is arguably the best corner in a conference full of talented athletes. And while the rest of his secondary didn’t get much hype heading into the season, the group has fared well so far.
Kentucky is always solid against the pass, and the team's numbers should get even better now that Florida and Alabama are off the schedule.
Look for Lindley to come up big this weekend.
As for South Carolina’s secondary, let’s move on to number two.
2.) Akeem Auguste
Auguste is one of the Gamecocks’ starting cornerbacks, but due to some stupidity by the young man, he is currently serving a three-game suspension.
Auguste would never be considered the team’s MVP, but his absence hurts Carolina in four ways.
First, an experienced starter is gone and replaced by CC Whitlock, a guy who came in with promise but has not panned out quite yet. In turn, this affects the defense’s depth even more. The unit has already been obliterated by injuries—and on top of that, true freshmen are being asked to play serious minutes.
But Auguste has also been the Gamecocks’ main punt returner—and an effective one at that. He has not committed a turnover, and while he hasn’t broken a score yet, his returns are always solid.
Finally, August brings a swagger to the secondary (which may be interpreted as arrogance, especially in light of his suspension), and his energy has played a role in Stephon Gilmore’s success. His head-bobbing and constant jawing will be missed by his teammates.
3.) Randall Cobb
Other than the Florida game, Kentucky WR Randall Cobb has sizzled this season. And given that he will be lining up against an inexperienced group of corners, look for him to post another great game.
As a side note, if you haven’t seen Mike Hartline’s perfect 45-yard bomb to Cobb—on Javier Arenas, one of the best corners in the SEC—please punch yourself in both thighs. It was one of the best plays of the young season.
Couple Cobb’s playmaking with the running tandem of Derrick Locke and Alphonso Smith, two experienced backs, and Kentucky will have the firepower needed for a W.
4.) Lucky Bounces
The fact is, South Carolina has been uncharacteristically fortunate in recent games against the Wildcats—and especially last year.
Like it or not, karma has a way of evening itself out.
5.) Kentucky is due
It seems like Kentucky has a losing streak to every team in the SEC, and even South Carolina has gotten in on the fun, having posted nine straight wins over the Wildcats. Despite that, however, this series has become a nice little rivalry in recent years, with close and exciting games to boot.
As for this year, Kentucky just got finished getting pasted by Florida and Alabama, the two premier teams in the conference. But while the Wildcats were out of the Florida game before it started, they gave the Tide quite a bit of trouble.
The final score didn’t show it, but the box score was about even. You simply can’t win an SEC game when you turn the ball over four times. Needless to say, Kentucky made a lot of Alabama fans nervous last Saturday—and I would say they are going to make Carolina fans sick this coming weekend.
Game Prediction: Kentucky 24, South Carolina 17