South Carolina–Kentucky: Upset Alert in Lexington? Don't Bet On It
Ah. When I thought about writing my article previewing the USC–Kentucky game, I couldn't help but think back to my article on the 2007 game.
Kentucky was undefeated, ranked in the Top Five, and many "experts" considered Kentucky QB Andre Woodson a Heisman candidate.
I wrote an article summing up Kentucky in one word: overrated, and I caught hell from just about every Wildcat fan that ever lived.
Carolina went on to "upset" the Wildcats, led by an amazing performance by former Gamecock great and current Carolina Panther, Eric Norwood. See, sometimes I know what I'm talking about. Sometimes.
Things have reversed for the 2010 version of this matchup. USC is ranked in the Top 10, is coming off a huge upset win over No.1 ranked Alabama, and have a couple of darkhorse Heisman candidates of their own in Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery.
Speaking of that Alabama game win, a huge obstacle for Carolina this week is to ensure the players have put that win behind them and are focused solely on the Kentucky game.
DT Travian Robertson addressed that with reporters after practice Monday.
"Everybody knows we have to put the Alabama game behind us.We have something special going on right now. If anybody on our team had that attitude, we'll have to get them out of it. We'll see it on the practice field."
Hopefully for the Gamecocks' sake, the leaders of the team will take care of any issue like this that may arise during the week leading up to the Kentucky game.
With that considered, you may be asking yourself, "Why isn't South Carolina on upset alert in Lexington?" Well let me answer that for you.
South Carolina has not lost to Kentucky in 10 years. Some people say there are no sure things in life, but for the last 10 years, Kentucky losing to South Carolina has been a sure thing.
The average score during Steve Spurrier's tenure is USC 32, Kentucky 20. The closest contest coming last year, when Carolina staved off a late rally by Kentucky to hold onto their 10th straight victory over the Wildcats.
Many of you are probably asking "what does the series history have to do with this year's game?" I think the fact that Kentucky hasn't beaten South Carolina in 10 years hangs over the football program and fan base.
The first step to being successful in any task you undertake is to believe that you have the ability to accomplish what you set out to do. Before the Wildcats have a shot in this series, they have to believe they can win.
But of course, believing isn't everything. You have to have the coaching to create an affective gameplan and the talent to go execute that gameplan.
So the main reason South Carolina isn't on upset alert is due to there supremacy at almost every position.
Let's start at the field general position. The quarterbacks. Kentucky QB Mike Hartline is arguably having his best season in a Wildcat uniform.
Unfortunately for Kentucky, Gamecock QB Stephen Garcia is doing the same.
Statistically, the edge goes to Hartline, who has thrown for about 500 yards and one touchdown more than Garcia.
But as we all now, stats can be misleading.
Hartline has attempted 87 more passes than Garcia, due mostly to Kentucky having to play from behind and pass, while Carolina has led and attempted to run out the clock.
Garcia has completed 72 percent of his passes to Hartline's 66 percent.
There are also many other factors that affect the stats such as the quality of opponents each team plays. Luckily for this comparison, Kentucky and South Carolina share a common opponent in Auburn, and both had similarly close games against the Tigers.
Garcia threw for 235 yards and three TD versus Auburn, while Hartline threw for 220 yards and one TD against the Tigers.
Overall, Garcia is clearly the more talented quarterback and if he continues to play like he did for three quarters against Auburn and the entire Alabama game, he will be tough to stop.
Advantage Stephen Garcia.
Next up is the running back position. Both teams have a workhorse in the backfield in Kentucky's Derrick Locke and South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore.
On the season, Locke holds the statistical advantage having rushed for 120 yards and one YPC (yard per carry) more than Lattimore.
Marcus Lattimore holds the advantage in TD with eight to Locke's seven.
Again, using the common opponent comparison, Locke touched the ball 10 times against Auburn for 78 yards, while Lattimore touched the ball 17 times for 61 yards and one TD.
Advantage Derrick Locke...on the season.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, it was reported Monday that Locke is doubtful for this Saturday's contest against Carolina.
If Locke can't go, it's a huge plus for the Gamecocks.
Advantage Marcus Lattimore...for this game.
The wide receiver position is where both team's biggest playmakers reside, but for different reasons.
Carolina's Alshon Jeffery is the SEC's leading receiver and poses a huge threat down the field for any defense. Jeffery has over 100 receiving yards in every game this year except one.
In his last two outings, Jeffery has averaged 160 yards and two TD..
The Wildcats have a playmaker of their own in do–everything Randall Cobb. Cobb is fifth in the SEC in receiving, but makes an even bigger impact for the Wildcats out of the QB/wildcat/returner positions.
If RB Derrick Locke is unable to play, I would think the Wildcats would utilize the wildcat formation with Randall Cobb behind center quite a bit.
Fortunately for Carolina, the Gamecock defense was able to shut down Alabama's wildcat attempts. They would need another performance like that to stop Cobb.
In Kentucky's favor, Cobb is also a threat to throw the ball, something Mark Ingram did not attempt against Carolina.
Advantage Alshon Jeffery as a pure receiver
Advantage Randall Cobb as a do–everything athlete.
So for those keeping count, that is USC 2 and Kentucky 0, with the WR position a push.
The big advantage in this game for Carolina is their defense. The Gamecock defense virtually shut down the nation's best rushing attack last week week against Alabama.
Kentucky has surrendered roughly 30 points a game this year, which puts them at 11th in the SEC and 91 nationally out of 120 teams.
South Carolina has surrendered about 19 points a game, good enough for fifth in the SEC and 29th nationally.
Using the same comparison as before. Auburn scored 37 points against Kentucky and only 35 against South Carolina. They also gained 521 yards against the Wildcats to 492 yards against South Carolina.
Some of you may say that comparing Kentucky's performance against Auburn to South Carolina's performance against Auburn isn't fair. Unfortunately, it is all we really have to fairly compare.
But I would agree it is a little unfair. Kentucky was playing at home and South Carolina was playing on the road at Jordan–Hare Stadium.
Do you think Kentucky would have fared better or worse if they were playing at Auburn?
I think a lot worse.
Auburn had UL-Monroe the week after Carolina, and have Arkansas this week following the Kentucky game. Were the Tigers overlooking Kentucky for the big game against Arkansas?
Luckily for USC, the Gamecocks have Vanderbilt after Kentucky...not much to overlook the Wildcats for.
What it all boils down to is the simple fact that USC has better athletes on both sides of the ball, and better coaching from the sidelines than Kentucky.
Offensively, the Gamecocks will be too much for Kentucky. No one has proven they can cover WR Alshon Jeffery this year, and I don't think that will change this week.
Keep in mind last year was Jeffery's breaking out game as he had seven receptions for 138 yards and three TD.
Also in Carolina's favor is Kentucky's SEC worst and 97th nationally rated rushing defense. I'm sure Steve Spurrier and Run Game Coordinator/O–Line coach Shawn Elliott know this, and plan to again unleash Freshman RB Marcus Lattimore on the opposing defense.
Can South Carolina put together another performance like the one against Alabama?
A performance of that magnitude won't be needed to beat Kentucky, but Carolina is still not to the point where they can just show up and win.
The Gamecocks have to get over the big win against Alabama and get ready for Kentucky. If they don't, and the Gamecock team that played Furman shows up, the Wildcats have a shot at the upset.
How likely is that too happen?
I'm not willing to bet on it. Look for the Gamecocks to roll into Lexington and put a hurtin' on the Wildcats.
South Carolina 45, Kentucky 23
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