I'm taking a big risk by saying what I'm about to say.
There's a distinct possibility that I could be banned from the South Carolina Gamecocks page forever and be subsequently forced to write about Canadian arm-wrestling over on the little-known sister site, BleacherReport4.com.
But I'm going to say it anyway.
Of all the teams in the SEC who routinely play my beloved Gamecocks in football, I find the Kentucky Wildcats to be the least offensive.
No, I'm not a closet Kentucky fan. No, I don't like basketball more than football. Yes, I do remember the soul-crushing loss South Carolina suffered last season at the hands of the Wildcats (actually, the hands belonged to Kentucky WR-turned-Green Bay Packer Randall Cobb) in the last 70 seconds of the game.
And yes, even though I do occasionally enjoy Kentucky Fried Chicken and the work of Hunter S. Thompson (both Kentucky-born products that aren't for everybody), I do so only with a faint sense of guilt, fear and loathing.
I've never really been able to pinpoint why I feel this way about Kentucky. It could be because until 2010, South Carolina had whipped them every year in football since 1999. This includes a spectacular, nationally-televised Thursday night game in early October of 2007 when the Gamecocks unapologetically shanked a scrappy, eighth-ranked Kentucky team on a rainy fall night at Williams-Brice.
As a Carolina fan, which SEC East team do you least despise?
Or it could be that Kentucky is one of those programs that deep down you know doesn't really need football.
Let me give you an example. I've never been able to figure out people who think it's okay to make fun of Stephen Hawking, a man with a debilitating disease that makes it nearly impossible for him to do the sorts of things we all take for granted everyday. But I guess it has something to do with the fact that he's probably the smartest guy on earth and he has a really hot wife. So at least on some level, you sort of feel like God made it up to him.
And I think that's basically how I feel about the Kentucky Wildcats. They probably wouldn't win another national championship in football if we're still playing the game 600 years from now, but that's okay because they have like 50 national championships in basketball. Everyone's happy.
On the other hand, there are programs in the SEC who you know really, really need football.
Alabama? They need it, if only to satiate the vengeful ghost of Bear Bryant.
Tennessee? They need it because they're usually only so-so in basketball, plus it makes up for having to live in (or even be associated with) Knoxville.
LSU? Yep, they definitely need football. What else do they have?
I do think South Carolina is going to beat Kentucky this year, but it could well be a lot closer than any of us would like to admit.
The loss of QB Mike Hartline to the Indianapolis Colts hurts the Wildcats offensively, as does the loss of WRs Randall Cobb and Chris Matthews. There are good vibes coming out of Lexington concerning junior QB Morgan Newton, however, who has taken quite a few snaps at the college level over the last two seasons. Kentucky fans are also pretty high right now on head coach Joker Phillips, who produced decidedly mixed results in his first year on the job.
Again, as far as athleticism, talent and skill are concerned, South Carolina should have this game wrapped up tight. After all, when you throw in excellent coaching--which the Gamecocks undoubtedly have--you've got around 90 percent of what it takes to win.
But after beating the No. 1 team in the country last year, only to turn right around and lose to the Kentucky Wildcats...
Well, let's just say it's that other 10 percent I'm worried about.
South Carolina 24, Kentucky 17
Next Wednesday's Preview: Week 7 — Saturday, October 15th at Mississippi State (TBD)