USA Today/Jim Dedmon

Previewing the Kentucky Wildcats' SEC East matchup with the South Carolina Gamecocks

Everything you need to know about Kentucky's matchup with South Carolina on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium. The Wildcats are seeking their third consecutive win over the Gamecocks, who bring a stout defense to Lexington directed by new head coach Will Muschamp.

KENTUCKY vs. SOUTH CAROLINA

WHEN: SATURDAY, SEPT. 24, 7:30 ET

WHERE: COMMONWEALTH STADIUM (61,000) LEXINGTON, KY

TV: SEC NETWORK

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KENTUCKY WILDCATS

Record: 1-2 (0-1 SEC)

Ranking: Not ranked

Head Coach: Mark Stoops (Iowa 1989) 4th Year Overall, 4th Year at UK (13-26, 2-1 vs South Carolina)

Last Game: Won 62-42 vs New Mexico State on Sept. 17 in Lexington, KY

SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS

Record: 2-1 (1-1 SEC)

Ranking: Not ranked

Head Coach: Will Muschamp (Georgia 1994) 5th Year Overall (4-0 vs UK), 1st Year at SC

Last Game: Won 20-15 vs East Carolina on Sept. 17 in Columbia, SC

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Series Record: South Carolina leads 17-9-1

In Lexington: South Carolina leads 9-5

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BIG BLUE KEYS TO THE GAME:

When Kentucky has the ball… The Wildcats will be seeking to build on the momentum they started last week with a historic performance against New Mexico State. UK is coming off the first game in school history in which the offense has produced 300-plus yards in both the passing and rushing game. It will also be a chance for junior quarterback Stephen Johnson II to show that he was no fluke (310 passing, 51 rushing, 3 TD passes, 0 INT) last week in relief of injured starter Drew Barker. He'll have to do it against a much better defense, however, as South Carolina enters the matchup allowing only 17.3 points per game. The Gamecocks were extremely opportunistic last week in a 20-15 win over East Carolina, intercepting two passes in the end zone and blocking a field goal to overcome a 500-yard day for the Pirates. Senior linebacker T.J. Holloman (No. 11, 6-2, 230) leads SC with 21 tackles, while junior safety D.J. Smith (No. 24, 5-11, 195) has 19 stops on the season. One big key for Kentucky is pass protection for Johnson. The Gamecocks have only five sacks this season, so if they're getting early pressure on the Cats, that's a bad sign.

When South Carolina has the ball…  It will be the "Something Has To Give" portion of the game. South Carolina enters the matchup as one of the worst offensive units in the country -- 120th nationally in scoring offense (15.7 ppg) and 123rd in total offense (287.7 ypg); Kentucky enters as one of the worst defensive units in the country -- 122nd in both scoring defense (43.7 pgg) and total defense (528.0 ypg). Once again, the Cats must deal with a dual-threat quarterback in the form of freshman Brandon McIlwain (No. 11, 6-0, 205), who posted 195 yards passing to go along with 43 yards and a pair of rushing touchdowns in the win over ECU. Kentucky has yet to solve the puzzle when it comes to this type of quarterback, so it's a big concern for D.J. Eliot's unit. South Carolina's ground attack has yet to get rolling, averaging only 3.1 yards per carry. Sophomore Deebo Samuel (No. 1,6-0, 205) is the Gamecocks' most talented receiver, but has been slowed by a nagging hamstring injury early in the season. He could be a fun matchup with UK's talented corners, Chris Westry and Derrick Baity. If it's as close a game as expected (Vegas favors UK by 2) it could come down to special teams, and South Carolina features one of the best kickers in the nation in senior Elliot Fry, who has converted 75 percent of his career field goal attempts, including a 55-yarder in the Gamecocks' season-opening win over Vanderbilt. 

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MILESTONE WATCH:

Junior wide receiver Garrett Johnson has 1,139 career receiving yards and needs 61 on Saturday to tie Stevie Johnson for 21st on UK's all-time list. ... Junior running back Boom Williams needs just five more rushing yards to tie Ivy Joe Hunter for 13th on UK's all-time list.

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ON THIS DAY IN UK HISTORY:

Kentucky defeated West Virginia 28-13 on this date in 1977, the first in a nine-game winning streak that included victories over Penn State, LSU, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee. The Wildcats went on to post a 10-1 record and would have captured a share of their second consecutive SEC championship, but had accepted a year of probation stemming from the previous season. UK would have served that penalty by sitting out the 1976 Peach Bowl, but instead appealed the ruling into 1977 when the Cats arguably had their best team in program history and a shot at the Sugar Bowl. 

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NOTES:

  • Kentucky has three players on its roster from the Palmetto State: wide receiver Blake Bone (Woodruff), wide receiver Tavin Richardson (Greer) and defensive tackle Naquez Pringle (Georgetown). 
  • South Carolina co-offensive coordinator Kurt Roper was the quarterbacks coach at UK under Rich Brooks in 2005.
  • UK running back Boom Williams is the third-quickest player to 1,500 career rushing yards in school history. Only Sonny Collins (18 games) and Moe Williams (19) did it sooner.
  • The Cats' Jeff Badet leads the nation in yards per reception at 34.3.
  • South Carolina quarterback Brandon McIlwain was projected as the No. 16 overall prospect in the 2016 MLB Draft before signing with the Gamecocks.
  • Kentucky will be inducting former head coach Rich Brooks and former linebacker Wesley Woodyard among four others into the UK Athletics Hall of Fame this weekend. They will be honored at the game.


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