Storylines: South Carolina vs. Kentucky

After beating the #1 team in the country last weekend, one might hope South Carolina would be able to rest up and enjoy their victory after an extremely hard fought home win. But life in the SEC is another story, as this week the Gamecocks travel to Lexington, Kentucky, to take on a hungry and desperate Wildcat team.

The Gamecocks enter the game with a 4-1 record, and will live on the road for the next two weeks as they face Kentucky followed by a date with Vanderbilt in Nashville the following weekend. However, there are plenty of storylines for this game as USC looks to avoid a letdown after beating Alabama and continue their momentum through a fierce SEC schedule.

Gamecocks looking for maturity after Bama win

Anyone that was in Williams-Brice Stadium last Saturday not only saw the biggest win in program history; they saw Steve Spurrier finally reap the rewards of all of his hard work over the past six years. But the Head Ball Coach and Gamecock fans alike have seen big wins early in the season only to be followed by disappointment down the stretch. This USC team will be looking to show the maturity of a championship caliber team starting this weekend in Lexington.

"We're going to find out when we play Kentucky if it's mature," said Spurrier. "Every team always says that. ‘Yeah, we're not gonna talk about it…' We're going to find out. That's all you can do is say we'll find out. So, I don't know, I don't know how we're going to react. We hope that we go up there ready to play Kentucky, because we know that they're certainly, certainly very capable of beating us. So, we're going to try our best as coaches and see if our players can get ready to play, and see if we are a mature team. We'll find out."

Deep and talented Kentucky offense will test USC defense

If the South Carolina coaches were looking for an example of just how potent the Kentucky Wildcat offense is, they need go no further than put in the tape of last week's game against Auburn, when the Wildcat offense went off in the second half and finished just short in a 37-34 loss. The ‘Cats stormed back from a 31-17 halftime deficit to tie the game at 31 and 34 before a late Auburn drive put them away.

Quarterback Mike Hartline and "do everything" player Randall Cobb were instrumental for the Kentucky offense in the impressive showing. Hartline finished the game 23-28 for 220 yards and a touchdown, looking every bit like the dangerous quarterback he has always been regarded as.

Cobb was once again a nightmare for an opposing defense, as he finished with 57 rushing yards, a completion for a touchdown, and seven receptions for 68 yards and another TD. Cobb gashed Auburn for 201 total yards, and accounted for an astounding four total touchdowns.

"Well, I don't watch a lot of their offense," said Coach Spurrier in describing the Kentucky attack. "Coach Johnson and the rest of the defensive coaches do most of that but (Hartline's) statistics are very good. He's thrown for a lot of yards and touchdowns and everything else. They've got a very good offense. Derrick Locke I think may be hurt they said. He's not 100 percent sure he's out but they've got a lot of good players there at Kentucky and we probably need to stay on the field offensively. We need some of those seven-minute drives if we can."

Derrick Locke is still listed at doubtful for the game this weekend but is not expected to be available. Even without Locke, Ellis Johnson and company will have a tall task in containing the number four offense in the SEC.

Linebackers stepping in, stepping up

With linebacker Shaq Wilson getting shut down after the Auburn game for the season, questions continued to linger over how the Gamecock linebacking corps would respond to losing their leader for the duration of the 2010 season.

Although it has only been one game, the performance against the Crimson Tide certainly seems to lend credence to the idea that USC's defense will have the personnel to step up in Wilson's absence.

"Yeah Josh Dickerson has played pretty well, played very well in there," added Spurrier. "Coach Johnson was very pleased with the way he played this last game and our D-linemen, Devin Taylor, Travian (Robertson), Ladi (Ajiboye). Those guys have played very solidly this year. Linebacker-wise, Josh and Tony Straughter, gosh they've played about all of it and Rodney (Paulk) comes in there. He's doing pretty well. His knee is still not quite what it used to be but Rodney has played well also."

Kentucky was able to hurt the Auburn defense with a variety of screens and short passes, and will look to continue exploiting an extremely athletic South Carolina defense underneath. USC's linebackers will have to step up once again if they hope to contain Hartline, Cobb, and company enough to get a big road win.

Running game looks to grind it out, control the clock

One of the big keys to the game against Alabama was getting Marcus Lattimore going on the ground, while at the same time stopping the two headed threat of Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram. The Gamecocks successfully accomplished that mission, and despite the fact the UK running game will not be at full strength, USC will still try to keep Cobb and his teammates on the sideline by grinding out some long drives.

"We still can block a lot better," said Spurrier. "I was telling somebody earlier, Marcus Lattimore's yards per rush is not extremely high, because he has to run against about nine, ten guys up there late in the game when we're trying to run out the clock. It was tough with, well they had nine guys right around the line of scrimmage. But that's obviously what we needed to do to win the game was just keep running him and go from there. But, anyway, we can block better, and we need to block better this week if we're going to have a chance to beat Kentucky. If we're going to beat these guys, our line has got to play well."

Although Lattimore was held just under 100 yards against the Crimson Tide defense, Kentucky comes into the game ranked dead last against the run. Lattimore will have his chances, and will have to convert as much as possible to keep the ‘Cats offense at bay.

Gamecocks getting respect, Spurrier brushing it off

Anytime a team upsets the #1 team in the country, there is going to be attention focused on the victor. But for a team already in the national rankings and on the cusp of a massive season, that attention has grown exponentially since the defeat of Alabama.

"Obviously, getting national exposure is neat for our program," said Spurrier. "But we've got to put it aside and get ready to play, so I think that's what we're doing – that's what we're trying to do. We haven't won enough to be considered anything yet. We won one really good game where good fortune smiled on us, a lot of good fortune smiled on us. Don't want to get into all the details of it but we had a lot of good fortune and we're moving on to try and beat Kentucky. That's the only thing we need to worry about. But we're in pretty good shape right now, played Auburn, Alabama, and Georgia and win two out of three of those is pretty good for us. So we're not complaining but we also realize that the whole season is still out there. We're not even halfway through the conference schedule. We've played three of eight so we've got five big conference games and the biggest one coming up this week."

If the Gamecocks should go to Lexington and defeat the Wildcats of Kentucky, the attention will only continue to grow. As programs win, attention grows not only locally, but on a national scale. For Spurrier however, the end of the year will be the only time to focus a lot of attention on his team, and only if they've earned it.

"Yeah, that's part of it," said Spurrier. "That's part of it. But if you notice, I didn't do any of (those interviews). I've just watched too many guys when it happens you do all of those something bad usually happens to you. I don't want to take that chance. I'll be available at the end of the season, that's what I told all those guys, all that they want. They may not want to see me. But anyway, that's just the way I look at those things. Sometimes too much attention affects everybody. We don't have a great team here, don't think we have a great team. We've got a pretty good team that has a chance if we can continue to get better. So we're going to try and do that and see what happens."

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