What To Watch For: Kentucky

GamecockAnthem takes a weekly look at a few things to watch for in the upcoming game. This week's edition focuses on the Kentucky Wildcats as the Gamecocks hope to repeat last year's 54-3 victory this weekend.

South Carolina and Kentucky are facing each other for the 24th time in series history dating back to 1937. The Gamecocks hold the all-time series lead with a 15-7-1 record over the Wildcats. South Carolina and Kentucky played just three times before the Gamecocks joined the SEC in 1992. The Gamecocks had defeated the Wildcats in 10 straight contests before Kentucky upset the Gamecocks in 2010 with a 31-28 victory over a then-ranked No.10 South Carolina squad.

The Gamecocks are on a roll right now winning four straight games to open the season and are winners of eight in a row dating back to last season. Kentucky, on the other hand, is struggling to start the season with a 1-3 record. They were shutout last week at the hands of the Florida Gators by a score of 38-0.

This looks like a mismatch on paper with the Gamecocks heavily favored by 21 points for this Saturday's game. The Wildcats could return quarterback Maxwell Smith to the lineup. Smith's presence certainly gives the Wildcats some extra firepower in a struggling offense. Is it enough to compete with the Gamecocks? We'll see.

With that in mind, let's take a look at What To Watch For this weekend against the Kentucky Wildcats.

Can South Carolina's offense keep up the firepower?

The Gamecocks have been on fire the past three weekends when it comes to their offense. The offense has put up the following total yards in the last three games: 528, 501 and 396. The first two games were against lesser opponents in East Carolina and UAB but the Gamecocks were very solid against Missouri. Obviously Connor Shaw had a big game against the Tigers last week throwing for 249 yards on 20-of-21 passing. Marcus Lattimore got involved in the running game and the Gamecocks ran away with a 21-point victory over an SEC East opponent.

This weekend's matchup with the Wildcats pits the Gamecocks' hot offense against a team that allows 400 yards per game. The Wildcats give up 191 yards on the ground and 209 through the air. The defense for Kentucky certainly doesn't seem capable of containing the Gamecocks this year. Last year, the Gamecocks rolled the Wildcats to the tune of 639 yards and that was with Connor Shaw getting his first start against an SEC opponent. Throw in a more balanced offense this year and the Gamecocks have a great chance to match the offensive output they've had in recent weeks.

Will this game be close like in years past?

South Carolina and Kentucky have had some pretty close games in recent history. Seven out of the last 10 games between the Gamecocks and Kentucky have been decided by seven points or less. Last year's was not nearly as close as the Gamecocks rolled the Wildcats 54-3.

This year, the Gamecocks are averaged 36.2 points per game while allowing just 9.8 points a game. Kentucky, meanwhile, is averaging 23.0 points per game while allowing 29.0 points per game. As you can see, the Gamecocks have shut down their opponents for the most part this season while Kentucky gives up more points than they can score.

The point spread on this game is 21 points in favor of the Gamecocks. Odds are that the Gamecocks will cover the spread and you'll see a game that is closer to last year's contest than what happened in 2010. The Gamecocks just have too many weapons on both sides for this game to be decided by seven points or less.

Who wins – Gamecock defensive line or Kentucky offensive line?

This is a battle that will be interesting to watch on Saturday. Both sides have performed well in their respective areas. Kentucky is allowing just 1.0 sack per game so far this season while the Gamecocks are averaging 3.75 sacks per game in 2012. South Carolina is second in the league, and seventh in the country, in sacks per game.

The Wildcats are averaging 306.2 pounds on the offensive line so they've got the necessary size to compete with the Gamecocks defensive line. Unfortunately for Kentucky, they've got to deal with three outstanding defensive ends in Jadeveon Clowney, Chaz Sutton and Devin Taylor. South Carolina has used a package this year referred to as the "Rabbit" package that allows for three or four defensive ends on the field at once. This was similar to last year's package that had Taylor, Clowney and former Gamecock Melvin Ingram on the field at one time. All that speed between Clowney, Sutton and Taylor may be too much for the Kentucky Wildcats to handle. Clowney has been impressive this season with his energy level and performance. He's a constant threat in the backfield on nearly every play. He'll be hard to stop.

So who wins? It looks like the Gamecock defensive line has the edge with a few All-SEC caliber players at defensive end. Kentucky may be able to slow the rush of the Gamecocks but it will be hard to contain those three. It should be a fun battle to watch.

Any similarities to the 2010 game?

South Carolina traveled to Lexington, Kentucky in 2010 after beating the No.1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide in convincing fashion. South Carolina had risen to No.10 in the nation at that time and looked primed to continue on the road against Kentucky.

Lattimore and the Gamecocks had a 28-10 lead at halftime, but the freshman running back left with an ankle injury in the second half and things fell apart. South Carolina allowed Kentucky to take the lead late in the game and failed in the closing seconds on a final attempt at the end zone.

So, are there any similarities to this game as 2012? The answer would be no. Coach Spurrier talked on Tuesday about how that game was history and how each team is different. The worry of overlooking the Wildcats this weekend won't happen. The coaching staff understands, as do the players, that anything can happen. Spurrier mentioned this on his call in show on Thursday night.

Look for another sharp performance from the Gamecocks on the road on both sides of the football. The Gamecocks have plenty to work and plan on using this game as another opportunity to get better and focus on the task at hand, which is winning the next game.

South Carolina and Kentucky will meet this Saturday at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN2. Mike Patrick, Ed Cunninghamn and Jeannine Edwards will provide the television coverage while Todd Ellis, Tommy Suggs and Langston Moore will provide radio coverage for the Gamecock IMG Sports Network.

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