Anthem Roundtable: Kentucky

Gamecock Anthem returns the weekly feature "Anthem Roundtable" as we take a look at the Kentucky Wildcats in this weekend's matchup on ESPN2.

The Anthem Roundtable is back for another week with a look at the Kentucky Wildcats. South Carolina is coming off a convincing win over Missouri 31-10 while the Wildcats were routed at the hands of the Florida Gators 38-0. Is there a concern for the Gamecocks on the road at Kentucky? The last time the Gamecocks played in Lexington, they lost 31-28 in the closing seconds. Should the Gamecocks be on upset alert again? Be sure to find out what our Roundtable analysts think below.

Today's roundtable features staff writer David Porter, Publisher Adam Garrett and guest bloggers Leftover Hot Dog and The Meat Locker Sports.

Please make sure you click their names and frequent their blogs too - you won't be disappointed.

We'll get started with this week's edition of The Anthem Roundtable...



Connor Shaw was on fire last weekend against Missouri throwing for 249 yards on 20 straight completions. Does the hot streak continue this weekend?


PORTER: Everyone remembers what Shaw did against Kentucky last year in his true debut game. He was unbelievable and torched the Kentucky secondary. The Wildcats are somewhat better defending the pass, but are horrendous stopping the run. Marcus Lattimore will likely have another big game in Lexington, so Shaw's numbers may be somewhat diminished but he could still have a great day.

GARRETT: I believe the hot streak continues this weekend. Shaw may not break the completions record in the SEC but I think we're in for another fine performance from Connor Shaw. There may be more balance on offense between the run game and the passing game but Shaw had a big game last year in his first real start in SEC play and has the ability to have another great game.

LOHD: Part of me thinks Spurrier and company will certainly try with some short passes from Shaw to begin the game. Regardless, I want to see USC win the game in an impressive fashion as the Gamecocks should run all over the Wildcats.

MLS: While I think it's going to be incredibly difficult to match the caliber of game Connor had last week, he should be able to roll all over this Wildcat defense. Will he go 20-21 again, doubtful, but I think the numbers will still be there and Connor will play another huge roll in the offense this weekend. So much so that I think he'll clear the way for Dylan Thompson to make an appearance in the fourth quarter and finish things off.

Kentucky's Maxwell Smith sat out last weekend's loss with a sprained AC joint. He returned to practice and looks like a possibility to play. He's their main hope on offense this year as he's thrown 966 yards and eight touchdowns this season. Can he move the football on the South Carolina defense?


PORTER: If there's been a weakness in the South Carolina defense it is the secondary, though most of those yards have been given up late in the games with the game no longer in doubt. With that said, Maxwell Smith has been the lone bright spot on a horrible team. 966 yards in three games is impressive on any team, much less Kentucky. Smith is going to have to move the ball through the air because you have the 13th-ranked run offense of Kentucky going against the 2nd-ranked run defense of South Carolina in the SEC.

GARRETT: South Carolina's defense has given up some yards in the passing game this season albeit in "junk time" late in the game. The return of D.J. Swearinger and Akeem Auguste should give the secondary a boost and help shut down the Wildcats passing game. Smith has thrown for some big numbers this season but a few of those games were against some weaker opponents like Kent State and Western Kentucky. The added pressure from the defensive line and another solid performance from the secondary should limit Smith in the passing game.

LOHD: He will certainly have more success than the other guy did last week but really and truly the answer to the question is no. The Gamecocks front seven is stout and enter the game with some swagger. Look for them to be ready for any and everything Kentucky will try to throw at them. I feel this will be the type game where many on the defensive side of the ball for USC will pad their stats.

MLS: Smith is not a bad quarterback. He's gone well over 300-yard in the two of three games he's played this year. But, that was also against very weak defenses in Kent St and Western Kentucky. Charlie Strong and his Louisville Cardinals kept Smith under 300-yard, but just barely. Smith is coming off and injury and going against the Carolina defense shouldn't be something that will be working in his favor. The "Jungle Boi" is back this week and he's going to be lurking deep in the secondary.

Kentucky has lost seven straight match-ups versus ranked foes by an average of 27.0 points since beating the Gamecocks in 2010. Can the Gamecocks match, or exceed, that total if they come out victorious this weekend?


PORTER: If Florida's offense is capable of putting up that many points against Kentucky, then South Carolina definitely is. South Carolina should be able to move the ball at will against the Wildcats and Kentucky is not capable of scoring many points. Even though they're on the road for just the second time this season, Carolina should easily be able to beat Kentucky by four touchdowns.

GARRETT: South Carolina is the favored team here by 21 points. We all remember how last year's game went between these two teams. Kentucky's talent level is nowhere near the caliber of the Gamecocks. South Carolina should be able to win this game by four touchdowns or more. You saw what they did to a solid Missouri team last week. Kentucky is not on that level. Expect a big win for the Gamecocks.

LOHD: Yes. If you look this game on paper and size up Kentucky, then you will see the Gamecocks will prevail. Kentucky will try to keep up with the Gamecocks and may seem ready to start but USC will wear them down. Look for USC to take care of business and win by over 27 points.

MLS: Absolutely. The offense has really been clicking and they have proven that they can put points up on the board, especially the "Beast Board." It's a great sign that the offense can come together and do some big things. We're about to enter a very scary part of the schedule and this week is going to be a really important week to work on a few things and tune-up for the Bulldogs.

Is this the week that Marcus Lattimore returns to the 100-yard mark? The Wildcats are allowing 191.0 yards per game on the ground.


PORTER: As I mentioned earlier, Shaw's number may suffer a bit due to the poor run defense of Kentucky. This is clearly the week for the offensive line to gel and Lattimore to have a big day. The only thing that will keep Lattimore under 100 yards is time. Lattimore likely will not play much in the fourth quarter so he will have to put up 100 yards in a hurry. I feel that he will.

GARRETT: I think Lattimore will have a big chance at a 100+ yards in this contest. Kentucky isn't the best team around when it comes to stopping the run and Lattimore is finally getting back in the groove and comfortable in his return from injury. Lattimore could eclipse the 100-yard mark at halftime.

LOHD: Yes. In this game, Lattimore will shine as the UK defenders will not present a challenge to USC's run game. Expect 150+ yards and two scores out of Lattimore.

MLS: I've been hoping each week that it would be the week that Lattimore gets back on the train plows for 100-150-plus yards. It's clear that he's recovering from major knee surgery and it has to be expected that it's going to take some time. It was encouraging to see the knee-brace off last week and see him in a sleeve to allow for a little more flexibility. So, that being said, it could definitely be the week that Marcus makes some big runs against a weak rush defense. But, we've also faced some pretty weak rush defenses all season and it hasn't quite happened. If it doesn't we must understand the reason.

Kentucky is only allowing, on average, 1.0 sacks per game. South Carolina has 15 sacks through four games for a 3.75 average and the No. 7 ranking in the NCAA. Something has to give this weekend. Who wins this battle?


PORTER: This was the surprising stat of the week for me considering how bad their run offense is. Kentucky is third in the conference in sacks given up with four, behind Tennessee and Mississippi State who have given up two. Smith does a great job getting the ball out of his hands in a hurry so the defensive line will have to get to Smith quickly. With Carolina recording nearly four sacks per game and Kentucky giving up just one per game, I think the final total will be more towards Kentucky's number, but I think Carolina will be able to record two sacks.

GARRETT: This was something that I mentioned in my What To Watch For segment this week. I'm interested to see these two units go up against each other considering the success both teams have had in their respective areas. I give the edge to the Gamecocks in large part to Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor, but Chaz Sutton has really come on this year as well. Kentucky may not allow four sacks this weekend, but they'll certainly give up more than one.

LOHD: USC's Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor will turn heads in the dominating performance they are likely to have. UK will not be able to stop them. I predict at least four total sacks out of USC in this game.

MLS: Gamecocks, hands-down. Clowney and Taylor are flat-out bringing the heat this season and are anchoring a fierce defensive line along with Quarles, Sutton and Jerideau. I see know reason that it won't continue this week. There's too much talent for the Kentucky line to contain.

Will this South Carolina defense allow more than 10 points in this game? The Gamecocks are only giving up 9.75 points per game through four games this season.


PORTER: If they do it will be late in the game. I don't see Kentucky putting the ball in the end zone against the Carolina starters unless it's a busted play or turnover resulting in great field position. Unless Kentucky can put up multiple field goals I don't see them scoring 10 points.

GARRETT: If Missouri can only hit the 10 point mark against the Gamecocks, surely the Wildcats won't come close. South Carolina's defense has been solid all year especially in the red zone. They've given up just one touchdown there all year long. Kentucky may be able to eclipse the 10-point mark but it won't be by much if they do.

LOHD: No. All UK will manage is a field goal and one touchdown. I fully expect a solid game from everyone that plays in this game for USC. The Gamecocks will send a message to UGA through winning big in this game.

MLS: I think 10-points is the max the Gamecocks allow. Should be all South Carolina on both sides of the ball.

Prediction?


PORTER: Normally this would be considered a trap game for South Carolina. With the showdown with Georgia looming next week it could be easy for this team to overlook Kentucky. However, that's exactly what happened to them two years ago when they were coming off the huge win against Alabama. This team remembers what happened that night so the Wildcats have Carolina's full attention. I think this one gets ugly in a hurry. Carolina cruises to a 38-6 win.

GARRETT: South Carolina will be fully focused and I'm sure will do everything in their power to make up for the loss to UK two years ago. South Carolina should win this one going away by a score of 48-13.

LOHD: The Gamecocks will win this match-up by the score of 42-10.

MLS: 38-10 Gamecocks. With drinking being barred at the tailgates, expect to see lots of sober Kentucky fans filing out of the stands in the 3rd quarter.

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