Keys To Victory Against Kentucky
I. Contain Kentucky's Passing Attack
The Gamecocks have played well in the secondary, but Kentucky presents the stiffest challenge yet. Kentucky enters the game on an offensive tear, averaging 30.4 points per game, and the main reason is junior quarterback Andre' Woodson. Woodson has played as well as any quarterback in the nation this year. He is second nationally in touchdown passes, with 14, while completing over 60% of his passes for almost 1,200 yards. Much like Syvelle Newton, Woodson is a threat to run if the play breaks down. Slowing down the Wildcats will require a team effort. The defensive line cannot allow Woodson to sit in the pocket and make decisions. The linebackers will have to stay alert in the event that Woodson scrambles. The front seven will have to handle these responsibilities while also trying to slow down Kentucky's talented running back Rafael Little. Because of this, the most important responsibility falls on the secondary. Led by All-SEC cornerback Fred Bennett, the Gamecocks cannot afford to make any mistakes in coverage. Unfortunately, the Gamecocks will be shorthanded, as starting safety Emanuel Cook will miss another game with a knee injury.
II. Win the Turnover Battle
At halftime during last year's game, Carolina led Kentucky by a single point. That deficit quickly ballooned when the Wildcats turned the ball over four times en route to a 44-16 rout. This year, the Wildcats will try to turn the tables. Woodson has thrown just 2 interceptions this year, and Kentucky has had success creating turnovers. The Wildcats are tops in the SEC in turnover margin, at plus-8. The Gamecocks cannot afford to put the defense in a difficult position by giving Kentucky's explosive offense a short field. Offensively, Carolina would once again benefit from getting easy opportunities against a struggling defense.
III. Score in the Red Zone
Carolina has been sparked offensively since Syvelle Newton took over at quarterback. However, there is one glaring weakness: red zone conversions. Carolina has successfully moved the ball between the twenties, but been unable to punch the ball in the end zone. As good as Kentucky's offense has been, the Wildcat defense has been just as bad, giving up 28.4 points per game. Going against a struggling defense, Newton, Rice, Boyd and company must take advantage of their chances. Carolina should be able rack up some yardage, but the points are what count. The Gamecocks cannot expect to shut down Kentucky defensively, so the offense must put some points on the scoreboard if they want to win.
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