How Did ESPN Know?

One day away from a clash between the nation's #11 and #8 football programs, all the nation will see two programs nationally recognized, and often feared. If you're South Carolina, it's in Baseball or Track & Field, and in Kentucky's case it's the obvious - Basketball. But football? Thursday night's game features two of the nation's highest ranked teams who are in an unaccustomed stratosphere.

Entering week 5, ESPN has the luxury of airing a battle between two highly ranked college programs that were picked preseason to finish, at best, mid to bottom of the Southeastern Conference. This game, being scheduled with those predictions having been well published, leaves ESPN looking really good for this Thursday Night Special Edition of college football.

The game will bring a tremendous amount of speculation, predictions and potential certification for at least one of the programs. Most are asking, "Are they that good?" "Is this just a fluke year?" "How long can it last?" or even, "When will they come back down?"

Each team has posted early season upsets of nationally ranked teams on the road prior to being recognized in the national rankings, and now the stage is set for one of these two Cinderella stories to emerge as leader in the Eastern Division of the SEC. The #8 Wildcats are currently in first place with a 1-0 record; the Gamecocks are tied for second with Florida and Georgia. The Gamecocks are favored by a field goal, and this game should be as close, as the odds makers predict. Kentucky has shown a very productive ball control offense, while the staple thus far for the Gamecocks has been defensive consistency, holding most opponents under their point averages.

USC found steady offensive improvement following their quarterback change recently against Mississippi State, putting up 38 points. Initially, most felt the game against Kentucky would be more of a Steve Spurrier feature for the Thursday night special week day event, but now the game possibly leaves one team atop the national rankings, BCS positioned, and sitting in the driver's seat, heading towards a date in Atlanta for the SEC Championship game. Each team must work on getting past several other SEC powers, but for now, Thursday's ESPN national telecast will be their day in the sun.

How could ESPN have known that they were about to set their broadcast for one of the most discussed games of the season? The answer, they didn't. Even networks can get lucky, something each team will hope to do on the gridiron.

My prediction: a high scoring game favors Kentucky, and a lower score plays right in the hands of the host team, South Carolina.

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