Kentucky football looks to go 4-0 this Saturday for the first time since 2018 when they go to Columbia, South Carolina to face the 2-1 Gamecocks of South Carolina. This will be the second SEC conference game for the Cats and will be the warmup for what is to come with the Cats schedule the rest of the way. Kentucky is coming off a non-impressive win against Chattanooga as they struggled with the Mocs. South Carolina is not on par with their old self, but this can be a test for the Cats if they come out dead like last weekend. Let’s breakdown what to look for with the Gamecocks and things Kentucky must improve on to continue the momentum before Florida arrives at Kroger Field.
South Carolina had became one of the weaker teams in the SEC over the past few years since Steve Spurrier left the team in 2015. The team has beat Eastern Illinois 46-0 and barely got by Eastern Carolina 20-17. Their one loss came to the number two team in the country, Georgia, where they were heavily outmatched. The team will be no push over as any team at the bottom of the SEC could easily upset some of the better teams in the conference, like Kentucky. The Gamecocks have not figured out their quarterback situation just yet, as Zeb Noland got the start in the first two games, racking up 396 passing yards with five touchdowns and an interception, but in the Georgia game, Luke Doty got the start. Doty was not the answer they were looking for as he threw for a 50% completion rate with 153 yards, a touchdown, and a pick. The quarterback play is not on par with what other SEC teams tend to bring. The Gamecocks also struggled with the run game against Georgia, which is not a good sign for them going up against Chris Rodriguez Jr. and Kavosiey Smoke this weekend.
In Kentucky’s win against Chattanooga, fans had a few concerns for what is to come in this game. Will Will Levis struggle with his accuracy against South Carolina? Will the Big Blue Wall play below their typical play again? How will the ground game fair after a rough week? All these are concerning things to worry about to go forward, but I strongly believe the team as a whole will bounce back with a stronger performance. People must give props to Chattanooga for their game plan as they came into the game ready to play and it was just one of those rough games for the Cats. This is for sure a step up for the difficulty of an opponent, but best believe that the Cats will be looking to make a statement this game to say that the Chattanooga game was just a fluke.
The two players that Kentucky should keep an eye on for this weeks game will be the top wide receiver for the Gamecocks, Josh Vann, and their sneaky running back Juju McDowell. McDowell has not put up the best numbers, but at times can be explosive. He only has 113 yards on 23 carries, but he got the majority of carries against Georgia and East Carolina. Vann has been the top receiver for South Carolina this year by a good margin. Vann has 282 receiving yards on only 10 receptions, along with two touchdowns to add to that. He isn’t a physical specimen, but he will be the main target for Kentucky’s secondary to focus on. I believe that Kentucky a defense will shine in this one.
Kentucky needs a big win this weekend to bring a ton of momentum going into the Florida game on October 2nd. South Carolina is not the toughest opponent for the Cats, but if they overlook the Gamecocks, it could end up like the Chattanooga game or even a loss. I think that Kentucky will pull off the win this weekend with a 35-17 win to go 4-0 on the season. My stars of the game predictions will be Will Levis with a strong showing and for our defense, Tyrell Ajian will use his pick-six last week to continue his great play. And last but definitely not least, GO CATS!
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Devin Hall is a columnist for MESPORTS digital. A University Louisville graduate who loves good music, good games and good times. He can be reached at DHall@maineventsports101.com. Follow him on Twitter @Mista_Hall25