Staff predictions, USC-UK game preview

October 4, 2013 

Josh Kendall: UK trying, but they're just bad right now

Steve Spurrier may be right. Mark Stoops may eventually turn things around at Kentucky.

But right now the Wildcats are just not good at all. Kentucky is in the bottom four of the SEC in scoring offense, rushing offense, rushing defense, total offense, punting, turnover margin, pass efficiency defense, first downs, third down conversions, sacks allowed, penalties, opponent penalties, time of possession and red zone offense. Paints a pretty bleak picture doesn’t it?

The last time Kentucky played in Williams-Brice Stadium, it lost 54-3, and the numbers suggest the outcome could be similar Saturday.

However, if you’re a worrier and looking for something to chew your fingernails about Saturday, I’ve got two things. I had to look hard for them, but here they are:

No. 1, Wildcats offensive coordinator Neal Brown is a sharp guy who has worked with offensive gurus Mike Leach and Tony Franklin. Brown is installing an entirely new offensive system at Kentucky, and it’s bound to start clicking at some point. Brown wants to play with pace, and South Carolina has not reacted well to pace this year. So, if the Wildcats start figuring things out this week, that could cause a problem.

No. 2, turnovers. Kentucky is tied for last in turnover margin in the SEC at minus-2. That kind of stat can make a lot of teams look bad. If the turnover margin sways heavily in Kentucky’s favor, it could give the Gamecocks a ball game.

That won’t happen, though.

Prediction: South Carolina 30, Kentucky 7

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David Cloninger: Expect a comfortable win for USC

The past two games of the series at Commonwealth Stadium have been strange.

The 2010 game was a loss after South Carolina did whatever it wanted to in the first half, and was coming off an upset of No. 1 Alabama. The 2012 game was a second-half explosion to a win after trailing 17-7 at the half. From that angle, it’s easy to see why the Gamecocks-Wildcats series has been called “interesting” lately.

Nobody ever speaks about the 54-3 pummeling that USC laid on Kentucky in the middle of that stretch, which was at Williams-Brice Stadium. That game was where the Gamecocks couldn’t have played much better. Had it not been for a fumble on the opening kickoff, Kentucky might have finished with negative yards and been shut out.

I sense a return of that today. Not anything like that margin of victory, but a comfortable win. Connor Shaw will be able to rock Kentucky for a few early touchdowns, and then be able to rest for next week, and Mike Davis could become a bonafide Heisman contender if the coaches do what’s natural and let him tote the ball.

USC doesn’t lose at home. Kentucky is a team with bright days on the horizon, but a rotten football team at present. While the Wildcats haven’t been blown out by Louisville and Florida lately, those opponents knew they had more talent and won comfortably. The Gamecocks know the same.

In a game that gives everyone some feel-good, USC rolls before a crucial three-game road trip.

Prediction: South Carolina 38, Kentucky 17

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