South Carolina Football Three Keys: Kentucky


Kentucky football visits South Carolina on Saturday in Columbia, SC. Here are your three keys to a South Carolina win over Kentucky.

By Matt Zemek

The South Carolina Gamecocks took a big step back against Missouri. They had played so well against Alabama and had reasons to look at game film and think they were on the way up in the SEC East. The Missouri mess shattered those hopes. Now the Gamecocks have to reset and build back a positive identity. It will be hard, but it is not impossible. The journey begins anew against the reeling Kentucky Wildcats.

Key 1 – Dominate early

Kentucky gave every appearance last week, against Mississippi State, of a team which was sad and depressed as a result of its crushing loss to Florida. Kentucky rode a wave of positive momentum in 2018 due to beating the Gators. This year, however, the momentum is flowing in the wrong direction for Big Blue.

Coaches often talk about how games can’t be won in the first quarter, only the fourth quarter… but that isn’t entirely true. Teams can and do collapse in the first quarter.

Kentucky is vulnerable to a miserable day if it doesn’t start this game well. South Carolina needs to pounce on the Wildcats and rock them before UK has a chance to stabilize and rediscover its footing. If the Gamecocks take a 14-0 lead, Kentucky will lose heart. Moreover, the Wildcats are not a team which is well equipped to come back from a big deficit. Kentucky relies on its defense and its running game to win. If South Carolina can land some vicious punches early on, the Wildcats might never get off the canvas. The first quarter really matters in this game for that reason.

Key 2 – Hilinski adjusments

If Ryan Hilinski was special against Alabama, he was ordinary and forgettable against Missouri. There was an anxious, panicky quality to Hilinski’s play. Very little of his field-reading acumen and poise in the pocket were evident against Mizzou. Hilinski needs to reclaim those characteristics, which were in evidence against Alabama but did not travel on the road. With this game being back home in Williams-Brice Stadium, Hilinski has to reestablish command as the leader of this offense and a player who makes responsible in-game decisions.

Key 3 – Find Ahmad Wagner

Given that Kentucky is playing with a backup quarterback, Sawyer Smith, it is essential to take away – or at least limit – the favorite target for a backup quarterback. Ahmad Wagner is clearly that target for Smith. If South Carolina can at least prevent the deep ball to Wagner and avoid pass interference penalties on crucial third (or fourth) down snaps, the Gamecocks should like their chances of controlling Kentucky’s offense and dictating the terms on which this game is being played.

Saturday‘s game kicks off at 6:30 PM CT (7:30 PM ET). Watch on the SEC Network.

This Week’s SEC Football News and Analysis

GameFirst Looks3 Keys
HighlightsFinal Stats
Ole Miss vs. AlabamaBama / Ole MissPreviewBama 59, Ole Miss 31Stats
Texas A&M vs. ArkansasArkansas / A&MArky / A&MPreviewA&M 31, Arky 27Stats
Mississippi State vs. AuburnAuburn / MSUMSUPreviewAuburn 56, MSU 23Stats
Towson vs. FloridaTowsonFloridaPreviewFlorida 38, Towson 0Stats
Kentucky vs. South CarolinaUSC / UKUSCPreviewUSC 24, UK 7Stats
N Illinois vs. VanderbiltUNIVandyPreviewVandy 24, NIU 18Stats
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