Wrapping Up The Regular Season
On Saturday night, Kentucky plays it’s first regular season December football game in over 100 years. Coming off back to back losses including a 34-10 loss to Florida a week ago, Mark Stoops’ club wants to finish up 2020 on a positive note. With a bowl game still very likely a win only enhances their chances. Let’s take a look at the game and give you a prediction as we begin previewing South Carolina versus Kentucky.
Still Dealing With COVID Issues
Against Florida, the Cats were without 17 players and 10 staff members due to COVID and injuries. On Monday Stoops said Kentucky was still down close to 30 players and staff, but the game is still on. An interesting stat assuming the game goes on as scheduled on Saturday, UK and South Carolina will be the only two SEC teams who got all ten of their games in with no interruptions.
Same Old Song And Dance
It’s been a familiar tune in 2020 for Kentucky one of offensive struggles. Against Florida the Cats mustered only 221 yards of total offense. That’s the sixth time in nine games Eddie Gran’s group has been under 300 yards. We’ve mentioned it many times this season no one can put a finger on what the problem is with the offense. The Cats hope to have Christopher Rodriguez back after missing the last two games. While that would certainly help the Big Blue Nation still wants to see Terry Wilson find some consistency in the passing game.
Facing a South Carolina pass defense which ranks 111th in college football giving up 288 yards a game maybe the Cats find that groove on Saturday. Overall the Gamecocks rank 104th overall in total defense allowing 464 yards per game. On paper it certainly sets up well for Kentucky.
Now that we’ve talking about the ongoing offensive struggles at Kentucky let’s look at a surprise announcement from a defensive player.
During his normal Monday news conference Stoops commended the players on making it through the season with no one opting out. However only a few hours later the news came cornerback Kelvin Joseph was done not only for this year but at Kentucky.
— Kelvin Joseph (@bossmanfat1) November 30, 2020
The former LSU transfer struggled at the beginning of the season but really turned it on after that. He ranks first in the SEC with four interceptions including one for a touchdown in the blowout win over Tennessee. In addition he ranks fourth in the nation in picks. While John Calipari has built the “one and done” in the basketball program Joseph becomes the first “one and done” on the football side. Look for Cedric Dort to move over to Joesph’s spot. In addtion expect freshman Carrington Valentine to also see some playing time. He has three tackles and one pass breakup in limited action.
As we continue previewing South Carolina at Kentucky let’s now look at the Gamecocks.
A Rough Season
Heading into 2020 Will Muschamp and South Carolina thought they could compete for that third spot in the SEC East behind Florida and Georgia. However that did not materialize and Muschamp was fired after a 59- 42 loss to Ole Miss. He finished 28-30 at South Carolina and was replaced by former Colorado State coach Mike Bobo, who had been offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. They head into Saturday with a 2-7 record and a five game losing streak. Last week they lost 45-16 to Georgia.
Since Muschamp’s firing they’ve had numerous players opt of the remainder of the 2020 campaign, most of them on defense. Freshman quarterback Luke Doty leads the offense after taking over for Collin Hill. Playing limited time over six games Doty has 320 yards passing. Against the Bulldogs he completed 18 of 22 passes for 180 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Behind Doty running back Kevin Harris has run for nearly 1,000 yards. Longtime Kentucky nemesis Shi Smith is Carolina’s leading receiver with 54 receptions. However he’s been dealing with a concussion but the team expects him to play on Saturday. He’ll be a big test for the Wildcats secondary.
Who Wins On Saturday?
After taking a look at both teams it prediction time as we continue previewing South Carolina versus Kentucky. For both schools 2020 has largely been a season to forget, much like for most of the rest of the world. In Kentucky’s case dealing with not only the death of Coach John Schlarman plus the all-SEC schedule has made the year quite difficult. On the other side of the ball another disappointing season in Columbia led to their Muschamp’s dismissal. They head into 2021 with questions all over the program.
One thing Stoops has done well over the last few years is beat the teams in the so called “bottom” of the SEC East. He’s won five of the last six against Missouri, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. Heck they’ve even won two of the last four against Tennessee. As mentioned earlier the last time Kentucky played a December regular season game was in 1907. The then Kentucky State College played Kentucky University (now known as Transylvania.) KSC won that game by a score of 5-0.
After having a year of almost exclusive NOON kickoffs they naturally get a 7:30 kick off for a December game. Weather could be an issue as there’s a good chance of rain mixing with snow during the game. Look for Kentucky to control the game running the ball and send Wilson and all the seniors out winners. The Cats are a 10 point favorite and they rarely cover in SEC games and they won’t here either.
Kentucky 24 South Carolina 14
Thanks for previewing South Carolina at Kentucky with us here at Last Word On College Football. In the weeks ahead we’ll get you ready for a potential bowl game and National Signing Day.