South Carolina Football: Kentucky Wildcats preview

Devin Leary and the Kentucky Wildcats are among the large middle class of the SEC football hierarchy. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports
Devin Leary and the Kentucky Wildcats are among the large middle class of the SEC football hierarchy. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports /

South Carolina football coach Shane Beamer and his team will play their third home game in a row this Saturday when the Kentucky Wildcats come to town. The 6-4 ‘Cats are very slight favorites over the 4-6 Gamecocks, and USC is coming off of a blowout win over Vanderbilt, while UK lost in a lopsided game against the Alabama Crimson Tide.

The game will be a matchup between two of the top running backs in the SEC. Unfortunately for fans, neither player has a great offensive line. Despite the lack of push at times in the run game, both players have had really nice seasons. It might surprise non-Gamecock fans to hear that the Carolina starter Mario Anderson compares well with Kentucky’s more famous Ray Davis.

Davis had a huge game against the Florida Gators earlier this season that accounts for almost 1/4 of his season numbers, but he has just one other game against a Power-5 opponent in which he has totaled 100 or more yards of offense (Missouri). Anderson has started 7 games and has at least 98 yards of offense in 6 of them.

The running game comparison will be important in this one as the team that rushes for more yards has won 10 of the past 12 meetings, but one of those games (Kentucky’s win in 2020) saw the Wildcats lead the game in rushing until the final drive when the losing Carolina squad ran the ball to run out the clock, just passing the ‘Cats’ rushing total for the game.

Even so, the quarterback position remains the most important one on the field. Spencer Rattler is better than Devin Leary, so South Carolina football fans will feel confident that their QB1 can give them an advantage over the up-and-down Leary.

Comparing other position groups, both teams have talented playmakers outside at receiver and somewhat porous secondaries. There are yards to be found by both Rattler and Leary if the two scuffling offensive lines can give them time to throw.

Defensively, neither team has been good. Other than one standout performance each (Vanderbilt for South Carolina, Mississippi State for Kentucky), both the Gamecocks and Wildcats have given up at least 300 yards in every SEC contest this season.

Wide receiver Xavier Legette and quarterback Spencer Rattler are approaching some South Carolina football history.

Last week, Legette became one of just five Gamecocks to ever have 1000 receiving yards in a season, and he is 13 yards shy of 4th-place, 43 yards short of 3rd, and 150 yards behind 2nd-place for single-season receiving yards.

Alshon Jeffery’s 2010 season is 424 yards ahead of Legette. With two regular-season games (and a potential bowl game) remaining, 2nd-place seems likely, and 1st-place is not outside of the realm of possibility.

Rattler has 8 career 300-yard passing games, tied with Steve Taneyhill for the 2nd-most ever in garnet and black and 2 shy of Todd Ellis’ all-time record. He appears almost guaranteed to reach the top-5 in career passing yards, and he is less than 200 yards away from becoming the 2nd Gamecock to throw for 3000 yards in one season.

With two really strong games to finish the season, Rattler could set a new mark for single-season passing. At 2867 yards in 2023, he is 709 yards away from Dylan Thompson’s 2014 mark. If the Gamecocks make a bowl game, Rattler’s 2023 pace would put him past Thompson’s record.

If South Carolina football beats Kentucky, they will be just one win away from traditional bowl eligibility with rival Clemson coming in for another night game on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It is worth noting that some 5-7 teams have received bowl invites in recent years. However, if USC can win their final two games (giving them a 4-game winning streak), they ensure a postseason berth and a chance at a winning record.

The Gamecocks and Wildcats will play at 7:30 on Saturday, and the game will be shown on the SECNetwork and the ESPN app.

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