Lot On The Line In Unlikely SEC East Showdown

By Adam Caparell - October 04, 2007

It may not be the marquee matchup in the SEC this weekend, but Thursday night's game between No. 8 Kentucky and No. 11 South Carolina is just as important as the one that kicks off Saturday night in Baton Rouge.

As amazing as it might sound to some, Kentucky could take the outright lead in the SEC East with a win over the Gamecocks in Columbia and the upstart Wildcats, ranked in the Top 10 for the first time in 30 years, are well aware of it.

"Whoever wins this game is going to have a pretty good position going forward with the league race," Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said.

South Carolina enters the game 2-1 in conference play while Kentucky sits unblemished at 1-0. The only other team in the SEC undefeated in conference play is LSU of the SEC West and Brooks and company have to be hoping the No. 1 Tigers hand the No. 9 Gators their second straight league loss. A win tonight and a Florida loss would put Kentucky in very nice position heading into their games with LSU and the Gators.

But of course, they have to take care of business. And that won't be easy against South Carolina considering coach Steve Spurrier has his team playing its best football of the early season after the Gamecocks 17- point win over Mississippi State last week.

The funny thing is Spurrier's squad is doing it with defense and the rushing attack, not exactly how Spurrier won when he was at Florida. But South Carolina happens to be one of the better defensive units in the conference and the best team in the nation defending the pass creating a fun matchup to watch with Heisman Trophy candidate Andre' Woodson, he of the 16 TDs, 1 INT and 163 QB Rating, coming to town.

"We haven't really played against a really true passing team yet," Spurrier said. "Of course, these guys can run too. They're second in the league to Arkansas in run offense. That's what makes their offense really so good."

If the Gamecocks plan on at least containing Woodson - and no one has yet this season - they could start by sending a few more blitzes his way and getting him on the move and out of the pocket. Make the patchwork Kentucky offensive line that has surprisingly done a very good job protecting Woodson so far this season continue the trend.

"He's a beautiful passer," Spurrier said. "I told someone the other day he looks like Carson Palmer the way he stands good and tall with knees slightly flexed and so forth. He throws a nice overhand ball. He's a pretty passer, there's no question about it. He's got a bunch of good receivers and his line has done a good job of protecting. We have to mix our coverages."

But can the Wildcats be held to under 40 points? Can wide out Kennan Burton, running back Rafael Little and Woodson be kept in check? If South Carolina can, it'd be the first time this season anyone has managed to do so and in fact be yet another first in this unexpectedly intriguing matchup.

Kentucky has never beaten Spurrier in 14 tries and are winless in their last seven tries against South Carolina. These two teams have never met as ranked opponents in the SEC and they've certainly never met with these kind of conference ramifications on the line.

"Kentucky is a lot like us. They're used to being in the bottom half of the SEC East," Spurrier said. "Now all of a sudden we have one of the big games in the conference (this week). It's exciting for us and Kentucky. It's exciting for both programs."

Posted by Adam Caparell at 11:47 AM on October 04, 2007
Comments (1)


Ky will outscore and beat SC. SC has no passing offense, and a decent running offense in which KY has already faced better runnuing backs this season in beating AK by 13. Ky offense will dominate SC and there is no chance they will beat UK. KY has too make sure they dont look pass this SC team this week by looking forward too the more important and challenging game next week against LSU.

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