UK-South Carolina matchups

ccosby@herald-leader.comOctober 16, 2010 

South Carolina Auburn Football

South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier gave quarterback Stephen Garcia a fist-bump after a touchdown at Auburn. Garcia is completing 72.3 percent of his passes this season.

C. ALUKA BERRY — ASSOCIATED PRESS

Who has the advantage?

Quarterbacks

After serving as Steve Spurrier's whipping boy for years, Stephen Garcia has come into his own as a senior. He's thrown for eight touchdowns with only three interceptions and had a career game (17-for-20 passing, 201 yards, three TDs) against Alabama last week. UK senior Mike Hartline is similar to Garcia: a much-maligned senior who is playing his best ball as a Wildcat. He also had perhaps the best game of his career last week with a 23-for-28, 220-yard, one-TD performance against Auburn.

Advantage: South Carolina

Running backs

South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore has been a workhorse as a true freshman, averaging more than 21 carries per game. He had 37 carries for 182 yards in a win over Georgia and 23 for 93 against Alabama. The Wildcats will probably be without Derrick Locke (stinger), which would leave sophomore Donald Russell and true freshman Raymond Sanders as the primary backs.

Advantage: South Carolina

Wide receivers

Despite playing many other roles, Kentucky's Randall Cobb continues to grow as a receiver and is on pace for 60-plus receptions and more than 800 receiving yards. The offense will look to re-establish Chris Matthews downfield after Auburn took away the deep ball and forced Hartline to go underneath last week. The Kentucky defensive backs are probably still having nightmares about Alshon Jeffery after he lit them up for three touchdowns last year. Watching him score twice against Alabama probably didn't help. The rest of the Carolina receivers have size and talent, but Jeffery has been the only big-play threat so far.

Advantage: Kentucky

Offensive line

Kentucky's offensive line has quietly been the most solid and consistent unit on the team, and line coach Mike Summers has been able to piece together a cohesive group despite having to replace three starters. The South Carolina offensive line has been a sore spot through much of the Spurrier era, but they've been a little better at opening holes in the running game and protecting the quarterback so far this season.

Advantage: Kentucky

Defensive line

The Kentucky defensive line was the biggest question mark coming into the season and, while they haven't been dominant, they've performed about as well as could be expected considering all the personnel losses from a year ago. They'll probably be without end DeQuin Evans (ankle) against the Gamecocks. The South Carolina front four is deep and balanced and led by end Devin Taylor, who has 31/2 sacks and seven quarterback hurries.

Advantage: South Carolina

Linebackers

Shaq Wilson, South Carolina's top returning linebacker, learned this week he'll probably have to shut it down because of a hamstring injury that has kept him out most of the season. Seniors Josh Dickerson and Tony Straughter have taken charge of the unit in Wilson's absence. UK's Danny Trevathan has been a tackling machine of late, recording a career-high 15 at Mississippi and topping that with 17 against Auburn. He still isn't getting much help, although Ronnie Sneed had his best game in the middle last week.

Advantage: South Carolina

Secondary

The Gamecocks have plenty of individual talent in their secondary — safety Chris Culliver was second-team All-SEC last season, and cornerback Stephon Gilmore was a freshman All-American — but the performance this year hasn't matched it. Carolina ranks dead last in the league in pass defense. UK doesn't have the playmakers that the Gamecocks do, but they are first in the SEC in pass defense. That's partially because teams have been able to run the ball so effectively.

Advantage: Tie

Special teams

The kickoff problems that previously plagued Kentucky disappeared against Auburn, and Craig McIntosh has settled in as a solid field-goal kicker. Ryan Tydlacka is second in the league in punting average, but the Cats are 10th in net punting. South Carolina's Spencer Lanning handles punting and place-kicking. The Cats will miss Derrick Locke on kick returns, while South Carolina hasn't gotten much juice out of its return game.

Advantage: Tie

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