When: 7:30 p.m, Saturday
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, S.C.
Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1, XM Channel 191, Sirius Channel 138
Records: Kentucky 2-0 (0-0 SEC), South Carolina 2-0 (1-0 SEC)
Series: South Carolina leads 17-10-1 but Kentucky has won three in a row
Last meeting: Kentucky won 17-10 on Sept. 24, 2016, in Lexington
Line: South Carolina is favored by 7 points
The story line
Having beaten South Carolina the prior three seasons, Kentucky enters SEC play on the road trying to beat a conference foe not named Vanderbilt for a fourth consecutive year for the first time since Bear Bryant’s Wildcats vanquished Florida in 1948, ’49, ’50 and ’51.
On the spot
Kentucky kickoff coverage team. After a stellar special teams showing in UK’s season-opening victory at Southern Mississippi, the story was not quite so happy in Kentucky’s closer-than-it-should-have been victory over Eastern Kentucky. The Wildcats’ kickoff coverage team had an especially difficult go, allowing EKU’s L.J. Scott to average 35.3 yards on four kickoff returns. That has to be better this week because South Carolina leads the SEC in kickoff returning.
The big threat
Deebo Samuel. The 6-foot, 215-pound junior wide receiver from Inman, S.C., gives South Carolina a multi-threat weapon. Samuel is tied for the Gamecocks’ team lead with 10 receptions (for a team-best 128 receiving yards) and has caught two touchdown passes. On two carries from scrimmage, Samuel has averaged 15 yards and has scored a rushing TD. He is most dangerous (see category above) as a kickoff returner. Samuel has returned two, and he’s taken both to the house, one each against North Carolina State and Missouri. If Kentucky can contain Samuel, it can beat South Carolina. Easier said than done, however.
It is not jolly — in spite of the fact Kentucky has won nine of its last 13 games. The announced crowd (54,868) at last week’s home opener was well below capacity. UK’s so-so offensive performances in beating Southern Mississippi and Eastern Kentucky have not built a lot of excitement in the Kentucky fan base. Winning an SEC road game by beating South Carolina for a fourth straight year, however, would gin up some fan energy. If it happens, the Big Blue Nation will be stoked for Florida’s visit to Lexington on Sept. 23.