Mark Story

First scouting report: Can UK run its win streak over South Carolina to six straight?

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An early look ahead to the Kentucky Wildcats’ next football game:

The opponent

Kentucky (2-2, 0-2 SEC following a 28-13 loss at Mississippi State) will travel to Columbia, S.C., to face South Carolina (1-3, 0-2 SEC) Saturday, Sept. 28, at 7:30 p.m. at Williams-Brice Stadium.

The game will be telecast on the SEC Network.

Coach Will Muschamp’s Gamecocks lost at Missouri 34-14 Saturday.

Most recent meeting

Then-No. 17 Kentucky scored 21 points in the second quarter on three rushing touchdowns and the Wildcats defense got three quarterback sacks from Josh Allen and three interceptions as the Cats whipped South Carolina 24-10 before 63,081 fans at Kroger Field.

Josh Allen
Former Kentucky star outside linebacker/rush end Josh Allen (41) had three quarterback sacks and four tackles for loss in UK’s 24-10 win over South Carolina last season. Bryan Woolston AP

Series history

South Carolina leads 17-12-1, but Kentucky has won the past five in a row. Since the Gamecocks joined the SEC in 1992, the series between UK and South Carolina has swung greatly by decade.

In the 1990s, Kentucky held the upper hand, 5-3. In the first decade of the 21st century, it was all South Carolina, as the Gamecocks went 10-0 vs. UK (although seven of those 10 games were decided by one score).

So far in the current decade, Kentucky leads South Carolina 6-3 head-to-head.

Know your foe

1. Overall, Muschamp is 4-3 vs. Kentucky as a head man. As Florida coach from 2011 through 2014, Muschamp went 4-0 vs. UK but is 0-3 against the Wildcats at South Carolina.

2. Veteran South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley suffered a “mid-foot” injury in the Gamecocks’ season-opening loss to North Carolina. The injury required surgery and Bentley is out for the season. His replacement, true freshman Ryan Hilinski, has been impressive early on.

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound product of Orange, Calif., entered Saturday’s game at Missouri averaging 303 yards passing in his two prior starts and completing 69 percent of his passes with four touchdowns vs. two interceptions. Saturday was less promising. Hilinski completed 13 of 30 throws for 166 yards, with one TD and one interception.

Ryan Hilinski passing vs Alabama.JPG
South Carolina true freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski (No. 3) inherited the Gamecocks’ starting job after veteran Jake Bentley was knocked out for the season with a foot injury suffered in the season opener. Richard Shiro AP

3. In seeking a win over South Carolina for six consecutive seasons, Kentucky will be attempting to match a streak its has only compiled against one other SEC foe.

From 1976 through 1981, UK beat Vanderbilt in six straight years under Fran Curci. (Including a forfeit victory in 1976, Kentucky beat Mississippi State eight straight from 1958 through 1990. Those wins, obviously, did not all come in consecutive seasons, however.)

4. Having already played and lost to No. 2 Alabama, South Carolina still has remaining games at No. 3 Georgia (Oct. 12), vs. No. 9 Florida (Oct. 19), at No. 17 Texas A&M (Nov. 16) and vs. No. 1 Clemson (Nov. 30).

The Gamecocks have already lost a game to North Carolina they were expected to win; it’s almost impossible to find a realistic path to six wins (and bowl eligibility) for South Carolina that does not include a win over Kentucky.

So the Gamecocks should have ample motivation on several fronts Saturday night.

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Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since Aug. 27, 1990, and has been a Herald-Leader sports columnist since 2001. I have covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every UK-U of L basketball game but three since 1996-97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.
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