Kentucky Wildcats vs. South Carolina Gamecocks
Date and Time: Saturday, September 16, 2017, 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, SC
Opening College Football Odds: South Carolina -7.5
Kentucky vs. South Carolina TV Coverage: SEC Network
Coach Boom has his guys playing hard at this point. Will Muschamp promised that this year was going to be different at South Carolina, and so far, so good. His Gamecocks are 2-0 and are going to be favored to be 4-0 going into a game at Texas A&M. The way this schedule plays out, good things could be on the horizon if the team can figure out how to win a game or two more on the road.
Kentucky has been far from impressive this year. The Wildcats are 2-0, and that's really all that matters. That said, it hasn't been easy at all.
It started with a game against a rebuilding Southern Miss outfit that is probably going to struggle this season. The Wildcats were 9.5-point road favorites. If not for the fact that they played a dynamite defensive game, they would have lost outright, and there was a great chance for that to happen until the very end thanks to the offense averaging 2.2 yards per carry and going 3-for-13 on third downs.
Things can happen on the road, especially against teams from mid-major conferences that are looking to score big upsets. But the real eye-opener for the Cats came last week against Eastern Kentucky. The Colonels were up 7-3 at the end of the first quarter and 13-10 at halftime in spite of the fact that they were 33-point favorites. UK needed 10 points in the fourth quarter to finally pull away. Even then, the game wasn't really out of hand until Austin MacGinnis nailed a 39-yard field goal to ice things.
40 – The number of times South Carolina ran the ball last week against Missouri.
Jake Bentley might end up being a star for these Gamecocks one day, but he isn't at the point that he's going to be putting up career numbers on a game in, game out basis. This is a team that has to run the ball to be effective, and even if it isn't explosive, it has to keep at it.
Last week against Mizzou on the road, Ty'Son Williams and Rico Dowdle combined to run the ball 28 times for 106 yards. The average isn't all that impressive, but clearly, South Carolina was able to wear down the Tigers to put itself in a position to steal a game on the road.
With the way that Muschamp tries to coach teams up, it's not shocking that he's using his defense to ultimately save face for his offense. Last week, the Gamecocks slowed down Missouri and forced it into some panicky situations. That's all courtesy of a ground game that stayed efficient and kept right in line with down and distance schedules.
Kentucky vs. South Carolina Free Picks
All of the top sportsbooks are essentially in consensus that this game is going to be a close call. Kentucky would have easily been the favored of these two teams by a wide margin at the start of the season, but with as well as South Carolina is starting to bring its youngsters together so early in the campaign, there's a reason why this spread is so close.
Neither Bentley nor Stephen Johnson are excellent quarterbacks at this point in their careers, but whichever one does more should lead their team to victory in this one. Bentley had a potential coming of age last week on the road at Mizzou, and we think he can use that and parlay it with the emotion of the home opener to get the Gamecocks to 3-0.
College Football ATS Pick: Play South Carolina at BookMaker.eu
College Football Score Prediction: South Carolina 29, Kentucky 21