South Carolina scouting report: Kentucky football looks to be 5-0


Kentucky Wildcats wide receiver Lynn Bowden Jr. (1) catches a kicked ball during the game against Mississippi State on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Braden Ramsey

Kentucky football is 4-0 for the first time since 2008, ranked in the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2007, and 2-0 in SEC play for the first time since 1977. Benny Snell, a mauling offensive line and a ferocious defense have put this team on the map. How will the players respond with a target on their back for the first time?

The country will find the answer to that question this weekend, when the Cats host SEC East foe South Carolina. Kentucky has defeated the Gamecocks four years in a row and would increase their winning streak in the series with another win.

South Carolina is 2-1 this season and arrives in Lexington off a 37-14 road win over Vanderbilt. They are 1-1 in SEC play, pairing a home loss to Georgia with the win over the Commodores.

This is head coach Will Muschamp’s third year in Columbia, where he has compiled a 17-12 record so far. The team went 9-4 under his watch last year and capped off the season with an Outback Bowl win over Michigan.

Quarterback Jake Bentley is in his second full season as the starter. Against major conference teams, he has completed over 65 percent of his passes for 530 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.

Wide receiver Deebo Samuel has garnered first-round hype for the 2019 NFL draft, and leads the Gamecocks with 20 receptions. Fellow receiver Bryan Edwards leads the team in receiving yards (211) and touchdowns (three). Running back Rico Dowdle has racked up 235 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

Defensively, South Carolina is paced in tackles with 15 by middle linebacker T.J. Brunson. Defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, who has notched 2.5 sacks so far, leads in that category. Senior corner Rashad Fenton has the only two interceptions for a unit that has forced four turnovers.

Overall, the Gamecocks rank 35th in total offense and 33rd in total defense. Their biggest liability is their run defense, as they allow 163 yards per game on the ground. Kentucky’s rushing offense, which averages 269 yards per game, will be chomping at the bit to put up another strong performance after what they did to Mississippi State.

ESPN’s FPI gives the Gamecocks a 53.7 percent chance of winning the matchup.

You can watch the Wildcats take on South Carolina as they look for their first 5-0 start since 2007 on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised on SEC Network.