Kernel sports editors give their predictions for UK vs. USC


Linebacker Jordan Jones #34 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrates with linebacker Eli Brown #32 after a tackle during the first half of the TaxSlayer Bowl against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at EverBank Field on Saturday, December 31, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida. Photo by Michael Reaves | Staff.

On Saturday, UK Football will take their undefeated record to South Carolina where they’ll face their first SEC opponent who also has an undefeated record. 

The Kernel will be at Columbia, S.C. to provide coverage of the anticipated game, but before the staff travels to South Carolina, they took some time to talk about the game.

Here’s what they had to say.

What is the biggest area of concern for UK?

Chris Leach, sports editor: Secondary. The Cats have had two, almost three receivers put up at least 100 yards on them this season. With receivers like Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards, and a quarterback like Jake Bentley throwing to them, the defensive backs will have to step up and slow down South Carolina’s passing attack. Lonnie Johnson has played well in his first two games as a Cat and they’ll likely need him to have another great game to help the defense.

Chase Campbell, assistant sports editor: Special teams defense. UK gave up way too many yards on kick and punt returns to a team that doesn’t have nearly as athletic of a returner as Samuel.

If the Cats want to win the game, what’s the one thing they need to accomplish?

CL: Playing four quarters of consistent offense. So far this season we have only seen one good half of football from the offense, the second half against Eastern Kentucky. South Carolina has a good offense that’s going to put points on the scoreboard, and the Cats will need to keep pace if they want to keep their undefeated record.

CC: Continuing to improve their team defense and stopping plays at the line of scrimmage. The Cats held EKU to only 62 yards on the ground, and if they can continue that level of play up front, they’ll have a much better chance of winning this football game.

Who is a player that needs to step up to help UK win?

CL: Eli Brown. Mark Stoops said on Thursday that starting linebacker Jordan Jones was out for this game, meaning Brown will step into his place. Brown has two tackles on the year, but will likely need more in the South Carolina game to fill in Jones’ role. Brown started the opening drive against EKU where he had a mix of good and bad plays, but he has yet to be seen for an entire game.

CC: Eli Brown. He’s stepping into the role that Jones has held for basically his entire time at UK, while Brown hasn’t seen much game time at the spot. However, his best performances have come against SEC schools, with four tackles in his longest game against Tennessee and his career high of seven against Alabama. He doesn’t have to put up staggering numbers, he just has to do Jones’ job, whatever that may be in this game.

What’s your prediction for the game? 

CL: 31-17, South Carolina. The atmosphere in Williams-Brice Stadium will be electric. The game is the Gamecocks’ home opener, it’s sold out and the crowd is planning a blackout. I think the atmosphere overwhelms the Cats while South Carolina keeps playing the way they have all season.

CC: South Carolina wins this one in front of the home fans, 21-13.

Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcasted on SEC Network. Follow @KYKernelSports@chrisleachKYK and @chasemckinley16 for coverage.