The Edge: UK vs. South Carolina

The UK defense has yet to a hold a Southeastern Conference opponent to less than 37 points and given up an average of 429 yards per game the last three contests. Because the UK offense continues to hum along, this week’s Edge will focus on the three South Carolina playmakers the Cats have to shut down.

UK defense vs. QB Stephen Garcia

The Cats’ defensive line managed to pressure Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and make him uncomfortable when he was content to throw the ball. However, when Newton decided to take off and make plays with his feet, the UK defense not only had a hard time bringing him down, but getting close enough to make the tackle.

Garcia isn’t as crafty a runner as Newton, and will be more likely to rely on what has been an accurate arm this season—72.3 completion percentage, and eight touchdowns versus three interceptions. If the Cats can consistently disrupt Garcia in the pocket, he may make some ill-advised throws which might lead to more turnovers, something UK head coach Joker Phillips said the Cats, who have caused six turnovers, need to improve upon.

The absence of senior defensive end DeQuin Evans, who is unlikely to play due to an ankle injury, could hurt the Cats up front. Although, Evans, who led UK in sacks last year, has recorded only one sack this season.

Edge: Garcia

UK defense vs. RB Marcus Lattimore

UK fans might be pleased to find out that their team has scored 15 times running the ball. Unfortunately, that’s the same number of touchdowns the UK run defense, ranked last in the 12-team Southeastern Conference, has surrendered.

Lattimore, a true freshman, is talented beyond his years and ranks fifth in the SEC in rushing yards, one place behind UK’s Derrick Locke. Phillips described Lattimore as a “big, physical” freshman, adding “he is a guy that’s taking care of the football for the most part. That’s the thing you don’t see out of a young freshman back.” In fact, Lattimore hasn’t coughed the ball up once this season.

If Lattimore has a big game and helps the Gamecocks establish the run, then defending the deep threat will become substantially more difficult.

Edge: Lattimore

UK defense vs. WR Alshon Jeffery

The final cog in the well-oiled South Carolina offense is the 6-foot-4, 233-pound Jeffery, who doesn’t possess blazing speed, but is a physical player who uses his frame to his advantage.

Said Phillips of what makes Jeffery so special: “He’s blessed with great athleticism and strong hands, just a physical guy at the line of scrimmage…let him go down the field ten yards and post up and just throw the ball up to him.”

Jeffery had a breakout game last season against the Cats, hauling in seven catches for 138 yards and three touchdowns after catching only five passes entering that game.

Cornerbacks Randall Burden and Martavius Neloms, who were both relatively inexperienced when facing Jeffery last season, will look for redeeming performances Saturday.

Edge: UK defense

Final edge: Sizeable edge in favor of South Carolina