Editor’s note: This is the fifth of a 12-part series on each of Kentucky 12 opponents this season.
By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today
GAME 4: Kentucky at South Carolina, Saturday, Sept. 28, TBA
LAST YEAR: Kentucky 24, South Carolina 10.
COACH: Will Muschamp, fourth season. Record at school: 22-17. Overall, 50-38.
LOOKING BACK: The Gamecocks broke even in the Southeastern Conference and finished 7-6, dropping a 28-0 loss to Virginia in the Belk Bowl. Led by quarterback Jake Bentley and Deebo Samuel, South Carolina threw for an average of 272.8 yards per game, fourth best in the SEC. The Gamecocks struggled against ranked teams. In his firth three seasons, Muschamp is 1-11 against teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, but has won 12 conference games, more wins in the first 36 months than his predecessors, including Steve Spurrier. He has guided South Carolina to three consecutive bowl games.
“Some of the growing pains that we went through this past year I think will be positives for us with some of the game experience the guys probably got too soon will certainly be positives for us, but we must improve,” Muschamp said. “
LOOKING AHEAD: Bentley is back for his final tour of duty as the Gamecocks’ signal caller. In his first three seasons, Bentley has thrown for 7.385 yards and 54 touchdowns in 32 starts. The main issue with Bentley in the past has been that fact that he has thrown 30 interceptions, induing 14 last season. He did throw for 510 yards and five scores against defending national champion Clemson. Muschamp and his staff will be without Samuel, but returns veterans Bryan Edwards and She Smith. Edwards hauled in 55 catches for 846 yards and seven touchdowns last year. Returnee Rico Dowdle will be the top running back in the backfield.
On defense, South Carolina returns five starters, including Jaycee Horn. The line is solid and freshman defensive lineman Zacch Pickens is the first five-start prospect Mushchamp has signed in his tenure at South Carolina. The schedule is top-heavy, featuring Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M and Clemson. (The) schedule’s hard every year,” Muschamp said. “That is the way I look at it. We have a great opportunity to step forward as a program to be in the limelight on both Saturdays in the Southeastern Conference and take advantage of the opportunities we have in front of us. In my opinion, we have our best team coming back in South Carolina since I have been there, and we’re looking forward to that opportunity.”
CONFERENCE: The Gators are a preseason pick to finish third in the SEC East.
COACH QUOTE: “As far as where our program is, it’s not where we want to be. I can assure you of that. Our goal every year is win the East which gives you an opportunity to play in Atlanta; and if you win in Atlanta, it gives you an opportunity to play in the College Football Playoff, in my opinion, and to win our state. And we haven’t done either one in three years. And so that’s something we’ve got to be able to accomplish. And that’s goal is not going to change, regardless of the situation or the circumstances at our school. We’re striving to win a championship at South Carolina. So we haven’t done that yet.”