#FITSPick: South Carolina 37 Kentucky 20
It’s been a rough year for our founding editor when it comes to picking college football games … although we hope October will be the month he hits his stride.
This weekend he’s coming in under the Las Vegas line for the University of South Carolina’s SEC East showdown against Kentucky. Odds makers have the No. 12/13 Gamecocks (3-1, 1-1 SEC) favored by three touchdowns at home over the Wildcats (1-3, 0-1 SEC) – who are in their first season under former Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops.
We think that’s a little bit excessive … although not by much.
For starters, Kentucky’s defense is no joke. Senior linebacker Avery Williamson is the leading tackler in the SEC this year (42 stops) while junior defensive end Za’Darius Smith – a 6-foot-6, 254-pound transfer from East Mississippi Community College – is second in the conference with 4.5 sacks.
Meanwhile the Wildcats boast the SEC’s second-rated passing defense – a unit which did a good job containing Louisville’s Heisman Trophy candidate Teddy Bridgewater earlier this year.
In other words head coach Steve Spurrier’s offense – led by banged-up starting quarterback Connor Shaw – should expect a challenge.
Offensively, Kentucky isn’t as good. The Wildcats rotate two quarterbacks – Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow – while relying on freshman running back Jojo Kemp (who is averaging 8.9 yards a carry) for a pop out of the backfield.
The big storyline of this game is Shaw – and whether he should be starting after injuring his shoulder during USC’s sloppy win over Central Florida last week. South Carolina has the luxury of having an experienced backup quarterback in junior Dylan Thompson – who has won both of his career starts and played well in back-up duty for Spurrier’s offense.
We polled the question and 73 percent of our readers said Shaw should sit out this game compared to only 27 percent who felt he should start.
Obviously Shaw has been cleared to play medically – and there’s no doubting his competitiveness. Also, Shaw is tied for second all-time on South Carolina’s career wins list (20), tied for fourth in career touchdown passes (38) and ranks ninth all-time in passing yardage (4,292.
He’s not going to want to miss a chance to move up in those categories as he continues to make his mark on a resurgent Gamecock program.