The Daily Gamecock

Preview: Gamecocks look to bounce back against Kentucky in SEC home opener

Head football coach Shane Beamer and the Gamecocks will host the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats at Williams-Brice on Saturday night. South Carolina looks to rebound from the loss sustained at the hands of Georgia last week.

The Gamecocks hold the all-time series lead 18-13, with one tie that came back in 1978. USC also holds the largest margin of victory at 54-3, which came at the hands of head coach Steve Spurrier in 2011.

Kentucky has dominated the series recently, winning six of the last seven matchups against South Carolina. The two teams met in the Gamecocks final game of the season last year. The Wildcats won the game 41-18, but Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops says that game is not relevant this year.

“The situation that they were in last year, I think, very different,” Stoops said. “Down a lot of guys, coaching change in the middle of the season, guys opting out, not playing.”

Kentucky enters the game 3-0 and is a five-point favorite. However, Stoops knows South Carolina will not make it easy and is not underestimating this Gamecocks team.

“They are doing a very good job, coach Beamer with the change. You can see the energy and the excitement down there, they're playing very good football,” Stoops said in a press conference. 

Beamer replicated the respect saying, "Obviously, have a lot of respect for Coach Stoops and what he's done at Kentucky and the way that he's elevated that program."

The Wildcats are led by their quarterback/running back duo and possess a lot of speed on the outside.

The biggest threat is junior running back Christopher Rodriguez Jr. He is the 7th ranked back in the country for rushing yards gained so far this season.

“The running back is a really good talent, tough, physical, runs hard as well,” Beamer said.

Kentucky's Quarterback is Will Levis, a graduate transfer from Penn State. Beamer knows his team is in for a challenge playing against him.

“The quarterback they have that’s playing for them is playing at a really high level,” Beamer said. “He’s got size, he can run, he throws one of the more impressive deep balls that I’ve ever seen.”

Levis has already thrown for 800 yards and seven touchdowns on the season. The Gamecock secondary will be tested as they look to increase their SEC-leading 6 interceptions.

Sophomore quarterback Luke Doty will get the start for the Gamecocks. He took over for graduate transfer quarterback Zeb Noland, who was injured in the team's game against Georgia.

Noland is on track to be ready for Saturday should Doty go down.

Redshirt sophomore defensive back Cam Smith will be good to play after a pre-season foot injury, junior wide receiver Xavier Legette is questionable this week after suffering minor scrapes in a “traffic incident” last week and redshirt senior linebacker Sherrod Greene is out after having surgery.

The whole team knows the importance of the game, and they expect fans to show up and show up loud. 

“Gamecock nation, listen to me,” Beamer said as he stared into the camera during his weekly press conference. “We need you there early, we need Gamecock Walk to be even bigger and louder than what it was last time, we need The Cockpit to be louder and more disruptive than it’s ever been.” 

While masks will be required in Williams-Brice for the first time this season, Beamer said the policy should not affect the fans’ energy. 

“If you're wearing a mask, great, you ought to be yelling so loud that the sound from your voice tears a hole in the mask. I don’t even know if that’s humanly possible but let’s sure as heck try,” Beamer said. 

Kickoff is set for Saturday at 7 p.m. on ESPN 2.


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