No need wasting time; let’s analyze South Carolina:
Head Coach: Will Muschamp is 2-1 at South Carolina. He coordinated the Auburn defense a year ago. Prior to that, Muschamp was the Florida Gators head coach where he posted a 28-21 record.
-- Defense: By far the most experienced group. Starting defense composition: 6 seniors, 4 juniors, 1 sophomore.
-- Red-zone defense has been dominant in 2016: The Gamecocks are allowing touchdowns 31% (5-16) of the time while inside its own 20-yard line.
-- Scoring: Averages only 17.3 points per game including 10, 3rd quarter points in three games.
-- Offensive youth/Inexperience: Three freshman and four sophomore offensive starters.
Coordinator(s): Brian McClendon, Kurt Roper
Brian McClendon: Comes to Columbia from Georgia where he was named interim head coach of the Bulldogs on Dec. 3, 2015, and served in that capacity through Georgia’s appearance in the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl, a 24-17 win over Penn State.
Kurt Roper: Roper comes to Carolina after spending the 2015 season with the Cleveland Browns as senior offensive assistant coach. He joined the Browns after spending 2014 as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at the University of Florida under Will Muschamp.
-- Spread with a 3-4 WR base.
-- Ranked 13th in the SEC’s total yardage category with 297 per game. It’s 14th in scoring, 15.7 points per.
-- Last in the conference with a 90.7 yards rushing per game average.
OL Tale of the Tape: 6’5 ½ 319-pounds
Three Best Players
-- #11 Quarterback, Brandon Mcllwain; 6’0, 205-pound, Freshman: Leads the team in total offense (145.3 ypg) by rushing for 80 yards and passing for 356 on the season. Passing numbers: 31-61 and has thrown 2 TD passes. The true freshman was named as a team captain in the Gamecocks opener against Vanderbilt.
-- #25 Running Back, AJ Turner; 5’10, 195-pound, Freshman: 35 carries, 137 yards, 5 receptions, 52 yards, and 1 TD. Turner is smallish in nature but is a strong, tough inside runner.
-- #74 Left Tackle, Mason Zandi; 6’9, 315-pound, Senior: All-SEC offensive lineman.
Coordinator: Travaris Robinson: Robinson has spent the past five seasons coaching defensive backs under Muschamp, first at Florida (2011-14), then at Auburn (2015).
Scheme: Listed as a 4-3, but has strong tendencies to play Nickel against formations that UK will present. Will Muschamp has historically included an additional defender inside the tackle box which ensures his defense maintains a numerical advantage along the line-of-scrimmage. Fast, senior-laden, physical, and sure tackling defense.
-- Ranked 4th in the league by only allowing 17.3 points per game.
-- In an interesting observation, Carolina is ranked 10th in the SEC by giving up 415 total yards per game.
DL Tale of the Tape: 6’2 ½ 287-pounds
Three Best Players
-- #8 Defensive End, Marquavious Lewis, 6’3, 270-pound, Senior: Lewis has racked up 13 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 QB hurry, and blocked 1 kick.
-- #11 Linebacker, TJ Holloman; 6’2, 230-pound, Senior: Holloman leads the team with 21 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 interception.
-- #24 Safety, DJ Smith; 5’11, 195-pound, Junior: Second leading tackler with 19, 1 tackle for loss, 1 recovered fumble.
SOUTH CAROLINA DEPTH CHART
What does all this mean?
South Carolina is a better team than I expected when analyzing the Gamecocks in the offseason. The youthful offense is beginning to come around but has taken its fair share of lumps which can be attributed to inexperience.
Muschamp’s defense is experienced but lacks star power. It makes up for unrecognizable names with substance. It appears the defense has taken on their coach’s fiery personality.
Kentucky is a 2-point favorite. I wrote yesterday that the winning team will do so in uncharacteristic fashion. Either the Kentucky defense provides stops and the Cats outpace SC--or--Carolina will explode offensively and outscore the Cats. Regardless, to say that this game is important for Mark Stoop would be a tremendous understatement.