OPPONENT: Kentucky Wildcats
WHEN: Saturday, September 29, 2018 at TBD
WHERE:Kroger Field in Lexington, KY
ALL-TIME SERIES RECORD: South Carolina is 17-11-1
LAST MEETING: September 16, 2017 – Kentucky defeated South Carolina 23-13 in Williams Brice Stadium for their fourth straight win in the series
2017 RECORD: 7-6 overall; 4-4 in SEC (Tied for 3rd in East)
Mark Stoops is going into his sixth year with the Wildcats and currently holds a 26-36 overall record; 12-32 in the SEC, 0-2 in bowl games, and 2-12 against Top 25 opponents. He has led Kentucky to back-to-back winning seasons (16-17) for the first time since the 2008-2009 seasons. All four of those years they went 7-6.
In 2018, Stoops has 15 starters returning from his 2017 bowl team, including stand-out talents like Benny Snell, Mike Edwards, Josh Allen and Derrick Baity. Stoops will look to get Kentucky to their third straight bowl appearance and potentially the most wins Kentucky football has had since 2007 when they won eight games and were ranked as high as number eight in the country.
- *RB, Benny Snell (5-11, 223) Junior
- WR, Tavin Richardson (6-3, 207) Junior
- TE, CJ Conrad (6-5, 252) Senior
- C, Drake Jackson (6-2, 303) Sophomore
- RG, Jervontius Stallings (6-3, 305) Senior
- *LG, Logan Stenberg (6-6, 320) Junior
- RT, George Asafo-Adjei (6-5, 215) Senior
- DE, Joshua Paschal (6-3, 285) Sophomore
- DT, Phil Hoskins (6-5, 306) Senior
- *LB, Josh Allen (6-5, 252) Senior
- LB, Jordan Jones (6-2, 218) Senior
- CB, Lonnie Johnson (6-3, 206) Sophomore
- *CB, Derrick Baity (6-3, 188) Senior
- SS, Darius West (6-2, 210) Senior
- *FS, Mike Edwards (6-0, 201) Senior
How did they fare in 2017?
Kentucky is coming off of their second straight winning season (7-6) under Mark Stoops. They lost a tough game against the Northwestern Wildcats in the Music City Bowl by a score of 24-23. This team returns a lot of talented veterans on defense and majority of their starters on offense as well from last year’s team.
Their leading tackler last season was their Safety, Mike Edwards, who totaled 97 tackles, one sack, three tackles-for-loss, seven pass break-ups, four interceptions and one quarterback hurry. The Wildcats started 3-0 last year that included their fourth straight victory over the Gamecocks. They had the chance to finally beat Florida for the first time in 31 years (November 15, 1986) but only put 10 guys on the field in the waning moments that kept the Gators game-winning drive alive.
After a 5-1 start, though, Kentucky stumbled down the stretch going 2-4 with wins against Tennessee, 29-26, and Vanderbilt, 44-21.
Best Returning Player…
RB, Benny Snell (5-11, 223) Junior
- In 2017, Snell rushed for 1,371 yards on 262 carries and scored 19 rushing touchdowns. He also hauled in 10 receptions for 72 yards.
- According to Pro Football Focus, Snell forced 44 missed tackles in 2017 (also forced 44 missed tackles in 2016) which was 14 more than the next running back in the SEC — Damien Harris of Alabama and Aeris Williams of Mississippi State both forced 30 missing tackles
- He has a career 1,638 yards after contact in just two seasons with the Wildcats (884 in 2017; 754 in 2016)
- Voted to the Preseason All-SEC First Team for the 2018 season along with Damien Harris
With all the experienced talent returning in 2018, the Wildcats have a chance to have their best season of the past decade. They haven’t won more than seven games since 2007 when they won eight games in back-to-back years under head coach Rich Brooks. There is enough talent on this team to compete with the majority of their schedule and they will be driven to extend their unpredictable run against the Gamecocks.
While there is great talent in spots on this team, the depth isn’t there. Kentucky is starting a new quarterback this year as well so there will be some growing pains in that area. Ultimately, this team can compete and will be a tough out for every team they play; but they’ve had talent before and couldn’t get over the seven win hump.
The possibility for eight wins is there in the regular season but it won’t come without an upset or two.
2018 SEASON PROJECTION: 8-4 (with a win against Florida)