Steve Spurrier has never been one of those coaches to throw out a lot of faint praise when talking about an opponent. So it's interesting to see what the South Carolina head man had to say about the UK defense this week.
"They're as strong as probably any team in the conference up front, their defensive line and linebacker guys," the ol' ball coach said. "Florida had a bunch of long runs where they reversed field but as far as going straight at them, Kentucky is a very tough defensive front."
Is it hard to stay positive after three losses in a row? Senior All-America candidate Danny Trevathan says not so much.
"It's hard but it's necessary. It's necessary for leaders to stay positive and it's going to be beneficial. This team has been working too hard for us to just be negative," he explained. "I've been pushing these guys, trying to be out here and be more enthusiastic. You got to push yourself and keep that right mindset and I think these young guys are really making themselves better."
With a change at quarterback, some analyst foresee South Carolina relying more heavily on its running game and All-SEC candidate Marcus Lattimore. He only played a half last year against UK before getting injured but Trevathan remembers him well.
"I remember he was a big dude," said Trevathan, "like a freak of nature."
Kentucky has struggled to convert third-down plays into first downs this season but South Carolina is also having issues with its defense being able to get off the field on third down. USC ranks 80th nationally (according to cfbstats.com) by allowing opponents to convert at a rate of 42 percent.
As for some other interesting statistical notes...
There's a stark difference in passing accuracy this season for USC. Last year, Gamecock quarterbacks completed 65 percent of their passes. So far this season, it's just under 50 percent. Inside the opponents' 20-yard line, the completion rate falls to 37.5 percent with two interceptions. Where Kentucky needs to improve is inside its own 40. Morgan Newton is hitting only 41 percent there and thus the Cats are giving up too much field position on the punt exchanges and eventually, that takes its toll.
South Carolina has really improved its pass defense this season, relying on more man-to-man coverage, according to one of its cornerbacks. USC is on pace to give up almost half as many pass plays of 25-or-more yards than it did last season.
And with a new QB, many experts believe the Gamecocks figure to lean heavily on Marcus Lattimore tomorrow. USC averaged 242 yards per game in the first three contests but only 130 per game in the last two.
Saturday marks the 61st anniversary of the first night game in the month of October at UK, meaning it was the first "Bluegrass Doubleheader" of Keeneland racing in the afternoon and Wildcat football under the lights.
UK defeated Georgia that night 25-0.