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Bob Dixon

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Middlesboro, KY 40965

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Bob.Dixon@kyfb.com

Go Big Blue!

JOE COX: The Path To Greater Respect For UK Football Goes Through Carolina

It took Kentucky seven years to climb from the SEC’s lowest reaches to a legitimate college football program, one capable of winning 10 games and a Citrus Bowl and ending up the season ranked either 11th or 12th, depending on which of the two major polls you follow.

It might have taken only a few series against Florida two weeks ago for much of that progress to unwind. When the fourth quarter of that game started, Kentucky led Florida 21-10, and looked headed to a 3-0 start, perhaps a top 25 ranking, and a good chance at a win in Starkville the following week. Alas, that was all gone in a flash, and now Kentucky is 2-2 and travels to South Carolina with its chances at a better than average season in the balance.


The Wildcats will take on the 1-3 South Carolina Gamecocks, who are favored by a field goal despite their inferior record and their five straight losses to UK. Wildcat backers will again argue that Kentucky is disrespected and should be able to take down Carolina. But at this point, nothing in the last five quarters of football UK has played indicates that Kentucky is worthy of any additional respect. If the Wildcats want it, they’ll have to reclaim it on Saturday.


About Carolina

Carolina opened its season with a 24-20 loss to North Carolina despite leading for most of the game. In SEC play, the Gamecocks have lost by 24 and 20 points, although admittedly, both losses were to a handful of the better teams in the SEC (Alabama and Missouri). South Carolina began the season with senior Jake Bentley under center, but a season-ending injury has thrust freshman backup Ryan Hilinksi into the starting role. Hilinksi has completed over 62 percent of his passes for 772 yards, five touchdowns, and three interceptions.


Carolina splits its ground game between Rico Dowdle (268 yards, 3 TDs) and Clemson transfer Tavien Feaster (183 yards, 1 TD). Carolina’s top receivers are Bryan Edwards (21 catches, 311 yards, 3 TDs) and Shi Smith (16 carries, 190 yards, 1 TD), but Smith is dinged up and may miss the game.


Carolina has struggled defensively, especially against the pass, where they have allowed 10 touchdowns and nabbed just four interceptions. Carolina also holds the football for less than 26 minutes per game.

About Kentucky

UK QB Sawyer Smith struggled against Mississippi State and had some injury issues, but he’s expected to be available on Saturday for full duty. If not, backup Walker Wood may see time, as could freshman Amani Gilmore, and/or specialty QB Lynn Bowden from a variety of Wildcat packages.


A.J. Rose had his best game as a starter against State, and given Carolina’s offensive potency and defense struggles, it would not surprise if he and Kavosiey Smoke get plenty of carries on Saturday. Defensively, Kentucky needs to be sharper on run defense and continue forcing some turnovers.


The x-factor may be field goals, where walk-on Matt Ruffolo made a kick last week after scholarship kicker Chance Poore continued to struggle. This game is close enough that it could well come down to a kick—and if it does, Ruffolo could become a hero in a hurry.


UK 24, South Carolina 21


Around the SEC Predictions

Texas A&M 49, Arkansas 7

Vanderbilt 34, Northern Illinois 21

Alabama 52, Mississippi 14

Florida 55, Towson 3

Auburn 31, Mississippi State 14


Joe Cox is contributing editor for KySportsStyle.com Magazine. He grew up in Letcher County and Bell County and has written eight books. His most recent, "A Fine Team Man: Jackie Robinson and the Lives He Changed," was released in February 2019 and can be ordered on Amazon or at many local bookstores. Joe is an attorney and lives in Logan County with his wife and children. You can reach him at jrcox004@gmail.com

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