Containing Deebo Samuel will be critical for Kentucky if it hopes to come away victorious in its SEC opener Saturday at South Carolina. Samuel has accounted for 352 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns for the Gamecocks, who have dropped three straight games to the Wildcats.
Samuel has touched the ball a total of 14 times in two games, resulting in a pair of 97-yard kickoff returns for touchdowns, two rushes for 30 yards and a touchdown and 10 receptions for 128 yards and two scores. “He’s really good with the ball in his hands and he’s also really good when it’s not in his hands,” coach Will Muschamp told the media. “He works extremely hard and that’s why he has tremendous respect with his teammates.” After a tough opening six quarters which saw him run 23 times for 70 yards, sophomore Benny Snell, Jr. exploded in the second half for 100 yards on 16 carries as Kentucky topped Eastern Kentucky to start 2-0 for the third time in the last four seasons. Snell’s 25-yard touchdown run - the 14th of his career - gave the Wildcats the lead for good late in the third quarter.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network. LINE: South Carolina -6
ABOUT KENTUCKY (2-0, 0-0 SEC): Following a shaky opening against Southern Miss, Stephen Johnson impressed as a passer and runner against Eastern Kentucky to improve to 10-4 as the primary quarterback for the Wildcats. The senior threw for 224 yards and one touchdown and ran for 48 yards and another score and has thrown and run for a touchdown in three straight games. C.J. Conrad caught his second touchdown of the season and Blake Bone had three catches for 93 yards to top his yardage total from last season.
ABOUT SOUTH CAROLINA (2-0, 1-0): The Gamecocks have proven content to give up yardage on defense as 927 yards in two games would attest, but have stiffened by forcing five turnovers and holding opponents to five scores in eight red zone opportunities. Dante Sawyer has forced two fumbles and South Carolina has recovered three total while Bryson Allen-Williams and Jamyest Williams have one interception each. T.J. Brunson leads the defense unit with 22 tackles and D.J. Wonnum has two sacks and four tackles for loss.
1. Kentucky, which will be out to stop South Carolina RBs Ty’Son Williams and Rico Dowdle, has allowed fewer than 100 yards rushing in consecutive games for the first time since 2008
2. Despite their first three-game losing streak to the Wildcats, the Gamecocks maintain a 17-9-1 lead in the series, which has been renewed every season since 1992.
3. Samuel became the second player in South Carolina history to have a kickoff return for a touchdown in back-to-back games, joining King Dixon (1957).
PREDICTION: South Carolina 34, Kentucky 23