Columbia, SC - South Carolina has won three straight to enter the Top 25, and probably couldn't be facing a better opponent to stay there.
The No. 25 Gamecocks look to defeat Kentucky for the 10th straight time Saturday as coach Steve Spurrier tries to improve to 17-0 all-time against the Wildcats.
Oddsmakers from online sports book BetOnline have made South Carolina –10.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 56% of bets for this game have been placed on South Carolina –10.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
South Carolina (4-1, 1-1 SEC) is back in the rankings for the first time since Nov. 8, 2008, after a 38-14 win over South Carolina State last Saturday.
While the easy non-conference victory was expected, the Gamecocks are facing the SEC opponent they have enjoyed the most recent success against. South Carolina has won every matchup since 2000, with Spurrier adding to his 12 wins over Kentucky prior to arriving in Columbia.
The Gamecocks coach has made clear that the past means nothing.
"They are very capable of beating us and I think we're capable of beating them," Spurrier said. "The team that plays the best will probably win it. This year's game will stand on its own merit."
Kentucky (2-2, 0-2) feels differently about the series as it prepares to play a third straight ranked opponent. The Wildcats lost 41-7 to top-ranked Florida on Sept. 26 and 38-20 last Saturday to No. 3 Alabama, and know that it doesn't get any easier.
"South Carolina has had their way with us," Wildcats coach Rich Brooks said. "They have had struggles with other teams that we have beaten. It's not something I can put my exact finger on. But the one thing I do know is that we can't make mistakes."
Gamecocks quarterback Stephen Garcia will be remembered by Wildcats fans for his heroics in last year's 24-17 victory. Garcia replaced a struggling Chris Smelley and led South Carolina back from a fourth-quarter deficit with two scoring drives, including a 7-yard TD pass to Weslye Saunders with 7:08 left for the final margin.
Garcia has been efficient with six touchdowns and one interception in his last four games and completed 13 of 19 passes for 132 yards and two scores last weekend.
"We certainly hope and believe that he can continue advancing, continue maybe throwing the ball a little more accurately here and there," Spurrier said. "But he did throw some good ones the second half last week and that was encouraging."
Garcia's quarterback counterpart for Kentucky - Mike Hartline - isn't earning the same plaudits from his coach. Hartline has two touchdowns and five interceptions in the last two weeks, and an unhappy Brooks is grudgingly sticking with him.
"(Hartline) has got to throw better and he's got to make some plays and he can't make bad plays like he did," Brooks said. "He knows that."
Hartline will have to be aware of the presence of South Carolina linebacker Eric Norwood, who has an SEC-high six sacks this year and a school-record 28. Norwood blocked a field goal in last week's win and has two interceptions this season, returning one for a touchdown.
Norwood made his presence felt two years ago in a 38-23 win over Kentucky, returning two fumbles for the first two touchdowns of his career.
The Wildcats could be without starting cornerbacks Trevard Lindley and Paul Warford. Lindley's streak of 43 straight starts will end due to an ankle injury while Warford is day-to-day with a strained quadriceps muscle.
It all adds up to a tall order for the Wildcats, who have lost 19 straight road games to ranked SEC opponents.
"This is a big challenge," Brooks said. "This is a game that is critically important if we want to move up in the SEC East standings. It is just as important to South Carolina as it is to us. They are 1-1 and we are 0-2. This will go a long way for the final rankings of the SEC East. So it's a big, big game."
Posted: 10/6/09 11:21PM ET