South Carolina players know the stats. They know their last two trips to Kentucky and the last time the Wildcat’s came to Columbia didn’t go well, and they’re determined to change that.
So determined that head coach Will Muschamp addressed minutes after the Gamecocks came off the field after beating Missouri on the road.
“Well, I told our guys in the locker room after the last ball game, the seniors haven't beaten these guys and that's not something we need to allow to happen,” Muschamp said. “It's the SEC East. It's the home opener. So there are a lot of things.”
The Wildcats own a three-game winning streak over the Gamecocks, outscoring them 88 to 70. Every game has been decided by seven points or less with the last matchup in Columbia a four-point game.
Both teams are considered to be on the come-up in the SEC and are undefeated heading into this week’s game. They come in after similar styles off offense — balanced — and opportunistic defenses with both teams plus-four in turnover margin.
A win for South Carolina would stop the skid against an SEC East opponent and give the Gamecocks their first 2-0 start in SEC play since 2012, and that’s something the Gamecocks aren’t taking lightly.
“This is a big game for us. It’s a measuring stick right here,” Chris Lammons said. “Kentucky is a good group of guys and we’re a good group of guys also. We have home field advantage that we have to take care of.”
Muschamp has pounded the same mantra since he became head coach and it’s still emblazoned inside the indoor facility: Beat the East, Win the State.
It’s simple enough. Take care of business against division opponents and win games against teams in the state, specifically Clemson.
When South Carolina rattled off three consecutive 11-2 seasons it didn’t lose to Kentucky and outscored the Wildcats 127 to 48, including a 54-3 thrashing in Columbia.
So to some on the team, trying to beat Kentucky this week is just another step to fulfilling Muschamp’s goal.
“Our motto is to beat the East and win the state. We take steps forward every day,” Deebo Samuel said. “I don’t look at this game like a big game.”
For the Gamecocks, this week, it’s personal. There are group of seniors that hasn’t beaten Kentucky in their careers here. Those include: Bryson Allen-Williams, D.J. Smith, Taylor Stallworth and Chris Lammons.
It’s what Muschamp’s talked about in the two days of preparation the team has had so far leading up to Saturday’s game.
Winning won’t be a cakewalk, but the Gamecocks should be ready to play, Bentley said, especially with the game at night at Williams-Brice.
“They haven’t beat Kentucky and that’s who I’m really preparing for this week: our seniors to give them that win they deserve. It’s an SEC game. We have to be ready to play,” “Every Saturday’s a test of where we’re at. Hopefully we’ll prepare the right way and be ready to go.”