KICKOFF: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
SITE: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, S.C.
RANKINGS: Kentucky unranked; South Carolina No. 13
KEYS TO THE GAME
The season is one-third over and Kentucky still hasn't found a reliable starting quarterback.
Sophomores Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow have been alternating and first-year coach Mark Stoops is becoming frustrated that neither player has stepped up to corral the starting position.
"We're in a little bit of a quandary right now with what to do," Stoops said. "I think we're going to try to give it to one person, give him the reps and see what he can do.
"I think we need to do that. It has not been clear-cut at this point. It would be reckless for us to name one guy at this point because nobody has taken the job. We're going to evaluate it this week and see where we're at."
The Wildcats (1-3, 0-1 SEC) visit No. 12 South Carolina this Saturday and will need to get something going on offense to avoid a third straight defeat.
Kentucky had just 173 yards in a 24-7 loss to Florida last week, and the touchdown came when kicker Joe Mansour ran 25 yards for a score on a fake field goal.
Smith was 12-of-20 for 90 yards with an interception against the Gators. Whitlow was 5-of-6 for 35 yards.
Smith has the reputation of being a better passer than Whitlow but is completing 57.9 percent of his throws to Whitlow's 66 percent. Smith has four touchdown passes and Whitlow, who is the superior rushing quarterback, has tossed just one.
"We will tailor our offense to do whatever we have to do to help us move the ball to win games," Stoops said. "We just need the best player to come forward and be consistent and give us a chance to win."
South Carolina could be without starting quarterback Connor Shaw and backup running back Brandon Wilds, who were both injured against UCF.
Shaw suffered a sprained shoulder early in the encounter and did not return. He was expected to miss two to three weeks, but coach Steve Spurrier said this week that he is going to be healthy enough to play and might even start.
If he doesn't, junior Dylan Thompson will get his third start as a collegian.
Spurrier kept the pressure off Thompson in the second half by almost exclusively keeping the football on the ground.
Sophomore tailback Mike Davis made that a smart move as he rushed for more than 150 yards and three touchdowns in the second half. That allowed Thompson time to ease into the game.
The defense was schizophrenic, playing solidly in a long period and then allowing two long pass plays that put Central Florida back into contention late, which angered Spurrier.
"I said we've got some issues that we haven't cleaned up yet, and we're going to try to clean them up. I'll be helping out with the secondary," Spurrier said. "I guess I haven't helped very well yet, so we're going to try to keep things in front of us, see if we can get guys to watch the quarterback, break on the ball and be a little smarter back there.
"But obviously we haven't got it corrected yet. But we'll keep working on it and fortunately we were able to win the game. Jimmy Legree and Victor (Hampton) made a couple of good plays to get picks, so we had some good plays. But we had some careless plays late in the game that almost cost us."
PLAYERS TO WATCH
--QB Maxwell Smith has not taken the starting job by the horns and the game against the Gamecocks will be critical for him if he is named the starter. He is the better passing quarterback, but Jalen Whitlow is completing a higher percentage of his attempts and also provides a boost with his running ability.
--WR Ryan Timmons is displaying signs of someday being a top-notch target. He caught six passes against Florida and has 15 receptions for 173 yards. He is one of three true freshmen getting substantial playing time at a position that lacks veteran depth.
--DE Alvin Dupree had seven tackles against Florida and is second on the club with 25 stops. The move from linebacker to defensive end has allowed him to flourish, and his 2.5 sacks are second behind junior-college transfer Za'Darius Smith. Dupree is Kentucky's second-best defensive player behind senior middle linebacker Avery Williamson (SEC-leading 42 tackles).
--CB Nate Willis got a late start in fall camp due to academic hurdles but the junior-college transfer is thriving and now owns a starting job. He had seven tackles against Florida and is teaming with sophomore Cody Quinn to give the Wildcats two solid cover corners. Kentucky ranks second in the SEC in pass defense (175 yards per game).
--DE Jadeveon Clowney played mostly at left end during the game and managed to disrupt the UCF offense on occasion, but he whiffed on a couple of sack attempts. He finished with two unassisted tackles and a quarterback hurry, but he expressed disappointment in the performance of himself and his fellow defensive linemen.
"Before there were guys like Melvin Ingram up there who were always going hard," Clowney said. "A lot of guys seem to think teams are just going to give us things. We've got to go out there and play hard every day."
--CB Victor Hampton continue to play with bone spurs in his foot. He picked up a key interception against Central Florida, but made a tactical error when he fielded a punt inside South Carolina's 10-yard line. He was not pleased with the play of the secondary, which gave up 356 yards through the air. "I don't really know what the problem is, but I think it is the entire defense, not one position," Hampton said. "We've just got to play better and smarter as a team."
--RB Mike Davis is establishing himself as one of the better running backs in the country. After getting only five first-half carries against Central Florida, he rushed for 150 yards and three touchdowns in the second half. Davis is second in the SEC with 516 rushing yards. He has rushed for more than 100 in three of South Carolina's four games and has three touchdown runs of 53 yards or longer.