Friday, October 05, 2007

South Carolina over Kentucky, and Florida’s SEC East Implications

Quick – who was the best Division I-A (orwhateverthehellitscalled) defense statistically Kentucky played before 26th ranked South Carolina last night?

Take a look at the defensive rankings of Kentucky opponents (I-A) thus far in total yardage –

Kent State – 34th
Louisville – 84th
Arkansas – 71st
FAU – 90th

Yes ladies, it was the Golden Flashes of Kent State that was the Wildcat’s stoutest defensive opponent before last night. While the defensive numbers of Kent State are undoubtedly inflated by the piss-poor opposition they have faced, one still must give pause to the level of talent faced by Kentucky thus far.

Look at the Wildcats offensive statistics before Thursday’s game, and compare them -

Before South Carolina - 46.6 PPG, 492.2 YPG
Against South Carolina – 23 points, 384 yards

All-in-all not a terrible offensive game, but significantly less than UK had averaged thus far. The real story of the game, and of South Carolina’s defense, was the pressure applied to Woodson that resulted in 4 turnovers, with two going directly for scores. If possible, Woodson seemed too much at ease in the pocket on the first fumble, his eyes locked downfield oblivious to the pressure coming from all sides. Perhaps in facing his first credible defense he was totally unprepared.

On the other side of the ball, we had previously noted Kentucky as a “defensive pretender”. In the case of last night’s game, Kentucky surrendered a not unreasonable 342 yards to a Spurrier offense, with only 86 yards on the ground. This game was lost by the Kentucky offense, and more specifically Woodson, who as mentioned failed to protect the ball, especially in the desperation lateral resulting in Eric Norwood’s second defensive touchdown of the game.

Despite South Carolina’s gaudy 38 points, when you look at the box score the game looks far more even than that –

Kentucky was better in 1st downs by 8, better in total yards by 42, same in yards per pass at 5.7, better in rushing by 72 yards, better in yards per rush by 1.7, and about even in time of possession. As previously mentioned, the turnovers tell the story (certain to be a subject of a Sunday Morning Quarterback “Life at the Margins” column).

This is not to say that all is rosy with South Carolina by far. The Gamecock’s prior vulnerability remained readily exposed in this game – that of their run defense. Prior to Thursday, South Carolina ranked an atrocious 100th nationally in run defense surrendering 201 yards per game, and Kentucky managed 157 yards on the ground, running for 4.1 yards per carry. On the other hand, South Carolina could manage but 342 yards against a Kentucky defense ranked 69th overall, 43 yards less than the average surrendered by Kentucky all season. In fact, Kentucky gave up considerably more yardage to Kent State (453), Louisville (467), and Arkansas (495), and even gave up 307 yards to FAU. South Carolina’s ground game remained dismal – ranked 72nd nationally, they gained only 86 yards against a Kentucky run defense ranked 103rd nationally that averages 204 yards per game surrendered.

From a Florida fan’s perspective, the game was encouraging for SEC East implications. Even if (when) Florida loses to LSU, we will still control our SEC East destiny now that every SEC East team has at least 1 SEC loss. Florida’s rushing offense – currently 18th in the country at 212 yards per game, should be able to feast on the porous run defenses of either of these teams, and run a clock-eating ball control game, especially critical as both games are on the road. And while Kentucky’s offense remains a threat, South Carolina's total offense – ranked 77th before this game – actually looks to fall in rankings after gaining 342 yards against their 364 yard per game season average.


Anonymous said...

can't tennessee still win out and control the east?

Andy said...

yup. you said it. florida, if they lose, does not control their own destiny until tennessee loses another sec game.

Henry Gomez said...

UT needs to lose. Otherwise we're cooked even if we win out.

Mergz said...

The observations re:UT were correct. I was wrong.

Anonymous said...

Georgia sure as hell didn't help our cause by losing to UcheaT.