▪ Kentucky senior Will Levis (97-of-141 passing for 1,405 yards with 12 touchdown passes vs. four interceptions) had a mixed showing in UK’s frustrating 22-19 loss at then-No. 14 Mississippi last week. The 6-foot-3, 232-pound product of Madison, Conn., had solid passing numbers — 18-of-24 for 220 yards and two TDs. However, Levis took a safety on a play when he could have thrown the ball away. Levis also lost fumbled twice in the Ole Miss red zone — the third and fourth turnovers the UK QB has committed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line this season. Last year in Kentucky’s 16-10 win at South Carolina, Levis completed 15 of 22 passes for 102 yards with one pick and ran five times for 30 yards. Amid media reports that an ankle injury suffered in the Ole Miss game could make Levis a game-time decision for South Carolina, former Somerset High School star Kaiya Sheron could make his first career start for UK. The 6-3, 208-pound redshirt freshman has never thrown a pass in a college game.
▪ A transfer from Oklahoma, South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler (98-of-151 passing for 1,121 yards) has injected life into the Gamecocks’ passing attack. However, the 6-1, 215-pound product of Phoenix has been turnover prone, throwing seven interceptions vs. four TDs. Two seasons ago at OU, Rattler set college football aflame, passing for 3,031 yards and 28 touchdowns vs. seven interceptions. Last year, though, Rattler lost the OU starting job to star freshman Caleb Williams (now at Southern Cal). Luke Doty, who started against UK last season (17-of-25 passing, 158 yards, one TD), is now the Carolina backup.
▪ After serving a suspension, Kentucky star Christopher Rodriguez played his first game of 2022 last week at Ole Miss. The 5-11, 224-pound senior ran for 72 yards and a TD on 19 carries and caught three passes for 40 yards. “It was good,” UK Coach Mark Stoops said of C-Rod’s performance. “I think late in the game, I felt like, his legs were a little (tired).” In his UK career, Rodriguez has gashed South Carolina, running for 348 yards and four TDs in three games. Kavosiey Smoke (team-high 269 rushing yards, one TD, 5.1 yards per carry) left the Mississippi game for an undisclosed medical reason and his status this week is unclear. Junior JuTahn McClain played well in Oxford with 21 yards on five carries and one catch for 7 yards.
▪ South Carolina’s MarShawn Lloyd (324 yards rushing, six TDs, 6.1 ypc; 13 catches, 118 yards, two TDs) is enjoying a breakout season. “I really think a lot of MarShawn,” Mark Stoops says. “I think he’s a really good player.” Juju McDowell is solid as a runner (125 yards, two TDs, 3.5 ypc) but more dangerous as a receiver (13 catches, 97 yards). The 5-9, 180-pound sophomore ran five times for 13 yards and caught two passes for 16 yards vs. UK last season.
▪ True freshman Barion Brown (15 catches, 282 yards, two TDs) showed his explosiveness at Ole Miss. The 6-1, 166-pound Nashville product caught two passes, one for 51 yards and the other for 30. Virginia Tech transfer Tayvion Robinson leads UK in receptions (24) and receiving yards (365) and is tied for the lead in TD catches (three). True freshman Dane Key (17, 269, three) had two catches for 28 yards at Mississippi. The Frederick Douglass High School product also made a tremendous catch on a fade pattern for what would have been the go-ahead touchdown in the closing moments but had it called back due to a UK motion penalty.
▪ James Madison transfer Antwane Wells leads South Carolina with 24 catches for 309 yards. The 6-1, 207-pound junior has one TD reception. Super senior Jalen Brooks, a transfer from Tarleton State, has 17 receptions for 298 yards but is still looking for his first touchdown catch of 2022. Brooks played well against Kentucky in 2021, catching four passes for 63 yards and a TD.
▪ Ex-Bowling Green High School star Jordan Dingle (eight catches, 91 yards, one TD) turned in the best performance of his young college career in the loss at Ole Miss. The 6-4, 236-pound redshirt freshman caught three passes for 30 yards and a TD. Senior Brenden Bates, a 6-5, 264-pound Cincinnati product, has eight catches for 80 yards and a TD. Junior Izayah Cummings had a 23-yard run vs. Ole Miss.
▪ Jaheim Bell was the star of South Carolina’s win over North Carolina in last season’s Duke’s Mayo Bowl. The 6-2, 232-pound product of Lake City, Fla., had five catches for a career-high 159 yards and two touchdowns on plays of 69 and 66 yards. This year, Bell has nine catches for 121 yards. Super-senior Austin Stogner is another transfer from Oklahoma, where he caught 47 passes in his career for 647 yards and eight TDs. This season, the 6-5, 250-pound super-senior has 10 catches for 94 yards and a TD.
Advantage: South Carolina.
▪ Kentucky right tackle Jeremy Flax suffered an apparent leg injury late in the loss at Mississippi and his status moving forward is unclear. “It was a shame Flax went down,” Mark Stoops said. “I thought he was physical as heck and moving people and playing hard.” If Flax is unable to go, it will be the fourth time in six games that the struggling UK offensive line has had to shuffle its starters.
▪ South Carolina has one of the most-experienced offensive fronts in the country with a whopping combined 154 starts on its roster. Right guard Jovaughn Gwyn, a 6-3, 300-pound senior from Charlotte, N.C., has made 39 starts and is the Gamecocks’ top offensive lineman. Super-senior center Eric Douglas, another Charlotte product, is a sixth-year player who brings the experience of 29 career starts to making South Carolina’s line calls.
Advantage: South Carolina.
▪ Kentucky true freshman tackle Deone Walker (three tackles) and junior tackle Octavious Oxendine (two stops) were the only UK defensive linemen to register stops at Ole Miss. But Mark Stoops praised the play of junior nose guard Justin Rogers. “I thought Justin played one of his better games that he’s played here,” Stoops said.
▪ South Carolina senior tackle Zacch Pickens, a 6-4, 305-pound product of Anderson, S.C., has made a robust 23 tackles, including 12 in the Gamecocks’ 44-30 loss at Arkansas. End Jordan Burch was one of the nation’s most-recruited players in the class of 2020. The 6-6, 275-pound Columbia, S.C., product has not been the second coming of Jadeveon Clowney but is a good player — as shown by his 2022 stat line of 21 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, a sack, a pass breakup and five QB hurries.
▪ Kentucky may be bringing back a starting linebacker from injury but losing another this week. Mark Stoops said Monday that OLB/rush end J.J. Weaver may return from an elbow injury that has sidelined him for two games and most of a third. However, super-senior MLB Jacquez Jones, who had been playing at an All-SEC level, seems likely to be sidelined after leaving last week’s game at Mississippi with an undisclosed injury. If Jones is out, D’Eryk Jackson, a 6-1, 244-pound junior, will presumably get the call at MLB. WLB DeAndre Square (team-high 32 tackles) led Kentucky with 11 stops at Ole Miss. In four previous games vs. South Carolina, Square has 17 tackles.
▪ South Carolina MLB Sherrod Greene missed most of the past two seasons due to injuries, but has returned in 2022 to make 20 tackles. The 6-1, 233-pound senior picked off a pass in the Gamecocks’ 50-10 win over South Carolina State last Thursday. Greene had five stops in South Carolina’s 24-7 win over UK in 2019. Another sixth-year player, super-senior WLB Brad Johnson has 19 tackles, two QB hurries and an interception.
▪ Kentucky super-senior strong safety Tyrell Ajian (17 tackles, a forced fumble and a pass breakup) will also be playing against South Carolina for a fifth time. The 6-foot, 193-pound Mansfield, Ohio, product has 13 career stops vs. the Gamecocks. Super-senior CB Keidron Smith, a graduate transfer from Ole Miss, had six tackles vs. his old team. CB Carrington Valentine is ninth in the FBS in passes defended with eight (seven breakups and an interception).
▪ A junior-college transfer, South Carolina CB Marcellas Dial is having a big year. The 6-foot, 192-pound junior has 17 tackles, two interceptions and five pass breakups. Nickelback Cam Smith (10 tackles, an interception, a breakup and a QB hurry) is one of the most-talented DBs in the SEC.
▪ Kentucky’s place-kicking unit played an integral role in the Wildcats’ loss at Ole Miss. Matt Ruffolo missed a 39-yard field goal and had an extra-point blocked because, Mark Stoops said, the kick was too low. UK failed on another PAT when holder Chance Poore could not get a low snap from long-snapper Cade Degraw placed. On the plus side, punter Colin Goodfellow averaged 51.5 yards on two kicks and pinned Mississippi inside its 20 once. Kickoff returner Barion Brown was electric in Oxford, averaging 54.7 yards on three returns.
▪ South Carolina Coach Shane Beamer has continued the family tradition of strong special teams play that was long associated with his father, Frank Beamer, in his storied coaching career at Virginia Tech. Punter Kai Kroeger is averaging 43.8 yards on 17 punts and has pinned foes inside their 20-yard line 10 times. Place-kicker Mitch Jeter has made five of five field-goal attempts with a long of 53 yards. South Carolina blocked two punts that went for touchdowns in its season-opening win over Georgia State. The Gamecocks are 5-of-6 this season on two-point conversion tries.
Advantage: South Carolina.
Kentucky 35, South Carolina 29.