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October 8, 2011

USC-Kentucky: Key battles

GamecockCentral.com breaks down the key matchups for South Carolina's game against Kentucky. At what positions will the game be decided?

Connor Shaw vs. Winston Guy
It's his deserved chance, and Shaw can step right through the open door today. If he was ever frustrated or angry about his lack of playing time, and seemingly everlong exile on the bench even when Stephen Garcia wasn't playing well, now is the time to forget all of it and be the quarterback of this team. Shaw doesn't have to throw for 400 yards and five touchdowns; rather, he just has to avoid the mistakes that cost Garcia the job. Namely, holding onto the ball. The Gamecocks operate on the system of "We'll give you enough weapons to win. All you have to do is not lose." Garcia's staggering nine interceptions finally took their toll, and while Shaw hasn't thrown one, he did fumble against East Carolina. Shaw has shown that he can run the ball, but he shouldn't have to; this is the perfect game for him to show off the arm and get the Gamecocks' passing offense in gear. Guy, with two interceptions, will be camped in the secondary waiting on him, though; a first-quarter pick will have the boo birds flying back to Williams-Brice Stadium.
Cody Gibson vs. Taylor Wyndham
With Kyle Nunn again out, Rokevious Watkins switches to left tackle and Gibson takes over at right. Like Shaw is being given the opportunity to find the passing game (and himself) against a bad Kentucky team, Gibson is also being given an opportunity. USC needs to have solid depth on the offensive line, as was clearly proven last week, when Mike Matulis had his doors blown off before being benched. Gibson won't have to protect Shaw's blind side, but he will have to hold his own on the right, since Marcus Lattimore will need to use both sides. Gibson learned last year, and kept learning last week; now's the chance to show it. Wyndham, an SEC legend as the one guy who managed to knock out Tim Tebow, hasn't had a great year at defensive end, with only three tackles in five games, but the Swansea native will no doubt want to play well in front of his family and friends.
Jadeveon Clowney vs. Morgan Newton
Clowney may not start, even with Melvin Ingram out, but he'll get a chance to play and play a lot. This is the perfect game for Clowney to explode - Kentucky has given up an SEC-high 21 sacks and Newton will stand still long enough to take the sack. Clowney had a meager two tackles against Auburn after living in Vanderbilt's backfield, and with no Ingram there to pick up the loose balls this week, Clowney may be the beneficiary. Newton's a big boy, at 6-foot-4, but Clowney is bigger, and faster. The Indiana native has probably never seen something like what will be staring at him off the edge.
Antonio Allen vs. La'Rod King
The Wildcats' leading receiver, King is averaging 61.4 yards per game and has four touchdowns. When Newton decides to cast long, King is the guy he'll be looking to throw to. Allen, playing an All-American season, had yet another takeaway last week and is looking to keep the hot streak going. With the Wildcats' running game going nowhere and expected to be stalled by USC's defensive line, the passing game will have to be exploited. If Allen and the rest of the SEC's No. 1 passing defense can keep it up, it can pad its stats and perhaps give Allen a seventh turnover in six games.
Marcus Lattimore vs. Donte Rumph
Lattimore has been stood up for the past two games, opponents knowing that the Gamecocks' passing game remains under construction and that if they stacked the box, they would be able to get a hand on the shifty tailback. Kentucky knows all about Lattimore, after he carved the Wildcats apart in the first half last year, but some of those plays were on swing passes, which have been inconsistent this season. Lattimore will get the ball early and often, and with USC's offensive line going through changes, he may be hit early as he was against Vanderbilt and Auburn. The Gamecocks don't want to have to throw Shaw into the fire right away, but may not have a choice if Lattimore can't get loose. Rumph, a Calhoun County product, will be waiting in the middle of the line. At 308 pounds, Lattimore probably would do well to avoid him.

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