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LEXINGTON, Ky. – Other than a 2010 upset that sparked a wild celebration at Commonwealth Stadium, Kentucky has usually come up short against South Carolina.
The Wildcats (3-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) have lost three in a row to the Gamecocks (3-2, 2-2) and 13 of 14 in trailing the series 7-17-1. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is 20-1 against Kentucky, one of two conference schools he has beaten that many times along with Vanderbilt.
Kentucky aims to deny Spurrier that 21st victory with an effort that would also put the Wildcats above .500 in the Eastern Division for the first time in a while. It's a tall task given their struggles against South Carolina and Spurrier, but the Wildcats enter hopeful after beating Vanderbilt to end a 17-game SEC losing streak dating back to the 2011 season.
"We're excited," Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. "Guys are ready to play and really had a pretty good week of practice. We're just worried about our preparation and how we go out and execute and how we go play."
Another SEC win by the Wildcats could vault them into the division title discussion, but Stoops won't go there yet. He's trying to keep his young team focused on improving each game and letting things take care of themselves.
The coach added, "If you take care of your business, then we can have that conversation as we move forward. We're a long way from there."
Spurrier meanwhile is trying to get his Gamecocks to put last week's 21-20 upset loss to Missouri behind them. The defeat knocked South Carolina from the rankings for the first time since the second week of the 2010 season.
The Gamecocks fell to just 2-1 in the East but face an urgency to stay alive in a division they were favored to win. For Spurrier that means taking nothing for granted against a Kentucky team he has owned, especially with the Wildcats showing improvement.
"Stoops and his staff have done an excellent job," Spurrier said. "This is only his second year he's been there, and they play a lot differently than the Kentucky teams 10 years ago, 15 years ago. They're a fast team, no question."
Here are some other things to watch on Saturday night:
GAMECOCKS' DEFENSE: South Carolina yielded its lowest yardage total this season against Missouri last week (280), but gave up 119 in two fourth-quarter TD drives resulting in the upset loss. The Gamecocks enter as the SEC's worst defense with 440 points allowed per game. Defensive tackle J.T. Surratt nonetheless believes improvement is possible if they stay focused, saying, "We're going to try to put everything together — hopefully put a whole game together."
THIRD DOWN: Vanderbilt was just 2 of 12 on third down against a Kentucky defense that ranks fourth in the SEC at 26.3 percent on the pivotal down. The Wildcats' offense meanwhile is converting at a nearly 45 percent rate and faces a South Carolina defense that has allowed opponents to convert 43 percent, slightly better than the Gamecocks' offense (41 percent).
SIDELINED WILDCATS: Running back/kick returner Stanley "Boom" Williams and wide receiver Dorian Baker are suspended for this game for shooting air pistols and BB guns on campus Sunday night. The two freshmen had combined for three touchdowns with Williams' 279 all-purpose yards leading Kentucky.
DANGEROUS DAVIS: Injuries and ineffectiveness have hampered Gamecocks RB Mike Davis this season, but last week's 22-carry, 104-yard effort with a TD against Missouri was a reminder that he can still impact games. He had 106 yards rushing and two TDs against Kentucky last season and Wildcats defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot remains wary of Davis, saying, "he's one of the top backs in the SEC and we're definitely going to have our (work) cut out for us this week."
BLACK-OUT: Kentucky is asking fans to dress in black for the game, setting the stage for the Wildcats to break out their all-black alternate uniforms as well after playing in a gray and blue combination last week against Vanderbilt.
AP Staff Writer Jeffrey S. Collins in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.