A South Carolina team ranked in the Top 10, coming off an impressive victory and looking like a contender for an SEC East title. A trip to Lexington to face the likely overwhelmed Wildcats. Nope, that's not this year -- it's 2010, and the Gamecocks are about to be upset in one of the more inexplicable losses of the Steve Spurrier Era.
Perhaps not that inexplicable in one sense -- after all, both Spurrier and the Gamecocks had lengthy winning streaks against Kentucky that were, to an extent, living on borrowed time. And the 31-28 loss featured the kind of plays that made South Carolina good enough to win a down SEC East but bad enough to never really contend for the conference title -- a blown coverage on Randall Cobb provided the game-winning margin for Kentucky, and Stephen Garcia threw an interception when South Carolina was in position for the game-tying field goal.
This is the first time that South Carolina has returned to Kentucky since. And the simple numbers say there should be little to no danger of a repeat. The Gamecocks have a sturdy offense and a top-tier front seven on defense. Their secondary is still learning on the job, but the team ranked 104th in the nation in passing efficiency is probably not the ideal candidate to take advantage of that.
But for the nervous South Carolina fan, and there's a professional class of them, there are enough external factors at work to make one worry. Following the Kentucky game is a trio of contests that go Georgia-at LSU-at Florida; you could hardly blame even the most veteran member of the team for overlooking the woeful Wildcats. And there are still those nagging questions about how healthy Connor Shaw and Marcus Lattimore really are.
The problem with that scenario, of course, is Kentucky. Even overlooked, the Wildcats are not the kind of team that you would think could pull this kind of an upset. South Carolina escapes -- barely -- and lives to fight for another day. Which is good enough, all things considered.
South Carolina 31, Kentucky 30