South Carolina gets its shot at redemption in Week 2 against a Kentucky squad that dealt the Gamecocks a 45-38 loss the last time they met. Both South Carolina and UK are coming off season-opening wins, but the two squads struggled at times to hold on for the victory.

South Carolina holds the all-time series lead with a 17-8-1 record, and the Wildcats haven’t won in Columbia since 1999. The matchup is potentially vital for two programs that could struggle for wins in a conference where victories come at a premium.

The Gamecocks enter with an improved, veteran defense and a young offense trying to get its sea legs underneath it. Kentucky can fill a stat sheet with its offense, but its defense struggled at times in Week 1 to keep Louisiana-Lafayette at bay.

Here’s a look at five players to keep an eye on when the Gamecocks and Wildcats square off in Columbia:

1. South Carolina QB Connor Mitch — Getting flagged for delay-of-game on the very first snap of the year — in your very first career start as quarterback — is an ominous way to start a campaign. And a great way to land in Steve Spurrier’s doghouse. The Head Ball Coach stuck with Connor Mitch at quarterback, despite the miscommunication and sluggish start. The redshirt sophomore quarterback settled down some, throwing for 122 yards and a touchdown before exiting with an injured hip. Mitch was back at practice this week and looks as if he’ll be the starter against Kentucky. The leash won’t be too long, as Spurrier suggested during his weekly SEC conference call that Lorenzo Nunez, who finished fourth on the quarterback depth chart this summer, could make his collegiate debut in some form against the Wildcats. Nunez is a freshman who possesses blazing speed and will likely be used in creative packages to spark some offense, much the same way Spurrier used WR Pharoh Cooper under center for several snaps in Week 1.

2. South Carolina RBs Brandon Wilds and David Williams — Only Tennessee (557 yards; didn’t see that one coming) gave up more yards among SEC teams in Week 1 than the 479 yards Kentucky surrendered against Louisiana-Lafayette. That’s great news for South Carolina’s power duo (trio, really) of Bash and Dash, aka Brandon Wilds, David Williams and Shon Carson, that could use a patsy defense to really get in gear. The Gamecocks as a team rushed for 259 total yards, but that number was spread between seven ball carriers, none of which crested 100 yards and was led by third-string running back Shon Carson’s 71 yards. Spurrier needs to rely on his run game this season, especially as his young quarterback deals with first-year-starter hiccups and the wide receivers develop better pass-route patterns. A problem will arise once the Gamecock running backs get past the Kentucky defensive line, where waiting for them will be…

3. Kentucky LBs Josh Forrest and Khalid Henderson — Josh Forrest is emerging as one of the top linebackers in the SEC. The senior leads the conference in assisted tackles with 9.0 and is second in tackles with 15. He also added an interception, a sack, 3 pass break-ups and 4 passes defended in Kentucky’s Week 1 win over Louisiana-Lafayette. Naturally, that’s only after one game, but it’s encouraging for a Wildcats defense that needs as many stars as it can get. Forrest and Khalid Henderson form a senior duo at linebacker that combined for 17.5 tackles and 2 sacks against the Ragin’ Cajuns. The duo combined for 20.5 tackles last year against the Gamecocks as the Wildcats upended South Carolina 45-38 in Lexington. If Spurrier’s offense struggles early again, Forrest and Henderson will make the Gamecocks pay.

4. South Carolina DT Kelsey Griffin — First year defensive coordinator Jon Hoke hoped his team would have defended better against the run during the Gamecocks’ Week 1 victory over North Carolina. Still, South Carolina came away with four sacks — all by defensive lineman, led by Kelsey Griffin with 1.5 sacks. Griffin entered fall camp third on the depth chart, but proved he has a place along the Gamecocks’ front-seven rotation with a solid performance over the Tar Heels. The junior Griffin could see an increased role with fellow defensive tackle Dante Sawyer dealing with an injured hamstring. The entire South Carolina defensive looked improved from the squad that was No. 107 in the nation against the run last year, yielding 212.2 ypg, despite the fact that North Carolina rushed for 208 yards as a team. The Gamecocks’ four sacks is remarkable when you consider that the entire team only had 14 sacks all of last year. But there’s plenty room for improvement. They’ll face a Kentucky squad that can put up big numbers on the ground and in the air. The Wildcats were led by running back Stanley “Boom” Williams, who rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown in Week 1 against Louisiana-Lafayette.

5. Kentucky QB Patrick Towles — He’s the second-leading returning quarterback in the SEC this season, but the start to his 2015 season hasn’t been the smoothest. Towles threw for 257 yards, 3 touchdowns and an interception in Week 1, but was wild at times, often over-throwing receivers. This came after he was pushed to save his starting job throughout camp by redshirt freshman Drew Barker. The junior is certainly capable of putting it all together, however, against a revamped South Carolina secondary that’s still gelling as a unit. Towles, the grandson of hall-of-fame baseball pitcher Jim Bunning, is one of just four Kentucky quarterbacks in program history to pass for more than 3,000 yards, joining Tim Couch, Dusty Bonner and Jared Lorenzen.