Today's roundtable features staff writer David Porter, Publisher Adam Garrett and guest bloggers Leftover Hot Dog and The Meat Locker Sports.
Please make sure you click their names and frequent their blogs too - you won't be disappointed.
We'll get started with this week's edition of The Anthem Roundtable...
Steve Spurrier announced on Tuesday that Connor Shaw will start this Saturday. Is he making the right move given Shaw's injury and Thompson's performance this season?
PORTER: This is a hard one for me. Based on performance on the field, it's a no-brainer for me. Dylan Thompson has been great in the last two weeks, though against inferior competition. However, we're not seeing what Spurrier sees every day in practice. If Shaw is healthy enough that his performance doesn't lack, then he needs to be the starter. He's got the experience on talent. If he's not healthy, as was the case last week, then it's not a good decision.
GARRETT: It's tough to say whether this is the right move or not. Obviously Shaw was in some pain last week and played timid at times. However, he could be feeling much better and may not show any signs of pain this Saturday. The coaches watch him in practice and get to see what he can do. Thompson has come in on fire this year but Shaw adds another element to the running game. Thompson may be able to throw the ball a bit better than Shaw right now, but overall, Shaw is probably the Gamecocks' best option for the long run.
LOHD: I've learned to trust Coach Spurrier. He wants to win more than anyone on that sideline and he will do what is right for the team. In my opinion, I don't care who starts but concern myself more with who performs at the level necessary to yield a win. In saying that, the good news if Shaw is unable to perform at a high level, I feel Spurrier is not afraid to throw Thompson in there.
MLS: Giving Shaw the start is the best move for the team. Last week, I would've rather have seen Thompson get the start so that Shaw had one more week to rest the shoulder before a crucial SEC matchup. Watching Saw last week, it was clear that something wasn't right and he wasn't himself. If Shaw comes out flat early in the contest, I think Spurrier needs to put the pride away and not hesitate to insert Thompson. If Shaw is at full strength he adds that spark to the offense that we grew accustomed last season. It's till too early to write off Shaw as the starter, but it's not crazy to think that Thompson at some point could take over. They're both proven at this point.
Missouri's James Franklin has been battling an injury that kept him out of the Arizona State game. What do you expect from the Tigers signal-caller?
PORTER: Like Shaw, I expect Franklin to try and play like he always has. He's tough like Shaw and will do whatever it takes to win. Whether or not he's healthy enough to do it remains to be seen, but he will certainly give it a shot.
GARRETT: Franklin is reportedly near "symptom-free" and should be close to 100% this Saturday. He adds the essential element to the spread offense at the quarterback position: running ability. Being the dual-threat player that he is, he'll need to be watched at all times by the Gamecock defense. I'd expect him to play like you've normally seen Franklin play throughout his career.
LOHD: It is interesting that Franklin and Shaw are leaping into the game. Hard to say with Franklin and how will he perform under center. He is like Shaw, where he likes to run the ball and keep the defense honest. I do hope that Coach Ward has instructed Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney to attack. I expect full pressure on Franklin and this will result in a rattled QB for Missouri, thus a win for SC.
MLS: Franklin's injury situation appears to be pretty similar to Connor Shaw's in terms of how serious it is. It's been kept pretty well under wraps, at least until Franklin took to Twitter and voiced his opinions on not using any kind of pain killers to ease the severity of his injury. If Franklin is in the game and he's healthy, he's a threat with his legs and he can move the chains. If he's not healthy, the Gamecock defense will expose him.
Missouri has racked up nine sacks and forced seven fumbles in three games this year. With South Carolina's struggles on the offensive line, can the Missouri defense get to the Gamecocks quarterback?
PORTER: While those are impressive numbers, we can't get too carried away with it. Four of those sacks and three of the fumbles occurred in the opening game against Southeast Louisiana. Against Georgia they were able to force three more fumbles, but only recovered one, and had two sacks. With that said, there are some major deficiencies on Carolina's offensive line. If they can't get those fixed by Saturday, Connor Shaw could be running for his life.
GARRETT: The Gamecocks have struggled in recent weeks in pass protection and run blocking. There's been inconsistent play from line which has resulted in a few personnel changes and schematic changes to the blocking scheme. Missouri has brought some pressure on its opponents but stacked up several of those big numbers against a lesser opponent in Southeast Louisiana. They still have talent and have ability to get to the Gamecocks in a hurry. The offensive line needs to up its game to protect Shaw and his injured shoulder. If they don't, Shaw may end up on the sidelines again this weekend.
LOHD: For me this is the biggest concern facing USC in this game. I tell myself that the USC OL is ready for the heat and will control the line. To combat this, USC must execute the short passing game with some slants, screens and tight end crossing routes. Do that and it will keep the Tigers at bay enough to establish an honest rushing attack.
MLS: Missouri's defense is very capable of getting a few shots in on Connor Shaw. Our O-line has arguably been our most inconsistent aspect of the team. If the O-line isn't able to protect Shaw, the wrong type of hit can take him right out of the game plan.
What can the Gamecocks do on defense to neutralize the Missouri spread offense?
PORTER: There's two things they need to do to stop Missouri's offense. The first is to stop the run. In order for Missouri to be successful they have to run the football effectively. If the defensive front and linebackers can make the tackle without the running backs getting to that second and third level, then they can force Missouri to be one-dimensional. The second thing is getting off the field. UAB was 4-of-19 on third down conversions last week. While it will be difficult to put those numbers up against Missouri, if Carolina can get off the field on third downs, Missouri will not be able to sustain
GARRETT: The main thing the Gamecocks need to do is contain the running game of Missouri. Between Franklin and Lawrence, they can move the ball on the ground. They need to play well in the gaps and contain the outside in order to limit the speed from breaking free. Create a few turnovers here and there, limit third-down conversions and tackle well and the defense will likely have given the Gamecocks a chance at the victory on Saturday.
LOHD: The Gamecocks must get pressure on UM's Franklin that is key number one. The other is to tackle well in space and lastly, the Gamecocks cannot give up a first down on third-and-long. Executing these three things will help to neutralize the Tigers offense and help USC win the field position game and time-of-possession game.
MLS: The defense will have to stay aggressive and they will have to execute. Putting pressure on Franklin and keeping him inside the pocket will allow the Gamecocks to keep him right there they want him. If they are able to get the pressure and Franklin as able to move outside the pocket, it could be a threat to our D.J. Swearinger-less secondary.
What one player, offense or defense, needs to have a big performance this Saturday to help the Gamecocks beat Missouri?
PORTER: For me it's Marcus Lattimore. One of the best ways to stop an explosive offense is to keep them on the sidelines. If James Franklin and the Missouri offense is sitting on the sidelines they can't put up big numbers. South Carolina will need those long sustained drives that eats up time off the clock.
GARRETT: Devin Taylor could use a big performance this weekend. The senior defensive end is not as vocal as some of the other guys, but he can lead by example with a strong performance. His speed and size are nearly unmatched in college football and there will likely be a ton of focus on his teammate, Jadeveon Clowney. He could have some nice opportunities this weekend.
LOHD: I want to see Kelcey Quarles on the interior of the defensive line for USC have a big game. If he can help control the inside of the line then the ends can get around the edge. This means good things for USC being disruptive in the Tigers backfield and not letting the Missouri offense be potent.
MLS: Marcus Lattimore. After being held to under 100-yards in the last two games, Lattimore needs to be Connor Shaw's security blanket, just as he was for Stephen Garcia. Obviously the circumstances are different from Latty's previous two seasons as he's coming off major knee surgery. He's now had three games to adjust and get back to game speed. It's time now to dig in and become that 25-plus carry back that can bail Shaw out if he needs to. Lat-A-Mo…Heis-A-Man!
Who will the defense turn to as a vocal leader this Saturday with D.J. Swearinger suspended for the game by the SEC? Do you agree with Swearinger's suspension?
PORTER: I think it will be several players. Devonte Holloman and Shaq Wilson are two of the most experienced players so they will have to be talking a lot. Brison Williams is going to be taking on Swearinger's role in making checks so he will have to become more vocal this week as well. As for the suspension, if you go by letter of the law then the suspension is valid. Swearinger lunged forward and made helmet-to-helmet contact with the UAB receiver. On the other hand, the SEC needs to be more consistent with their rulings.
GARRETT: You'll have to go with some of the veteran guys in the lineup DeVonte Holloman, Shaq Wilson, Byron Jerideau are guys that have been around the program and know what needs to happen this weekend. As far as the Swearinger suspension, it's probably the right call in order to protect the players' safety in the game. However, a little more consistency across the board would be nice.
LOHD: I look to Shaq Wilson to be that vocal leader and rally the troops. He is an upper classman that plays at a high level which USC needs to have happen in this game. I do not agree with the suspension. I understand the safety concerns but the rule is subject to so many variables. It was not intentional. It was a football play with a receiver coming over the middle. Swearinger and the team were flagged during the game and that should have been the end of it.
MLS: Shaq Wilson. The senior linebacker has made some huge plays this year and is the most experienced leader on the team. Wilson has played with a lot of energy this season as well as a lot of confidence. He needs to be that guy that leads the defense on Saturday and keeps everybody fired-up, but at the same time, he needs to keep them in line.
As a fan, I hate the Swearinger suspension. But as a football fan, it was the right call. If an example needed to be made, who better than one of the SEC's premiere safeties. Swearinger has the experience to know that you can lay that kind of hit and not feel any repercussions. A full game might have been a little excessive, but if the point had to be made, this was the right instance, unfortunately.
PORTER: I'm torn on this one. I could see Carolina winning big or winning in a nail-biter. I could also see Missouri winning in a nail-biter, but I don't think they will be able to win big. Carolina is difficult to beat at home and I don't think Missouri has what it takes to end Carolina's winning streak. Gamecocks win 24-14.
GARRETT: This is a game that could be more of a low-scoring affair giving the quarterback concerns for both teams. Missouri hung tough with Georgia for three quarters but collapsed in the fourth. The SEC is another level and the Tigers likely don't have the same depth that the Gamecocks have in order to hang tough for a complete game. Missouri is a good team, but South Carolina looks to be the better opponent. Gamecocks win 24-14 after they take over the game in the fourth quarter behind the always reliable Marcus Lattimore.
LOHD: I think USC and Missouri will be tight to start but USC's defense will provide some key momentum and help the Gamecocks get a 27-17 win.
MLS: 31-14. Before I go, I would like to point out the celebrity that has been brought to the table this week by two of the panel members. Congrats to Adam Garrett who scored an interview with Fox Sports and their lovely correspondent, Ms. Sara Jane Harris, who has actually been a guest on The Meat Locker. Another congrats to Billy Koehler of Leftover Hotdog for bringing some serious heat on Gamecock insight on WACH Columbia. Congrats gentleman!