Hugely important game in the SEC East between two teams coming off of subpar performances. This is South Carolina’s third consecutive divisional matchup and fourth home game in their first five, while this is the SEC opener for Missouri. Last week’s home upset loss to Indiana could have been a look ahead situation for the Tigers who played either even or from behind the majority of the game. Zero chance either team shows up unfocused for this contest so the result figures to boil down to fundamentals.
The multi-pronged Missouri offense led by QB Matty Mauk has all the components to exploit what continues to be a very disappointing South Carolina defensive unit. Last week’s 379 total yards allowed on 6.9 yards per play to an impotent Vanderbilt team, which played with its backup QB for nearly three quarters, was referred to as "embarrassing" by Gamecocks HBC Steve Spurrier earlier this week.
As if the defense hasn't played bad enough, South Carolina’s kickoff coverage team picked last week to chip in with a disgraceful effort of their own allowing touchdown returns of 93 and 100 yards. Look out, they’re about to meet Missouri game-breaking return specialist Marcus Murphy who is averaging 39 yards per kickoff return this season with one TD already (he’s also averaging 10.3 per punt return). DC Lorenzo Ward has not found a way to even neutralize the rapid descent of his defense which has yielded a ridiculous 52.9 3rd down conversion percentage this season (at least 40% in every game), 69% pass completions, 480 typg and 5.3 yards per rush. facing another potent (429 ty and 38 ppg) up-tempo “spread” style team which has proven to be kryptonite for them suggests Missouri will keep the scoreboard turning.
Not to be outdone, South Carolina’s offense presents a difficult matchup for Mizzou as well. The combination of RB Mike Davis and the dangerous three level passing attack of QB Dylan Thompson and his receiving corps can find success versus this Tigers defense which has been lit up for 400+ yards twice this season. The key matchup will be the South Carolina offensive line which will be the best Missouri has seen thus far, against the Tigers defensive pressure which has recorded 14 sacks in their four games.
Having been in this SEC rodeo for a couple years now, hostile road venues and games of increased magnitude don’t phase the visiting (other) Columbia squad. For the host Columbia team, the stakes are high since a victory would propel them to 3-0 inside the division. Definitely have to be concerned with the psyche of this South Carolina defense should the mobile, dual threat Mauk get off to a quick start. Last week’s tougher than anticipated tussle with Vanderbilt is very concerning since it was taken seriously and not as the token breather it may have been used as in the past.
Approach here is that South Carolina will have to, and has the ability to, outscore their opponents in shoot outs until further notice if they are going to win. There is that lingering Missouri revenge motive which can be considered when handicapping this one because of the brutal 4TH quarter comeback and OT fashion in which they lost at Faurot Field last year. Remember in that contest, SC starting QB Dylan Thompson could not muster anything and a hobbled Connor Shaw replaced him and saved the day.
Taking points is an option here but respect the Gamecocks firepower too much and with only a slight chance of light rain Saturday night, I prefer to play this one “over” the 61.5 preying on the numerous defensive issues that could be exploited.
Recommendation: OVER 61.5Follow Rob on Twitter: @robvenosports