No. 7 South Carolina (3-0) will play host to the Missouri Tigers (2-1) on Saturday afternoon, with kickoff set for 3:30 PM. The game will be televised nationally by CBS and this article takes a look at what the Gamecocks must do well to ensure victory.
1. Constant harassment – The South Carolina defensive line has been the strength of the team this year, and it needs to come up big once again in this contest. Missouri had a hard time blocking Georgia two weeks ago and will face a similar group from an athleticism standpoint on Saturday afternoon. Missouri running back Kendial Lawrence comes into this game averaging over 6.5 yards per carry, so limiting his production will also be a key, and quarterback James Franklin is expected to get the start despite a sore shoulder. Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is coming off one of the best games of his career, and the more you hear his name called by the PA announcer, the better chance the Gamecocks have of winning this game.
2. Same page in the secondary – South Carolina will be without their top defensive back and emotional leader D.J, Swearinger, who was suspended by the SEC for an illegal hit against UAB. He will be replaced in the starting lineup by true freshman T.J. Gurley. The 5-foot-10, 185 pounder actually plays the position in a similar fashion to Swearinger, but the pressure will be on him to play within the scheme and stay in position. Missouri features some big play receivers and the Gamecock secondary can’t afford to let them get behind them for the big play.
3. Better play up front on offense – The South Carolina offensive line has been criticized this season for inconsistent play and much of it is justified. However, there other players involved in run blocking and pass protection, whether it be a tight end, a tailback or a fullback. It’s important that they all be on the same page consistently against Missouri and find a way to play a more complete game and set the tone for the offense.
4. Put the “dual” back in dual threat – Junior Connor Shaw will be making the start on Saturday after participating fully this week in practice. The Gamecocks need him to be effective on the ground and through the air, something he wasn’t able to accomplish in the season opener against Vanderbilt nor last week against UAB. He’s at his best, and the Gamecock offense is at its best, when Shaw can keep the defense off balance as a threat running and throwing. He needs to be more decisive and do a better job of throwing the ball on time to get the receivers as involved as they have been when Dylan Thompson has been in at quarterback.
5. Ignite the running game – South Carolina has not run the ball as well as they’d like through three games. In particular Marcus Lattimore has not been able to get to the second level nearly enough. That needs to change in this game whether it be from improved blocking up front or through Lattimore making great individual plays. It’s also possible true freshman Mike Davis more meaningful snaps in this contest, as he was a huge bright spot off the bench late in the UAB game, rushing for 84 yards and a touchdown on only four carries.
Final analysis – I believe South Carolina is the deeper team here overall and will enjoy the home field advantage Williams-Brice Stadium provides. I anticipate the crowd being a factor early and often as this is Missouri’s first road game of the seaon. With that said, I’ll be surprised if this isn’t a close game in the fourth quarter and one where the Gamecocks will need to execute in all three phases to pull out the win.
Prediction –South Carolina 27 Missouri 20
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