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South Carolina Gamecocks at Missouri Tigers: Preview and Pick
South Carolina Gamecocks at Missouri Tigers: Preview and Pick
The South Carolina Gamecocks are considered one of the best teams in the SCE, but after an upset loss against the Tennessee Volunteers they have many people second guessing that prediction. Meanwhile the Missouri Tigers are cruising up the latest college football rankings as they continue to impress week after week. This week when these two teams meet on the gridiron something has to give.
South Carolina Gamecocks at Missouri Tigers Odds
The college football odds for this game will be interesting to watch. Months ago if this line was placed, the Gamecocks would be clear cut favorites, but now the Tigers should be the favorites. Watch this line adjust up to kick off as heavy action will be moving on this big SEC game.
The loss to Tennessee was crucial for more than one reason for the Gamecocks. The loss may have proved doubly painful for South Carolina, which had a four-game winning streak snapped. Quarterback Connor Shaw left the game after being sacked by Marlon Walls and Daniel McCullers with less than five minutes remaining. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said afterward that Shaw had a sprained knee.
Tennessee got into field-goal range on a spectacular 39-yard catch by freshman Marquez North, who snared the ball with his left hand at the South Carolina 26 while being closely covered by cornerback Ahmad Christian down the left sideline. Four consecutive runs by Marlin Lane got the Vols to the South Carolina 2 and set up the field goal.
Palardy celebrated his game-winning kick by racing to join his teammates on the sideline closest to the Tennessee locker room, where they gathered to celebrate at about the 15-yard line. They later ran to the other side of the field to celebrate with Tennessee's band and students. Tennessee coach Butch Jones chest-bumped athletic director Dave Hart on his way off the field. That shows just how big of a win that it is for this team.
The college football betting trends for this game reveal that the home team has the edge going into this game. The Tigers are 5-0 against the spread (ATS) in their last 5 games after accumulating more than 450 total yards in their previous game, 3-0-1 ATS in their last 4 games after allowing less than 20 points in their previous game and 6-0-1 ATS in their last 7 games overall. The Gamecocks are 0-5 ATS in their last 5 games after accumulating more than 200 yards rushing in their previous game, 1-4 ATS in their last 5 road games and 1-4 against the number when facing a team with a winning record.
South Carolina Gamecocks at Missouri Tigers Pick
With plenty of time before kickoff we will wait for more information to come in before we select a side on this contest. Make sure to check back on the day of the game to see who we select as our winner for this big game.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier says quarterback Connor Shaw won't need surgery for his sprained left knee.
But Shaw is unlikely to play when the 20th-ranked Gamecocks travel to No. 5 Missouri this weekend.
Spurrier said Sunday that Shaw had on a knee brace and was walking some a day after injuring the knee in a 23-21 loss at Tennessee. However, Spurrier added Shaw wouldn't practice for two to three days. Should Shaw make it back in time, it wouldn't be the first time the senior overcame injuries to play.
Three weeks ago, Spurrier was told Shaw would miss up to three games because of a shoulder injury against UCF on Sept. 28. However, Shaw was back at practice two days later and played the next week against Kentucky.
An MRI on Shaw's knee Saturday night did not show any torn ligaments.
Back in August, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel asked his seniors what they wanted people to say about this football team come January.
Would it be the same team that limped through its first season in the SEC? Or would it make statement to the league -- and the nation -- that it could compete in the toughest conference?
Last year might have been a dud for the Tigers, but through seven games, they are one of the hottest teams in college football after taking Georgia and Florida down in consecutive weeks. After their 36-17 victory against the Gators on Saturday inside Memorial Stadium, it's safe to say people are thinking quite highly of this Mizzou team.
"I thought we were going to be a good football team," Pinkel said. "I don't know why nobody else thought we were going to have a good football team. I don't know, but I love my guys."
It was easy to write off Mizzou before the season after that less-than-impressive 2012 campaign. Injuries were catastrophic, but the perception was that this team was never tough enough to survive in the SEC.
Now, the Tigers (7-0, 3-0 SEC) are sizzling. Their 36 points against Florida were the most the Gators have given up in league play since surrendering 41 to LSU in October 2011. That also snapped Florida's 13-game streak of allowing 20 points or less in SEC play. Mizzou's 500 yards of offense were the most against Florida since the Gators gave up 512 to Kentucky in October 2007.
Backup quarterback Maty Mauk filled in for James Franklin (shoulder) swimmingly with 295 yards and a touchdown. Henry Josey ran for 136 yards and a score, while the defense gave up just 2.5 yards per play and had six sacks.
In three SEC games, Mizzou has averaged 466 yards and outscored teams 128-71. With Saturday losses by Georgia and South Carolina, Mizzou has a two-game lead over the SEC East powers heading into next week's visit from the Gamecocks.
As injuries pile up, Mizzou is getting all three division heavyweights at the most opportunistic of times, but it's time to give the Tigers credit. This is a good team that could be one win away from essentially clinching the SEC Eastern Division in its second year in the league.
"We have a lot of guys who are good football players," Pinkel said. "You can be as competitive as you want, but if you're not a good football player it's not going to matter.
"We have guys making plays. These aren't just average guys out there." Added Mauk: "We want to be that team that Coach Pinkel talks about."
It's on its way, but the Tigers aren't quite popping bottles of Gatorade. They're happy, but their goals are much bigger than just beating Florida.
Wide receiver L'Damian Washington said he and the seniors went to the coaches before the season and said they wanted more than just a bowl game. During SEC media days, Washington said the goal for 2013 was 11 wins or more. He was laughed at, even by a local radio station, he said, but he knew this team was capable of a special rebound.
"We believed in ourselves, and that's all that matters."
While the Tigers are believing, you have to wonder what's going through the Gators' minds. In back-to-back games, the offensive has been totally inept, gaining just 391 yards combined with 16 offensive points and one touchdown. Florida's 151 yards Saturday were its lowest since registering 114 against Alabama in the 1999 SEC championship game.
Mizzou kicker Andrew Baggett even outscored Florida, 18-17, with five field goals and three extra points.
"We are just not really a good football team," Florida coach Will Muschamp said, "certainly not today. That's all on my shoulders.
"I am pretty disappointed that we have not had more positive strides offensively at this point of the season."
These programs are now going in opposite directions. Mizzou has a stranglehold on the SEC East and controls its destiny to Atlanta. Florida (4-3, 3-2) is two games back and has a regressing offense.
Mizzou players are excited, but cautious. The road to Atlanta is clear, but obstacles still remain, and a slip-up next week to a reeling South Carolina squad could kill momentum. As good as this team is, it's all about hunger and humility from here on out.
"You have to act like you've been there at one point in your life," defensive end Kony Ealy said. "You can't get your head full of air and be up in the clouds or you will get knocked down to the ground really fast. You have to stay humble."
One of the big surprise teams this year has been Missouri. The Tigers were picked to finish sixth in the SEC East in a media poll before the season. Our Football Outsiders rankings were a bit higher on the Tigers (fourth), but we still expected Missouri to struggle against SEC East favorites Georgia, Florida and South Carolina. The Tigers have already taken down two of those three to take a commanding division lead. They will face the Gamecocks this weekend, and a win could virtually seal up a trip for Missouri to the SEC championship game.
Missouri has been ranked among the top 10 in our drive-based FEI ratings in four of the past five weeks, and the only thing that may hold it back is injuries. Star quarterback James Franklin was injured against Georgia, but backup Maty Mauk passed a big test in his starting debut. The Tigers lit up the Gators defense (No. 9 in our opponent-adjusted ratings) for 500 yards and 36 points Saturday.
Does Missouri have the profile of a national championship contender? We compared the Tigers' statistical profile with recent national championship contenders to find out what might be in store for the remainder of the season.
We compared Missouri with every Football Bowl Subdivision team in the 2007 to 2012 seasons across five measures: opponent-adjusted offense, opponent-adjusted defense, special-teams efficiency, field-position advantage and overall team efficiency.
The three teams that share the most similar statistical profile with Missouri were the 2009 Ohio State Buckeyes (11-2, Rose Bowl win), 2008 Alabama Crimson Tide (12-2, Sugar Bowl loss) and 2012 South Carolina Gamecocks (11-2, Outback Bowl win).
- Offensive profile
The Tigers have a solid offensive profile, ranking in the top 10 in available yards (total yards divided by yardage measured from starting field position to end zone), value drives (possessions that move into field goal range) and points per drive. But Missouri hasn't faced a particularly challenging set of opposing defenses this season aside from the Gators. Missouri's other five FBS opponents have an average defensive FEI ranking of 86th.
South Carolina presents several challenges this weekend for Missouri's offense. The Gamecocks rank 14th nationally in tackles for loss -- recording a whopping 14 TFL for a combined loss of 47 yards last weekend against Tennessee. The Gamecocks' offense is also one of the best at producing methodical drives, which can keep Missouri's more explosive attack off the field and out of rhythm.
- Defensive profile
Missouri's defense has passed a number of big tests already this season, holding Georgia's elite offense in check and surrendering fewer points to Indiana (11th nationally in scoring offense) than any other team other than Michigan State (both gave up 28 points to the Hoosiers). The Tigers rank 35th in defensive points per drive, but they have played the 13th-toughest set of offenses to date.
One of the biggest boosts Missouri's defense has delivered is value on turnovers. The Tigers have had a positive turnover value generated in all six FBS games this season, producing a total of 44 points of field position and scoring value to date (second only to Oregon).
- Special teams and field position
The Tigers' special teams have not been a strength, a statistical category that caught up to each of the teams in our similarity comparison at some point in the year. Missouri has below-average rankings in punting and punt returns according to our measures of field position following these plays. A kickoff return TD by Florida's Solomon Patton to start the third quarter last weekend brought the Gators to within three points after having been dominated for an entire half. The Tigers' field goal kicking has been merely average.
Missouri has made up that deficit with strong field position management, a measure related more to the Tigers' offensive and defensive production than any other factor. Missouri has started 16 percent of its drives in opponent territory and allowed only 4.1 percent of opponent drives to start in Tigers territory.
Overall, Missouri is starting drives six yards further downfield than its opponents. That is an advantage the Tigers need to exploit this weekend. South Carolina has been dreadful at managing field position, a big factor in the Gamecocks' upset loss to Tennessee on Saturday.
The three teams with the most similar stat profile to Missouri lost a combined six games, five of which came against top-10 teams. Only one of the six losses (2009 Ohio State versus USC) came in a home game. Missouri's toughest regular-season tests come this weekend on the road against South Carolina, a road trip to Ole Miss on Nov. 23 and a home date against Texas A&M on Nov. 30.
The numbers like Missouri's chances to finish strong, but we still project an 18 percent chance the Tigers could lose twice in the weeks ahead. Two losses could still position Missouri in the SEC title game, an outstanding season for an SEC program on the rise.
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier announced Wednesday that backup quarterback Dylan Thompson will start in place of an injured Connor Shaw when the Gamecocks travel to No. 5 Missouri Saturday night.
Shaw injured his left knee this past weekend in a 23-21 loss at Tennessee. An MRI on the knee was negative and did not show any torn ligaments.
"Connor Shaw we don't know about, he may be able to dress and be a backup but we don't know," Spurrier said. "Dylan is going to start the game and it will be his to go with."
Thompson, a redshirt junior, will make his third career start. In two starts last year against East Carolina and Clemson, both wins, Thompson threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns in each game. He also threw the game winning touchdown pass against Michigan in last year's Outback Bowl.
The fifth-ranked Missouri Tigers will try to further secure their place atop the SEC Eastern Division standings when they play host to the 20th- ranked South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday night.
South Carolina was in the midst of a strong campaign, having won five of its first six games, but it fell victim to a last-second field goal at Tennessee last weekend to lose, 23-21, falling to 5-2 and 3-2 in conference as a result. The setback caused the Gamecocks to take a tumble in the latest AP poll from No. 11 to No. 20.
"I think (Tennessee) outplayed us, although we were within a play or two of winning but we didn't do it," South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said. "We had a lot of careless penalties today and in a close game they come back to haunt you and that's the way it turned out."
While many expected Missouri to improve upon its 5-7 record from 2012, few anticipated that it could climb this high, this quickly. It has started the season a perfect 7-0, which includes wins over Florida (36-17) and Georgia (41-26) in recent weeks to move to 3-0 in the SEC, opening up a two-game lead in the East.
"This team is resilient, coming back from where we were last year," Missouri wide receiver L'Damien Washington said. "I told Coach Pinkel, 'We've got to stop talking about bowl games around here. Let's talk BCS, let's talk national championships.'"
After being unranked at the beginning of October, the Tigers are now No. 5 in both the AP poll and the first BCS standings. A win in this matchup will give them a three-game win streak against ranked opponents for the first time since 1939.
Missouri leads the all-time series with South Carolina, 2-1. The Gamecocks defeated the Tigers in the first matchup between the two as SEC foes last season, 31-10.
South Carolina has one of the most efficient, balanced offenses in the SEC, scoring 32.6 ppg, rushing for 224.6 ypg and throwing for 247.3 ypg, but it will be hard-pressed to get close to those numbers in the likely absence of its dual-threat quarterback.
Connor Shaw (1,704 total yards, 14 TDs, INT) is listed as doubtful for this contest after suffering a knee injury last week. Luckily for the Gamecocks, Dylan Thompson has been worked into the lineup plenty this season even with a healthy Shaw, and he has completed 56.9 percent of his passes for 421 yards with four touchdowns (two rushing) and two interceptions.
Without Shaw, South Carolina will likely lean even more heavily on Mike Davis, who leads the SEC in both rushing yards (879) and touchdowns (10). The sophomore ran for 137 yards in last week's loss for his sixth 100-yard performance of the season.
Bruce Ellington (332 yards), Damiere Byrd (384 yards) and Nick Jones (195 yards) have all been active at receiver with three touchdowns apiece.
The Gamecocks defense has played well this season, ranking sixth in the SEC in points allowed (22.7 ppg) and third in yards allowed (342.6 ypg), although the effort is still shy of the sky-high expectations placed upon them in the preseason.
Facing double- and triple-teams all season long, Jadeveon Clowney has just two sacks, although he has 5.5 TFL and six QB hurries. Kelcy Quarles (7.0 TFL, 5.0 sacks) and Chaz Sutton (6.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks) have taken advantage of all the extra attention put on Clowney. Jimmy Legree has a team-high 32 tackles to go with two picks, while Victor Hampton also has a pair of interceptions.
Missouri's offense is one of the most potent in the country, ranking eighth in scoring (44.3 ppg) and 11th in total offense (513.4 ypg). A drop-off in production was expected following the loss of starting quarterback James Franklin (1,867 total yards, 17 TDs, three INTs), but the squad didn't skip a beat against a very good Florida defense last week with 500 total yards.
Maty Mauk was up and down in his first career start, but he played well enough to lead the team to victory by completing 18-of-36 passes for 295 yards with two touchdowns (one rushing) and a pick.
"He looked like a seasoned veteran out there," head coach Gary Pinkel said. "He's a great competitor. Sometimes he tries to make too much happen ... But I couldn't be more pleased with him. He's a playmaker. It's great to see a backup quarterback come in and play at that kind of level."
"We did what we do best," Mauk added. "It couldn't have gone any better for us."
The Tigers' potent rushing attack was as good as advertised against Florida, amassing 205 yards. Henry Josey leads a three-headed tailback committee with 494 yards and eight touchdowns on 83 carries. Russell Hansbrough (438 yards, three TDs) has also played well, and Marcus Murphy (357 yards, five TDs) is the most explosive of all as he averages 8.7 yards per carry.
Mizzou's seemingly endless supply of weapons spills over to the receiving corps, as Marcus Lucas (358 yards) leads the team with 36 receptions, while Washington (32 receptions, 539 yards, seven TDs) and Dorial Green-Beckham (30 receptions, 451 yards, four TDs) are two of the best big-play threats in the league.
Equally responsible for the Tigers' outstanding season has been the solid play of their defense, which holds opponents to just 22.1 ppg and 381.0 ypg. The unit is also tied for 11th in the nation with 18 turnovers.
Michael Sam is one of the nation's premier pass-rushers with 13.0 TFL and 9.0 sacks. Kentrell Brothers and E.J. Gaines have three interceptions apiece, although Gaines is questionable for this contest with a quadriceps injury. Andrew Wilson leads the team with 50 total tackles.
Missouri answered plenty of questions last week by defeating a very good team without arguably its most important player (Franklin), effectively putting it on the map as a bona fide contender in the SEC. South Carolina should present a bigger threat than the banged up Gators did, but without its starting QB, it'll have difficulty keeping pace with the Tigers as they continue to pull away in the SEC East.
Few outside of the Missouri locker room expected the Tigers to compete in the Southeastern Conference in just their second season in the league.
Predicted to finish sixth in the SEC East, Missouri is now ranked fifth in the country and holds a two-game lead in the division.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier knows his team won't be the main attraction Saturday night when it visits Missouri, but he's hopeful that his 20th-ranked Gamecocks can drag themselves back in the divisional race with a win.
The Tigers (7-0, 3-0) remained healthy until quarterback James Franklin and cornerback E.J. Gaines sustained injuries in a 41-26 victory at then-No. 7 Georgia on Oct. 12. But they won again last Saturday, beating then-No. 22 Florida 36-17 at home, and now are preparing to face South Carolina (5-2, 3-2) with a chance to practically wrap up the division.
Though the goals are getting much bigger.
"We'd be dumb if our goal wasn't to go to a national championship," left tackle Justin Britt said.
When Franklin and Gaines went down, their substitutes stepped in and stepped up.
Quarterback Maty Mauk led eight scoring drives and cornerback Aarion Penton nabbed his first interception against Florida.
"You came to perform at the college level," Mauk said. "It kind of is nerve-wracking, but at the same time, it's what you're here to do."
Now the team's challenge is to focus on South Carolina and not its status in the polls. In 2008, the Tigers lost consecutive games after opening the season 5-0 and reaching No. 3 in the country. Two years later, following a 36-27 win over No. 3 Oklahoma to start 7-0, they again lost their next two contests.
"I don't think we've accomplished much," receiver L'Damian Washington said. "Georgia, last week, you'd have thought, 'OK, that's a big win.' After the game, we were like, 'OK, that's just step six.' And this was step seven, and next week is step eight."
Winning its first seven games by at least 15 points apiece, Missouri has rediscovered the potent offense it employed from 2007-11 when it went 48-19 and scored 34.9 points per game. Under new coordinator Josh Henson, this year's team has bumped that number to 44.3, thanks to 279 yards per game through the air and another 234.4 on the ground.
Defensively, Missouri has limited opponents to 22.1 points and 381 yards per game, including just 116.6 rushing. The Tigers lead the SEC with 23 sacks, and end Michael Sam is tied for first nationally with nine.
The gaudy numbers don't necessarily translate into wins, but they explain why Missouri is in the driver's seat in the SEC East. If they win their next two games at home against the Gamecocks and Tennessee, the Tigers will clinch a berth in the conference championship game Dec. 7 in Atlanta.
"Personally, I like being the underdog, because not a lot of people were expecting us to do the things that we're doing right now," center Evan Boehm said. "And we're out there to create those big eyes and say, 'Holy cow, where did Mizzou come from?'"
Spurrier said the Gamecocks could get back on track against Missouri after losing 23-21 at Tennessee last weekend.
"We're not going to get much attention this week," Spurrier said. "Like I told the team, we're on TV but the nation wants to watch Missouri. They don't want to watch us now after losing a game. Maybe we can go out there and show them something, hopefully, so that's what we'll try to do."
Spurrier said he and the players understand that losing to the Tigers would knock them from the SEC chase for good. Linebacker Skai Moore said the team thought that may have been the case when it headed to the airport after getting stung by Tennessee on a last-second field goal.
Then they saw the other league upsets - Vanderbilt over Georgia, Missouri topping Florida and Ole Miss beating LSU - and realized they still had a road map to the SEC title game if they could play well against the Tigers.
"We're confident that we could go in there and take care of business this week," Moore said.
The Gamecocks offense stalled in the final quarter last weekend, in large part because quarterback Connor Shaw left with a sprained left knee, and managed only 15 total yards over the last 15 minutes.
Spurrier has talked to his players about what's at stake in the Gamecocks' first-ever trip to Missouri.
"It's a game that's going to decide whether or not we're in the division hunt or not. Simple as that. I think all of our players know that," he said.
The Gamecocks will most likely have a backup under center as well with Dylan Thompson. Shaw's rebounded from injuries several times in his career, but Spurrier expected him to need more than a few days of recovery to be ready.
At best, Spurrier said Shaw might suit up and be able to go a few snaps in a pinch.
"The doctors, the trainers feel like a couple of weeks, two to three weeks, (Shaw) may be close to a hundred percent on that thing," Spurrier said.
Thompson has had his moments in the sun as Shaw's replacement. The sophomore led South Carolina to a 27-17 win at Clemson last November with Shaw out with a bad foot.
Thompson was there at the end in the Outback Bowl last January, as his 32-yard touchdown pass to Bruce Ellington with 11 seconds to go gave the Gamecocks a 33-28 win over Michigan.
"He will be ready to go and he'll give it his best shot, we know that," Spurrier said. "This is his time this year."
Shaw went 20 of 21 for 249 yards and two TDs as South Carolina beat Missouri 31-10 last season.
Forget all that mindless coach speak: "Each game counts the same. No game is more important than another. This is the biggest game of the year because it's the next game."
That's not how Steve Spurrier rolls.
Plain and simple, South Carolina's head football coach knows a big game when he sees one and isn't afraid to admit it.
South Carolina plays at Missouri on Saturday, and Spurrier knows that what remains of the Gamecocks' hopes for a big season rides on the outcome.
"It's a huge game for us," Spurrier said. "It's a game that's going to decide whether we're in the division hunt or not. Simple as that. I think all our players know that."
Before the season started, it's highly unlikely that anyone associated with South Carolina's football team circled the Oct. 26 game at Missouri as the biggest game on the Gamecocks' schedule.
Now that it's here, it's a different story.
Here's Missouri, unbeaten at 7-0, 3-0 in the SEC and ranked No. 5 in the first BCS rankings. That's actually higher than the Tigers were picked to finish in the SEC East. A preseason media poll had them in sixth.
The Tigers already own conference victories over Vanderbilt, Georgia and Florida. A victory Saturday all but locks up the SEC East title for Missouri barring total collapse, and total collapse doesn't seem possible.
The remaining schedule finds Missouri at home against Tennessee, on the road against Kentucky and Ole Miss, and at home against Texas A&M.
The Gamecocks, meanwhile, are 5-2 (3-2 SEC) and ranked No. 21 in the BCS. Their path forward remains simple—beat Missouri, win the remaining conference games at home against Mississippi State and Florida and hope the Tigers stumble somewhere else along the way.
Another loss by Georgia would also be necessary since the Bulldogs hold the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Gamecocks.
If there's a three-way tie between Georgia, South Carolina and Missouri, then it matters who the Tigers lost to.
If it's an SEC West foe, the Tigers still win the East because they would have a better record against SEC East division foes than either Georgia or South Carolina.
If all three teams finish with identical records against the SEC East, then the tiebreaker becomes which team is ranked highest in the BCS. There is one caveat. If the top two of those three teams are separated by five spots or fewer in the standings, then it reverts to head-to-head.
First things first.
What to make of Missouri?
The Tigers have piled up impressive offensive numbers, although their first four games were laughably soft—Murray State, Toledo, Indiana and Arkansas State.
Since entering conference play, the Tigers have polished off Vanderbilt 51-28, Georgia 41-26 and Florida 36-17.
Both Georgia and Florida were riddled with injuries, but the Tigers lost senior quarterback James Franklin and still beat the Gators.
Redshirt freshman Maty Mauk stepped in and ran the offense efficiently.
And what to make of South Carolina?
South Carolina's offense had operated consistently in every game until last week's 23-21 loss at Tennessee.
Quarterback Connor Shaw was injured in that game, and now the Gamecocks will turn to junior Dylan Thompson, a battle-tested junior who should be up to the task.
Obviously, the oddsmakers don't know what to make of this one. South Carolina opened as a five-point favorite, but furious wagering on the Tigers at last check had Missouri favored by 2.5 points.
Spurrier likes the underdog role for the Gamecocks.
"Missouri is a very good team," Spurrier said. "They're getting a lot of attention, which they deserve. We're not going to get too much attention this week. Like I told the team, 'We're on TV, but the nation wants to watch Missouri. They don't want to watch us now after losing a game.' Maybe we can go out there and show them something, hopefully, so that's what we'll try to do."