After starting the season off with a big non-conference win, the Gamecocks are heading to the other Columbia to try to get their 2nd true road win of the Muschamp era. If they pull off the win, USC will have their first 2-0 start since 2012. They'll also get to keep the Mayor's Cup, which somebody may eventually care about if these teams continue to play annually for another 25 years or so. Here's some thoughts:
- This is the first conference game of the 2017 season, and the only one occurring this week. The winner gets to be #1 in the SEC for at least one week.
- Missouri opened as 4.5-point favorites for reasons no one can figure out, but the line moved down to 2.5 in the first few hours. Interestingly, the line has moved back towards Missouri in the past few days and currently sits at 3.
- Based on only one game worth of evidence, it doesn't appear that the 2017 version of Missouri is any different from the 2016 version. That team scored 29.3 points / game against FBS non-conference opponents, but only 22.6 against SEC opponents. On defense, they gave up only 24.5 points / game against FBS non-conference opponents, but SEC teams scored 35 points / game. That team also lost to Middle Tennessee.
- Missouri's offense is super fast paced, with the center usually snapping the ball with more than 20 seconds on the play clock. What this means is that they're not spending any time reading the defense pre-snap, and likely only have a single key read for each play. I believe this is one of the reasons Missouri struggles against better teams, as more sophisticated defenses are able to make them pay for this simplicity. I expect the Gamecocks to force some mistakes and win the turnover battle decisively in this game.
- Missouri gave up 6.65 yards / play and 43 points to Missouri State last week. 72% of Missouri State's yard came through the air. South Carolina gave up 5.09 yard / play and 28 points to N.C. State last week.
- Defensive Tackle Terry Beckner Jr. is the best player on defense for the Tigers, but apart from him they should be thoroughly outclassed by South Carolina's talent on offense.
- Missouri's skill players on offense are good, especially J'Mon Moore and a very underrated Damarea Crockett, who rushed for over 1,000 yards last year. Drew Lock has the talent to put up video game numbers in this offense. The Gamecock secondary will be tested early and often by these guys, and will have to tackle as well as they did last week for South Carolina to win.
- Expect to see the Gamecocks running the ball a lot more this week. One reason is they'll want to control to clock to rest the defense, and another is that Missouri will not be able to stop it. I'd expect a very balanced attack, roughly 50/50 run/pass, from the SC offense. I'm also predicting two 100-yard rushers.
- Side note: Missouri QB Drew Lock's cousin plays volleyball for the Gamecocks.
If South Carolina plays as clean of a game as they did last week, and makes some improvements on defense, the Gamecocks should come back to the real Columbia with a win. Go Cocks, and for this week only, War Damn Eagle.
Prediction: USC 45 - Missouri 31 (the lady of the house is in India this week, but she predicts USC 34 - Missouri 28)
See last year's win over the Tigers below.