This post wraps up our series on this weekend's game. (I wasn't able to get to my discussion of Mizzou's defense due to time constraints.) Be sure to drop by for the game thread.
Three Keys to Victory
3. Get the Ground Game Going
If we're going to go with Connor Shaw in this game, and he's really healthy enough to run like he usually does, it's imperative that we get the rushing game going with some level of efficiency. If we can do so (which will require at least some modicum of a passing game, as well), I like our chances to own time of possession (Mizzou runs a lot of no-huddle) and to wear out the Mizzou defense over the course of the game.
2. Don't Give Up Big Plays
Defensively, Carolina has a huge advantage in the trenches, and I wouldn't be surprised if this is a game where you see Jadeveon Clowney have a couple of highlight-reel plays. However, Carolina is undermanned in the secondary, where the suspension of D.J. Swearinger is going to hurt us. Swearinger has exceed expectations in his senior year, and the expectations were already high. You can't lose a player like that without skipping a beat. T.J. Gurley looks like a capable replacement, but who plays for Swearinger in our dime package, where Gurley was already on the field? I fear there are going to be some missed assignments, leading to big plays for Mizzou. Hopefully Clowney and Devin Taylor just never let James Franklin get a clean pass off.
1. Offensive Line Play
The biggest key for Carolina in this game is getting improved line play. Shawn Elliott and Steve Spurrier have projected changes on the line, and no wonder; Carolina has really struggled. We're getting beat off the end in pass protection, and Ronald Patrick has been a weak link inside in run blocking. That needs to improve against Mizzou, but it won't be easy. Sheldon Richardson is one of the conference's better defensive tackles, and he'll be a handful for our interior linemen. Mizzou's ends aren't quite as formidable, but both Brandon Shell and Cody Gibson have struggled against lesser competition, so there's no reason to believe that they might not here, too. Hopefully whatever Elliott and Spurrier have been up to this week will work. If so, I think we'll see drastic improvement offensively, including a ground game that should be able to punish Mizzou late.
I'm going with 24-14 'Cocks. Close game for most of the afternoon, but Carolina pulls away late. Expect a defensive score that Clowney is involved with somehow, and for Lattimore to break 100 yards at some point in the fourth quarter.