Call it what you want: a must win, a make or break game for 2015, a program defining moment. The fact is South Carolina's meeting with the Missouri Tigers will play an integral part in where the Gamecocks finish this season. A chance to win an SEC game on the road doesn't come around often, especially when you're facing the reigning division champion. The Gamecocks realize that. And we're hopeful they come out with their best performance of this season.
Here's three keys for the Gamecocks to get the win on the road in Columbia, MO and a prediction:
1. A steady offensive line. It's no secret the Tigers put out a stout defensive line year in and year out under coach Craig Kuligowski, and 2015 is no different. This year's Missouri defense ranks seventh in the nation in total defense, led by it's defensive line that has helped allot 28 tackles for loss (Currently 2nd in FBS). Needless to say, the Gamecocks offensive line will have it's have it's hands full Saturday. It'll take a concerted effort from the veterans to rally around true freshman center Zack Bailey as they look to neutralize Missouri's front.
2. A complete game. Head coach Steve Spurrier pointed out during his weekly Tuesday press conference that the Gamecocks defense has pitched 3 second half shutouts in the team's first four games. That's not a statistic you expect to see next to a bottom dwelling defense that seemingly gives up a first down per play. The Gamecocks defense will need to come out from the first snap and bring the heat on Missouri's true freshman Drew Lock in his first start. Rattling Lock from the start will prevent him from gaining that early confidence and could pay off huge for the Gamecocks. We've yet to see a complete game from this team, so Saturday's as good a time as any.
3. David Williams. Remember him? You know the guy that came out and ran through defenses for an average of close to 6 yards per carry last year en route to 256 rushing yards and two TDs in his first season with the Gamecocks. The guy that was supposed to compliment Brandon Wilds as the go to second string back and eat up all the carries for Shon Carson.
I think I do.
Leading up to the UCF game, Spurrier mentioned that coaching staff hadn't given up on David just yet, and had it not been for a few successes late in the fourth quarter last Saturday, they might've changed their mind.
So what David hasn't produced as much as coaches and fans would've liked to see thus far in 2015. The door remains open for him and he'll get his chances behind Shon Carson this weekend while Wilds continues to nurse a cracked rib. Come on now David! The clock is ticking!
A low scoring slop fest between two mediocre teams struggling with an identity crisis starting true freshmen as quarterback. This won't be the prettiest display of football, but it sure should be a thriller. I'm hopeful the Gamecocks can salvage the year and climb above .500 and sneak out of Columbia with the Mayor's Trophy in hand. I'm hopeful. I just need the Gamecocks to convince me.
South Carolina 20 - Missouri 16.