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2018 Opponent Preview: Missouri

How many zillions of yards will the Tigers’ offense roll up this season?

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After two weeks on the road against Vanderbilt and Kentucky, respectively, the South Carolina Gamecocks return to the friendly confines of Williams-Brice Stadium to face the Missouri Tigers. The current holders of the Mayor’s Cup, the Gamecocks are on a two-game winning streak against the team from Bizarro Columbia, but games against Missouri have been known to have some dramatic flair. We’ll see what kind of wackiness is in store.

Last meeting: South Carolina faceplanted out of the gate and into an early 10-0 deficit, which featured a missed field goal and some other blunders that made the N.C. State win feel like a distant memory. But Deebo Samuel, fresh off his incredible season-opening performance against the Wolfpack, put on his cape and saved the day with a kickoff returned for a touchdown. That proved to be the spark the Gamecocks needed, and after the early drama, South Carolina took away a relatively peaceful 31-13 win from Faurot Field.

Last season: Missouri, which finished third in the SEC East and compiled a 7-6 (4-4) record, took an...interesting path to that otherwise pedestrian record. The Tigers opened the season with a bizarre, what-is-even-happening 72-43 victory against Missouri State, which saw quarterback Drew Lock put up insane numbers (521 yards, seven TDs) to bolster his preseason hype. After falling to the Gamecocks, though, the Tigers went into a brutal downward spiral that included a mind-numbing 35-3 defeat to Purdue and similarly heavy losses to Auburn and Georgia. But Missouri went on a tear for the second half of the season, recovering enough to earn big wins against Florida and Tennessee, and achieved bowl eligibility on the back of a six-game winning streak. Texas handed the Tigers a 33-16 loss in the Texas Bowl, but Missouri ended up being a win that aged somewhat well for the Gamecocks.

Player to watch out for: The aforementioned Drew Lock, now a senior, set program and SEC records in 2017 with his 44 touchdowns (against 13 interceptions). He also threw for 3,964 yards and sported a 57.8 completion percentage. Against South Carolina, he passed for a pedestrian 245 yards and just one score, getting picked off twice by Jamyest Williams and Bryson Allen-Williams, but he’s still one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC. On a related note, it’s going to be interesting to see how former Tennessee head man Derek Dooley fits in as the Tigers’ new offensive coordinator.

Prognosis: Missouri’s offense figures to be as explosive as ever, especially with 10 returning starters in addition to Lock. Even if the defense is still a little rough around the edges, an offensive unit with so much firepower (that rushing attack with Damarea Crockett, Ish Witter and Larry Rountree is seriously underrated) will put the Tigers in position to win games. But the schedule doesn’t do Mizzou any favors: The Tigers must face Purdue, South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, and Tennessee on the road. Missouri could end up as a team that improves, but with a .500-ish record that doesn’t really reflect it.