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2019 Opponent Preview: Missouri

Can Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant elevate another set of Tigers?

Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

After a pair of home games, the South Carolina Gamecocks will dust themselves off following a brawl against Bama and hit the road to Other Columbia, where the Missouri Tigers await. Mizzou has been the center of a lot of buzz and speculation this offseason, with the addition of former Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant expected to boost its fortunes and possibly elevate it to this year’s SEC East dark horse. But the Tigers are also dealing with the specter of NCAA sanctions and currently banned from the 2019 postseason, although they’ve appealed the ruling. Should be an interesting year ahead for Mizzou, and another tough battle for the Gamecocks.

Last meeting: In what will be forever remembered as The Michael Scarnecchia Game, the Gamecocks outlasted Missouri 37-35 in a wild contest that featured two unlikely heroes in career backup quarterback Scarnecchia (who started in place of an ailing Jake Bentley and threw three touchdown passes) and embattled kicker Parker White (who nailed a game-winner with two seconds left). Trailing 23-14 at the half, a sudden and furious rainstorm inexplicably brought the Gamecocks to life, and South Carolina topped the Tigers for the third straight year.

Last season: Mizzou posted an 8-5 (4-4 SEC) mark, good for a fourth-place finish in the division. Although the Tigers were victims of a 38-33 bowl-game defeat to Oklahoma State, they nonetheless finished the season strong with an undefeated November that saw wins against then-No. 13 Florida, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, and Arkansas. Not quite a murderer’s row, perhaps, but still a good way to close the year, and the program seems to have settled in under coach Barry Odom.

Player to watch out for: It’s the easy answer, but it’s obvious for a reason: Kelly Bryant. Former quarterback Drew Locke, he of the eye-popping video game stat lines, has finally matriculated out of the Tigers’ program. Bryant comes to Missouri having been pushed out of a starting role at Clemson by phenom Trevor Lawrence, but he’s no slouch himself: In 2017, he led CU to the ACC championship and a College Football Playoff appearance (and he also went 23 of 34 for 272 yards and two scores against the Gamecocks). Missouri has a talented cast to help him out, highlighted by running back Larry Rountree III, receiver Jalen Knox, and tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, and let’s face it — offense has never been the problem for the Tigers. We’re used to seeing Missouri quarterbacks sling it all over the yard, but Bryant is a deadly runner, too.

Prognosis: With Bryant in the fold and a favorable schedule — no dates with heavyweights from the West — Missouri seems likely to put a nice season together. The unresolved issues with the NCAA are another matter, and one that could really hurt the Tigers if they do indeed find a way to challenge Georgia for the Eastern Division title. Regardless, the Gamecocks will have their hands full with this one, and it’ll be tough to extend the streak.