The Battle for Columbia is upon us, if that's even a real thing. The Missouri Tigers host the Gamecocks in an early Saturday match-up. Most of the talk will be about the battle between two freshman quarterbacks, so here's a little info about the rest of the Missouri Tigers, thanks to the guys over at Rock M Nation. Enjoy.
1. The Mizzou offense hasn't wowed much of anyone so far this year. What do you think is the cause of the offense's inability to produce? Is it a regression in Maty Mauk's game, or just a lack of experienced skill players this year?
Off the top, Maty Mauk has been suspended (along with backup LT Malik Cuellar) so we've got a change at quarterback, which is a fun always a roller-coaster ride after a loss. This is a unique situation because Gary Pinkel at Mizzou has never benched an incumbent starter - and still hasn't. Maty Mauk wasn't benched for poor play but rather "disciplinary reasons related to violation of team policies."
What we're about to see hasn't happened at Mizzou in 20 years, a true freshman will start at quarterback for the Tigers since the legendary Corby Jones. True Freshman Drew Lock is a highly touted 4* QB out of Kansas City, Missouri. He's only completed 15/25 passes for 225 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception through four games.
Lock is replacing Maty Mauk who has struggled with accuracy, consistency and decision-making basically his entire time at Mizzou but he managed to do enough to lead the team to a 17-5 record and back to back SECCGs.
But more to your point, the problem has not been limited to Mauk. Mizzou's senior running back Russell Hansbrough, a 1,000 yard rusher last year, hurt his ankle on his first run of the season and Mizzou's rushing game has been anemic ever since. To exacerbate the situation, Mizzou's offensive line has been largely unable to generate any push and open holes for the running game, despite returning 3-4 starters depending on the week.
The skill position players have been young and the most experienced player, tight end Sean Culkin, injured his knee in the loss to Kentucky and will likely miss a few weeks. The wide receivers have struggled with drops, although the reason for this is somewhat up to debate (many argued it was Maty Mauk's fault) but no offense that starts this many sophomores and freshman can be expected to be consistent, much less productive.
2. Speaking of Maty Mauk, is there a quarterback controversy going on between Mauk and Drew Lock? And if so, who do you think coach Gary Pinkel should go with Saturday and the rest of the year?
I think Drew Lock should start Saturday ;)
3. Much to many Gamecocks' fans dismay, it seems as though Missouri consistently puts a stout defensive front on the field, and this year is no different. What's the secret behind the Tiger's success of having a consistent pass rush? The Gamecocks would sure like to know.
Craig Kuligowski is a defensive line wizard. For years Mizzou's defensive line coach has turned under the radar athletes into quality or even All-American defensive linemen. He's an incredible teacher of technique and while it's true he's had some highly ranked guys (Sheldon Richardson, Terry Beckner Jr.) he's also managed to motivate and coach up a lot of smaller guys and put them in positions that allowed them to succeed.
During fall camp there was must consternation among fans because the defensive line lost potential All-American DT Harold Brantley and backup DE Marcus Loud, but the infusion of freshman talent in Terry Beckner and Josh Moore, plus the development of Rickey Hatley, DE Charles Harris and Walter Brady have provided what Bill Connelly's advanced metrics calls the #2 ranked DL in "havoc rate."
4. These two teams have battled it out the past two years and it feels like this game is growing into a rivalry of sorts, especially as we battle over a fake trophy and rights to the real Columbia. Do you think Missouri fans are starting to treat this series as a rivalry? Or, is it just another conference matchup that's sure to get the best out of the opposition?
Former SEC DPOY and first round pick Shane Ray summed it up pretty well
People don't understand that Mizzou really dislikes South Carolina. It's an intense game every year especially now for the trophy.— Shane Ray (@X_RAYted56) July 17, 2015
Personally, I don't feel too much of a sense of rivalry with South Carolina, but it's certainly been one of the most competitive SEC match-ups Mizzou has faced since joining in 2012.
I think the players get up a lot more for this rivalry than the fans even though y'all ruined our glorious 2013 season. I get the sense the "Battle for Columbia" has been a bit slower to warm for many casual fans because proximity and a lack of interaction among the fanbases.
However, head Rock M Nation honcho Bill Connelly does a thing called "SEC Rivalry Check" and according to it, South Carolina comes in #2 behind Georgia, ahead of the nearer Arkansas and Tennessee teams, so what do I know?
5. After a shaky start in the SEC, Missouri now has two SEC East division titles under it's belt. Are you surprised Missouri has been able to transition into the SEC with such success? And how much of their success is a testament to the expertise Gary Pinkel brings to the table as head coach?
I'm of the opinion that had Mizzou not suffered a massive wave of injuries during the 2012 season, my Tigers would have at least competed for an SEC East title in their first year. But perhaps it was that down year that fueled the 2013 and 2014 runs to Atlanta.
I have been somewhat surprised by Mizzou's success since moving to the SEC because I did not expect Mizzou's defense to be able hold up to the grind of an SEC schedule. And for as much grief as Mizzou fans may give Pinkel about being too stubborn and too rigid, I've been impressed with the way his teams adjusted from the offense-first Big 12 to the defense-first SEC. It's been a pleasure for me personally because I've always been a big fan of the defensive side of the ball.
6. And finally just a prediction and score on the game.
Starting an inexperienced quarterback at home against South Carolina - that's never bitten Mizzou in the ass before, right?
I'm inclined to think that Mizzou's defense plays better than it did against Kentucky and Mizzou's offense shows some signs of life if only because it's playing at home and Russell Hansbrough is one week healthier, but I'm leaning toward all this drama and turmoil being too much of a distraction and South Carolina pulls off the road win 21-17.