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Friday Afternoon Idealist: South Carolina looks to take a step toward bowl against Missouri

With a win Saturday, Carolina could go bowling in Will Muschamp’s inaugural season.

Tennessee v South Carolina Photo by Tyler Lecka/Getty Images

Any doubts about Jake Bentley’s ability to play at a high level were lessened with the freshman’s performance last Saturday night against Tennessee. All game long, despite enormous pressure the opposing blitz packages, he played with poise and composure, leading the offense on four scoring drives. Deebo Samuel also had a great game, as seemingly every pass thrown his way, despite pass interference, ended up in the sophomore wide receiver’s possession. Altogether, the offense is powered by promising underclassmen at the skill positions, indicating a bright future for this young Gamecock team.

Here are some other reasons for optimism for this weekend’s tilt against the 2-6 (0-4 SEC) Missouri Tigers:

  1. Pass Defense. A surprising strength of this team is the back seven of this defense, which ranks 2nd in the SEC in passing defense. Led by JUCO transfer Jamarcus King and third-year player Chris Lammons, this group seems to always be around the football, making plays and forcing turnovers - clearly seen by King’s two picks last week.
  2. Rico Dowdle. The true freshman tailback has been a force now that he’s healthy, and he finally broke out with 127 yards and a score on 27 carries (a healthy 4.7 YPC). With the explosive Dowdle in the backfield, the Gamecocks have a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball, despite an underachieving offensive line.
  3. Bowl Season: South Carolina is finally being projected to a bowl game for the first time in two years. CBS has USC slated to play in the Independence bowl in Shreveport, LA, which is ironically the last time the Gamecocks played in a bowl (a win over Miami (Fla.)). It is important to remember, however, that projections aren’t finite unless Carolina pulls off two more wins, but with a victory against Mizzou, the team will be in fantastic position to see the postseason.

The game against Missouri is arguably the most important game South Carolina has played in quite a while. A win here almost guarantees a berth in a bowl game, no matter how irrelevant. Most of the fans have to be pleased with what Coach Muschamp has achieved in his first season, taking the defense from 13th in the SEC to 6th, and with most contributors being younger players, this level of play should be expected to only get better. It has been a surprisingly good season this year, but there’s still a lot of work yet to be done.