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Keys and a pick: South Carolina visits Missouri in early SEC East showdown

Can the Gamecocks leave the other Columbia 1-0 in the SEC? If so, here’s what they’ll need to do.

NCAA Football: South Carolina at North Carolina State Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Every Friday before every Gamecocks game, I’ll dive into the matchup and give you my thoughts on what South Carolina needs to do to win. I’ll also pick the game’s winner and the score. This week, it’s game two as South Carolina heads to Faurot Field to face the Missouri Tigers with hopes of getting off to a good start in SEC divisional play.

The keys

NCAA Football: South Carolina at North Carolina State Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Open up the playbook and get others involved. Although Deebo Samuel stole the show with two receiving TDs against N.C. State, I’d have liked to see the offense be a little more multi-dimensional. Hayden Hurst made his presence felt in several ways, but was hardly targeted. Outside of Shi Smith (three catches) and Bryan Edwards (five catches), no other wide receiver other than Samuel made a catch. Does Kurt Roper line men up in the slot to attack the middle of the field? Do we see more deep shots down the field to Edwards and Samuel? (Missouri State had an 89-yard and a 64-yard pass completion last week.) What about a wider set of creative plays that keeps the Tigers on their toes? That said, the 35 points scored by the Gamecocks last week (the most against an FBS opponent since 2014) is a good sign for this offense; hopefully the best is yet to come.

Can we get a running game going? Although the Gamecocks were up against a tough D-line in N.C. State, I thought that we’d see them run the ball a little more successfully than they did. A lot better than 21 carries for 31 yards. Regardless, I’m not ready to throw the white flag up on South Carolina’s rushing attack; they’ll do better against Mizzou’s defense, which gave up 139 yards on 39 Missouri State carries in game one. (Or, at least I hope they will.) Getting the Dowdle/Turner/Williams trio full go will take the pressure off of Bentley to do all of the work offensively.

Bend but don’t break. You might think with Lock’s career day that he threw the ball a lot. He actually only threw it 34 times; Missouri actually went to the run 41 times for 254 yards. Of those 41 times, the ball went into Damarea Crockett’s hands 18 times for a total of 202 yards and two scores (with a long run of 73 yards). Not to take anything away from Lock or Crockett (or the rest of the Mizzou offense), but they were playing Missouri State, so they were bound to get a high yardage total anyway. But I think they’ll still be able to put some good yardage up, and as long as the Gamecocks make the proper adjustments and keep them out of the end zone for the most part, it could equal a positive result.

The pick

I was wrong last week. Let’s hope I’m wrong this week too. 38-35 Mizzou. Tigers build a double digit lead and the Gamecocks get close, only to come up short in the end.