There is little doubt that the South Carolina Gamecocks will put up some big numbers this weekend when the Missouri Tigers come to town. After a questionable start to the season in which it scored just 17 points, the seventh ranked Gamecocks rebounded with two consecutive games in which they scored 48 points or more and outscored opponents 97-16.
Missouri, on the other hand, opened up with a resounding 62-10 thumping of Southeastern Louisiana, but in its two games since, has failed to score more than 24 points.
This is not to say that the Tigers don’t have a chance on Saturday. On the contrary, Missouri is fighting to make its mark in the SEC and a win over South Carolina on the road would definitely be a statement.
“The Missouri defense is a good one, has a good pass rush,” said South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier. “We’ll have our hands full trying to block these guys.”
Despite an injury to his right throwing shoulder, South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw will take the snaps and Spurrier is confident that his starter will bring plenty of positives to the Gamecocks’ offense.
However, if needed, Spurrier has another ace in the hole.
Dylan Thompson has thrown for 507 yards and five touchdowns in relief of Shaw in the past two games, providing South Carolina with a passing game that its rarely seen with Shaw under center.
“There’s no question that running the ball is what Connor does, which makes him a good quarterback,” Spurrier said. “I hope Connor feels, ‘Hey, Dylan can play. If I’m not doing very well, if I’m hurting a little bit, Dylan can help us go in there and win the game.’ So, I think both of them hopefully feel pretty good about each other. Maybe the team is a little stronger because we have two quarterbacks who can play.”
Missouri has some quarterback issues of its own.
Tigers’ starter James Franklin sat out Missouri’s 24-20 victory over Arizona State last week with inflammation in his shoulder. Franklin has said he’s 90 percent certain he’ll play in Missouri’s first-ever SEC road game.
“Anybody that questions James Franklin’s toughness, they have to have been in a coma for the last two years,” Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel said. “He’s one of the toughest athletes I’ve ever been around.”
Franklin threw for 269 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in the Tigers’ first SEC game, a 41-25 loss to then-No. 7 Georgia on Sept. 8.
Interestingly enough, South Carolina has since assumed Georgia’s No. 7 spot in the AP poll and a Missouri win over an SEC opponent this week would likely be just as sweet as it would’ve been in week two.
Similarly, avoiding an upset here is a necessity for the Gamecocks.
“If you want to win the division, which we think we have a chance to do, this is a very important game for us,” said Spurrier.
Sports Editor Tiffany Grady-Hudgins can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 17, or by email at email@example.com.