Fresh off a big opening win against North Carolina State, South Carolina travels to Missouri to take on the Tigers. Kickoff is at 7:00 from Faurot Field in Columbia, MO, where the home team put up 73 points on Missouri State last weekend. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
If you’re looking for a matchup between two rising quarterbacks, this is the place. Mizzou QB Drew Lock flashed his skills with seven touchdown passes last Saturday, while The Gamecocks’ Jake Bentley threw three touchdowns to lead South Carolina to a wacky victory.
South Carolina is continuing to develop under Coach Will Muschamp, even if they’re still a year or two off from contending for the SEC East. But they have their QB in place, along with nearly the entire offense from last season. That’s not saying a ton, considering they were 116th in scoring, but the Bentley-Deebo Samuel connection is bound to put up more points this year.
Missouri, meanwhile, had no problems putting points on the board last week, and will probably have one of the better SEC offenses this season. Now, only if their defense could do the same, they might be a force in the conference.
Still, the Tigers come in as 2.5-point favorites in a game with an over/under placed at 72, and rising.
There’s no doubting Missouri’s offensive presence against weaker teams. Missouri State struggles to even stop fellow FCS programs. But the question for the Tigers this year is if they can keep up against all the teams scoring at near will on their defense.
Mizzou’s defensive squad was 118th in the country last year, and they only played two of the top 50 scoring offenses. The offense scored 109 points combined against Tennessee, Georgia, and Middle Tennessee State, and won none of those games. For a team that prided itself on a sturdy defense only a few years ago, having such a weakness across the board on that side of the ball is unsatisfactory to say the least.
They are also starting almost an entirely new batch of players at every level. They gave up 43 points to a Missouri State team who only went over that number twice last year against FCS opponents. The Tigers have not proven to be good at wrapping up ball carriers and are depleted heavily in a secondary Bentley and Samuel could expose.
As for South Carolina stopping Mizzou’s offense, that will be a test N.C. State couldn’t even prepare them for. The Wolfpack put up over 500 yards on the Gamecocks, so there is a bit of a concern there. Their own secondary is a weak spot Lock and wide receivers like J’Mon Moore and Johnathon Johnson could dissect.
But it is a secondary with all their starters still in place, a group that surprisingly made Lock throw two interceptions and only complete 23 of 40 passes in 2016. The same can’t be said for the Tigers with Bentley (78.6% passing) last year.
Mizzou has gone its last three seasons 5-11 ATS when playing conference opponents and 8-17 ATS overall. The Gamecocks struggles more with the spread on the road (3-7 in last three seasons), but for as tough as Faurot Field has seemed for some teams, Mizzou also lost to Middle Tennessee State and Kentucky at home last season.
And Bentley has shown he has the moxie to handle some high-leverage situations like these. His offense may not be anything to rag on about just yet, but there’s more than enough firepower there to sink a Missouri defense with plenty of holes.