Mizzou football begins conference play against South Carolina.
Whatever happened in the first three weeks for Mizzou football, it matters little now. The conference season begins this weekend.
And the first game is against the South Carolina Gamecocks, a team Missouri hasn’t beaten in four years.
Mizzou didn’t start the season strong with the loss to Wyoming. Hopes were high for this year’s Tigers team, and they appeared to be swept away with a terrible two quarters of football in Laramie.
But just as quickly as that game turned south, the Tigers rebounded with two crushing victories over West Virginia and Southeast Missouri State. But like I said earlier, those games don’t really matter now. If the Tigers take care of business in the conference, they will be right where everybody believed they could be heading into November, atop the SEC East.
Here’s a look at their first opponents:
Like Mizzou, South Carolina put up a stinker in the opening game of the season.
The Gamecocks lost a rivalry game to North Carolina in Week 1, a game they were favored to win by more than 12 points.
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They came back to deliver a dominating performance against Charleston Southern followed by a loss to Alabama last week.
A 1-2 start isn’t what was expected coming out of Columbia East. But that’s where they are. They also lost their starting quarterback for the season. But backup Ryan Hilinksi has been impressive to begin his career for the Gamecocks.
Hilinksi was named SEC Freshman of the Week for his performance abasing Alabama last week. In his first SEC game, he was 36 of 57 for 324 yards and two touchdowns. South Carolina coach Will Muschamp is not afraid to let the ball go with his freshman quarterback.
He has talented receivers to help him, too.
Shi Smith had a solid outing last week, picking up 90 yards and a touchdown on six receptions. Bryan Edwards returns for South Carolina as well.
On the ground, veteran Rico Dowdle splits time with newcomer Tavien Feaster. The duo have 420 rushing yards for the Gamecocks this season.
As for the defense, the Gamecocks haven’t been as good as they have been in the past.
South Carolina had a bunch of injuries that hindered the Gamecocks in 2018, but to start this season, they haven’t been any better.
They have four takeaways on the season, with three players each grabbing an interception. When you think of South Carolina, you think of D-Line. This year’s D-Line features five-start defensive tackle Sack Pickens, who has eight tackles on the season.
Leading the team with 22 tackles is Ernest Jones, who handles a lot of different jobs at middle linebacker. The Gamecocks do not blitz too often, and have six sacks on the year — the same amount as the Tigers.
The strength of the Gamecocks is the secondary, and R.J. Roderick is the top safety. He is second on the team with 19 tackles while also adding a sack, an interception and a tackle for loss on the young year. They didn’t have a good game last week, and they’ll want to make up for it Saturday.
Both of these teams would like to clean up a shaky start to the season. It might be hard to find a team more desperate for a win than Missouri, especially given the hype to the season and the hope for a 1-0 start to the SEC. But if there is, it is South Carolina. The Gamecocks would like to avoid a 1-3 start and 0-2 in the SEC, but they have to do so by traveling to Mizzou.
It should be a tough game for both teams, but it’s one where the Tigers could pull away in the fourth quarter.