South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Missouri Tigers: Complete Game Preview

Charles BennettContributor IOctober 22, 2013

South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Missouri Tigers: Complete Game Preview

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    South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson (No. 17) will start Saturday against Missouri.
    South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson (No. 17) will start Saturday against Missouri.Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Plain and simple, this is the biggest game of the year for South Carolina.

    The Gamecocks' waning SEC East title hopes will be all but a vague and complicated possibility with a loss to the Missouri Tigers.

    Win—and keep winning—and let Missouri lose once more, and South Carolina is right there in the hunt.

    Georgia and Florida also factor in, but there are too many possibilities to list here.

    If Missouri wins Saturday, it would take a total collapse for the Tigers not to represent the East in the SEC title game.

    Who: No. 21 South Carolina (5-2, 3-2 SEC) at No. 5 Missouri (7-0, 3-0 SEC)

    When: 7 p.m. ET, Saturday, Oct. 26

    Where: Memorial Stadium, Columbia, Mo.

    Watch: ESPN2

    Series History: Missouri leads 2-1

    Unless otherwise indicated, rankings refer to BCS.

Keys to Victory for South Carolina

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    South Carolina tailback Mike Davis (No. 28) will need the Gamecocks offensive line to open some holes.
    South Carolina tailback Mike Davis (No. 28) will need the Gamecocks offensive line to open some holes.Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

    South Carolina's offensive line needs to play its best Saturday against a very talented defensive front from Missouri.

    The Gamecocks need to open some holes for the running game and do a great job of protecting quarterback Dylan Thompson, who will be starting in place of the injured Connor Shaw.

    Thompson does not have the mobility of Shaw, so pass protection will be even more critical than normal.

    Defensively, the Gamecocks must contend with Missouri's fast-paced attack. Missouri likes to throw the deep ball, so South Carolina's secondary needs to be up to the challenge.

Keys to Victory for Missouri

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    Missouri defensive end Michael Sam (No. 52) is the Tigers' answer to South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney.
    Missouri defensive end Michael Sam (No. 52) is the Tigers' answer to South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney.Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

    Despite leading the SEC in sacks with 23, Missouri is 12th in the SEC in pass defense.

    With Dylan Thompson starting at quarterback this week, the Gamecocks will probably try a few more shots downfield.

    Missouri needs to be ready, not only with pressure up front but also with tight coverage.

    As always, stopping the run will be critical.

Players to Watch for South Carolina

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    South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney (No. 7) is improving with every game.
    South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney (No. 7) is improving with every game.Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

    Just when the national media stops paying attention, Jadeveon Clowney turns it up.

    Clowney, South Carolina's All-American defensive end, is coming off arguably his best two games of the season.

    Missouri needs to have a plan for Clowney.

    On offense, tailback Mike Davis and quarterback Dylan Thompson will be the players to watch for South Carolina.

Players to Watch for Missouri

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    Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk (No. 7) was impressive in his debut last week against Florida.
    Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk (No. 7) was impressive in his debut last week against Florida.Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

    Playing in place of injured senior James Franklin, redshirt freshman quarterback Maty Mauk debuted by throwing for 296 yards and a touchdown in Missouri's 36-17 victory over Florida.

    If he can put up those kinds of numbers against South Carolina, the Gamecocks are in trouble.

    Elsewhere on offense, wide receiver L'Damian Washington is a game-breaker. He has 32 catches for 539 yards and seven touchdowns.

    Defensive end Michael Sam leads the SEC in sacks with nine.

What They're Saying

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    Missouri coach Gary Pinkel
    Missouri coach Gary PinkelJamie Squire/Getty Images

    Per Adam Sullivan of the News Tribune, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel says the Tigers are totally focused on Saturday's game with South Carolina and not on their newly minted status as the No. 5 team in the BCS rankings.

    Meanwhile, per Gamecocksonline.comSouth Carolina coach Steve Spurrier knows the Gamecocks have to beat Missouri Saturday to have a realistic chance of winning the SEC East.

Prediction

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    It will be party time in Columbia, Mo., if the Tigers knock off South Carolina.
    It will be party time in Columbia, Mo., if the Tigers knock off South Carolina.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Apparently, Missouri still has its doubters.

    South Carolina opened as a five-point favorite over the Tigers, per Vegas Insider, and the Gamecocks can win if they keep the chains moving on offense, eat up time and finish drives with points.

    However, after back-to-back victories over Georgia and Florida, it appears the Tigers are for real.

    Prediction: Missouri 35, South Carolina 31.