South Carolina vs. Missouri: Why Tigers Will Not Be Able to Stop Mike Davis

Alex SimsCorrespondent IIIOctober 25, 2013

Aug 29, 2013; Columbia, SC, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks running back Mike Davis (28) reacts after a touchdown against the North Carolina Tar Heels in the first quarter at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

With a win this weekend, Missouri can start booking its tickets to Atlanta for the Southeastern Conference Championship game.

But standing between the Tigers and a shot at the SEC title is South Carolina and the best running back in the league.

Mizzou, sitting as the No. 5 team in the nation at 7-0, will be just one win away from locking down the SEC East Division title if it can beat USC. However, the Gamecocks will have new life if they can pull off the upset in Columbia, Mo.

To do that, they will lean heavily on the running of Mike Davis, who has been unstoppable this season. 

No defense has been able to even slow the sophomore this season, as he has reached the end zone and eclipsed 75 yards on the ground in every game thus far.

He also has four games over 125 rushing yards and leads the SEC with 879 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Davis joined the Gamecocks as a 247Sports composite 4-star in 2012 and has made his name off his explosive running.

However, before showing off that explosiveness, Davis sat his freshman season behind USC's star running back Marcus Lattimore and watched as fellow freshmen Todd Gurley and T.J. Yeldon tore up the conference.

As James Davis, Mike's brother and former Clemson running back, told ESPN's Chris Low, sitting and watching helped to build the drive inside Mike:

I knew once he touched the field, people would find out immediately what type of player he was. I talked to him about being ready when his time came. He saw how much playing time Gurley and Yeldon got as freshmen last year, and that just pushed him that much more. 

Once Mike got his chance, he was going to show that he was the real deal, too, and you’re seeing that now.

He currently leads the SEC with 23 runs of 10 or more yards and is the only runner in the league with two runs of 60 or more yards.

However, Davis will be pitted against the toughest rush defense he has seen this season in Missouri. The Tigers are No. 3 in the SEC against the run, allowing just 116.6 yards per game on the ground.

And just as Davis feeds off explosive plays, the Tiger defense finds success by preventing those big plays. 

Mizzou has allowed just 27 runs of 10 or more yards, the fourth-fewest in the league. The Tigers have allowed just six runs of 20 yards and two runs of 30 yards.

However, although Missouri has shown the ability to stop the run, a few runners have also seen great success against the SEC East leaders.

Georgia tallied 164 rushing yards against the Tigers despite alternating between two inexperienced running backs, freshmen J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas.

Earlier in the season, the Tigers were gouged by Toledo running back David Fluellen, who had 100 yards receiving and 111 yards rushing.

Fluellen has been just as unstoppable as Davis this season. The Toledo senior has topped 1,000 yards rushing already with 10 touchdowns. Just like Davis, Fluellen has been held under 100 yards just once this year.

Davis echoed the sentiments of his brother, telling Low that waiting behind Lattimore helped him to prepare for this season. And now, Davis says he is ready to carry his team when he needs to:

As much as I wanted to be out there playing, learning from Marcus was the best. He was such a good guy, and it went deeper than just football...It’s my time now. I’m ready to step up any way I can. If that means, at times, putting this team on my back, I’m ready for it.

This weekend, South Carolina needs him more than ever.

The Gamecocks will likely be without starting quarterback Connor Shaw, as reported by David Cloninger of The State

The timing of Shaw's absence couldn't be worse, as this is a must-win game for the Gamecocks. A win will give them hope for the SEC title, but a loss would sink those hopes altogether.

In that situation, Missouri won't quite have what it takes to stop Davis.