South Carolina vs Missouri: Keys to Gamecocks Pulling Off Major SEC Upset
The South Carolina Gamecocks haven't had the season that they were hoping for this year, but they certainly have a chance to turn things around with a big win over the Missouri Tigers on Saturday.
After winning their previous four games, the Gamecocks fell 23-21 to the Tennessee Volunteers last week, moving to 5-2 and 3-2 in the SEC for the year. Meanwhile, the Tigers are still undefeated at 7-0 with big back-to-back wins over Georgia and Florida the past two weeks.
With South Carolina ranked at No. 21 and Missouri at No. 5, this would be a big win for the Gamecocks, and there are a few things that they must do if they want to pull off the big in-conference upset.
Jadeveon Clowney Must Play Like Himself
A lot of people want to criticize Jadeveon Clowney this season for not playing as well as he did in 2012, but just because he hasn't put up the same stats doesn't mean that he's been playing poorly.
Clowney showed everyone that he's never really left last week against Tennessee. He made a number of big plays throughout the game, including this big hit in the backfield on Rajion Neal in the first quarter.
Those kind of plays make opposing teams run away from him, and that limits opposing offenses, especially in the run game. For Missouri, running the ball is a huge part of their game, putting up 234.4 yards per contest on the ground.
The Tigers have three solid running backs in Henry Josey, Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy. The three have combined for nearly 1,300 yards and 16 touchdowns, averaging 6.9 yards per carry.
As long as Clowney can keep making big plays in the run game, Missouri should struggle to be as effective in that area, and that means that backup quarterback Maty Mauk will have to make plays through the air.
Mike Davis Needs to Carry Load Offensively
The Gamecocks are going to be without starting quarterback Connor Shaw on Saturday, and that means that Mike Davis is going to have to step up and carry the load for the offense.
According to College Football Talk, Dylan Thompson will be starting over the injured Shaw.
Thompson hasn't gotten a lot of opportunities under center, but when he's played he's been decent. He's thrown for 421 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions along with another two scores on the ground.
For Davis, this needs to be a big game for him. He's already run for 879 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, leading the SEC and ranking sixth in the NCAA in both categories. He's also put up 1,080 total yards from scrimmage and is averaging 7.2 yards per play from scrimmage.
However, it's not going to be an easy task for Davis. The Tigers are allowing just 116.6 rushing yards per game, holding opponents to 3.6 yards per carry.
Win the Turnover Battle
If the Gamecocks want to be able to pull off the upset, they have to hold onto the ball while forcing Mauk and the Tigers to make as many mistakes as possible.
The big reason the Tigers won their last two games against ranked opponents was because they took advantage of miscues by their opponents. They forced seven total turnovers in just those two games while only turning the ball over twice themselves. Michael Sam was also able to come up with a huge 21-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the second quarter against Georgia.
The big way to force turnovers will be to get pressure on Mauk as often as possible. The Redshirt freshman is mostly untested, but he did complete just 50 percent of his passes and threw an interception against Florida in his first career start.
Who wins this SEC battle?
South Carolina will also have to hope that Thompson can make good decisions on offense. He was solid when playing in 2012, throwing just two interceptions in 127 pass attempts, but he also already has two interceptions in 51 passes this season.
The Tigers don't mess around defensively. As a team, they've grabbed 12 total interceptions, with Kentrell Brothers and E.J. Gaines grabbing three apiece.
If the Gamecocks can force more turnovers than they commit, they will be in terrific position to take down a team that many believe is ranked too high in the initial BCS rankings.
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