Is Missouri Doomed vs. South Carolina Without QB Maty Mauk?

Justin Ferguson@@JFergusonBRCFB National AnalystSeptember 30, 2015

Missouri QB Maty Mauk
Missouri QB Maty MaukDylan Buell/Getty Images

Losing an experienced starter ahead of a conference game is usually bad news.

But the feeling around Missouri seems different this week as junior quarterback Maty Mauk will miss the Tigers' home matchup this Saturday against South Carolina.

According to Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Missouri announced on Tuesday that it has suspended Mauk and backup left tackle Malik Cuellar for the South Carolina game "for disciplinary reasons related to a violation of team policies."

Dave Matter @Dave_Matter

Mauk & Cuellar suspended for violation of undisclosed team policy. Status going forward "will be evaluated after the game," per MU statement

The Missouri quarterback's suspension comes during a time of great frustration for the entire Tigers offense.

Through the first four games of the season, Missouri is ranked near the bottom nationally in several major categories and is coming off a 21-13 loss to division foe Kentucky.

2015 Missouri Offensive Rankings
CategoryStatisticFBS RankSEC Rank
Total Yards per Game328.3119th14th
Points per Game20.8115th14th
Passing Yards per Attempt6.594th11th
Pass Efficiency Rating117.799th12th
Rushing Yards per Play3.2118th14th

Mauk has been at the center of that offensive inefficiency for Missouri, which had to replace its top four wide receivers heading into 2015. The junior has only completed 51.8 percent of his passes for 654 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions.

According to Matter, Mauk's completion percentage and efficiency rating (112.5) are the lowest for a Missouri quarterback in a four-game stretch since the 2001 season.

By comparison, those two figures for Mauk are both worse than those of Auburn's Jeremy Johnson, who was benched after three games in favor of redshirt freshman Sean White.

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Missouri QB Drew Lock
Missouri QB Drew LockL.G. Patterson/Associated Press

While Missouri's situation is different because of Mauk's suspension, these Tigers will also have to go with a freshman at quarterback for their SEC home opener.

True freshman Drew Lock has played in all four games this season for Missouri, getting at least one second-quarter series in each. Lock also played in the fourth quarter against Southeast Missouri State and Connecticut.

David Morrison @DavidCMorrison

Maty Mauk had played 40 collegiate snaps before his 1st career start in 2013. Lock has played 37.

According to Tod Palmer of the Kansas City Star, Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel opted not to use Lock in the second half of road games against Arkansas State and Kentucky. Against Kentucky, Lock's only drive pushed the Tigers into field-goal range before a 15-yard sack on third down.

So far this season, Lock has completed 15 of 25 passes for 225 yards, one touchdown and one interception, giving him a pass efficiency rating of 140.8.

While Lock will presumably be forced into his first career start this weekend against South Carolina, the new blood should be a good thing for the Tigers offense.

Bill Connelly of Rock M Nation writes that Lock represents something different for Missouri—potential.

"When you are devoid of proven playmakers, you look first for consistency, then for potential," Connelly wrote. "Even in his best days, Maty Mauk isn't particularly consistent ... At this point, there's no question that the player with the most potential on this offense is Drew Lock. Or, more specifically, Lock's right arm."

Missouri QB Drew Lock
Missouri QB Drew LockDylan Buell/Getty Images

Before the news of Mauk's suspension broke on Tuesday, former defensive star Michael Sam voiced his opinion on Missouri's quarterback situation on Monday, favoring Lock because of what he's showcased through the first few games of the season.

"I think you start Drew Lock in (this week’s South Carolina game)," Sam said, per Brendan Marks of InsideSTL.com. "See how he does, then he might be the guy. ... I played against Maty. He’s a great talented quarterback. But I don’t know where his mind is right now."

Lock will be in a tough situation on Saturday, as Missouri is looking to stay alive in the SEC East race and avoid the 0-2 start in the conference. 

But Missouri is far from doomed without Mauk because South Carolina's defense will give Lock plenty of opportunities to show what he's capable of doing with a full workload.

After all, these are the same Gamecocks who allowed Georgia's Greyson Lambert to bounce back from a rough start against Vanderbilt and break an all-time completion percentage record in a 330-yard, three-touchdown performance.

Kentucky's Patrick Towles completed 72.4 percent of his passes against South Carolina, while North Carolina's Marquise Williams broke the 60 percent mark despite three bad interceptions in the Gamecocks' season opener.

If there's any ideal SEC East opponent against which to break in a first-time starting quarterback, it's probably South Carolina.

While Missouri hopes to improve through the air with this change, a major question mark will be how the Tigers replace the rushing talents of their former starting signal-caller.

Through his passing struggles, Mauk is Missouri's second-leading rusher with 145 yards on 36 carries, and he's the only Tiger to find the end zone on the ground this season.

A former 4-star, pro-style quarterback, Lock hasn't had the chance to run the ball yet this season for Missouri. However, he's not completely stationary in the pocket.

According to 247Sports, Lock rushed for 282 yards and six touchdowns in his senior season of high school. Those numbers aren't outstanding, but they should give the Tigers some confidence as they try to figure things out with a rushing attack that is among the worst in the FBS this season.

If Lock can continue to be a more precise arm for Missouri and help open things up in the running game, he might be exactly what the Tigers need to snap out of this cold start to 2015.

As the numbers show, things can only go up from here for this Missouri offense.

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. Unless otherwise noted, statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. 

Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.


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