Missouri football visits South Carolina on Saturday in Columbia, S.C. Here are your three keys to a Tiger victory.
By Matt Zemek
The South Carolina Gamecocks fired head coach Will Muschamp, realizing how fully their defense had cratered. Muschamp has spent a lot of time in his coaching career as a defensive coordinator, so when he lost the ability to field a reasonably competent defense, he had no leg to stand on at South Carolina, so the school fired him and will search for a new replacement.
This is the backdrop against which the Missouri Tigers will face the Gamecocks in the annual Clash of the Columbias. Let’s see what Mizzou can do to win it and continue a season which has been much better than many Tiger fans had a right to expect in mid-September, before this SEC journey began.
1 – Degree of difficulty
So much of this game boils down to which team will have an easy time scoring touchdowns. South Carolina games in the final weeks under Will Muschamp turned into video games. Points flew off the shelves very quickly. Defenses mounted no resistance. You’re going to see plenty of touchdowns in this game as well, but if one team can make it harder for its opponent to score seven points, that team figures to win. These offenses can’t become hot knives going through butter. Defenses have to find a way to force offenses to be patient, and then come up with red-zone stops which turn at least a few touchdowns into field goals. That is the most essential battle in a game where the offenses figure to control the flow of play.
2 – Offensive continuity
Missouri didn’t get to play against Georgia this past weekend, so like a lot of other teams in this pandemic, the Tigers have to find a way to make the off week (an unexpected one) work in their favor. Georgia probably would have physically punished the Tigers, so Missouri can be thankful that it isn’t a worn-down group right now. That physical freshness needs to translate into a vibrant and bouncy performance against South Carolina’s defense. However, there is always the risk that the unplanned downtime created by a pandemic game postponement will leave Missouri’s offense flat and imprecise, at least in the first half of this game. The Tigers need to start crisply and show that the off week was a benefit, not a burden.
3 – Energy level
When a team fires its coach, the next game often shows whether players are excited to turn the page and listen to a fresh voice in the locker room, or if they have mentally checked out. We won’t know how South Carolina will respond, but we can say this much: If Missouri begins this game with a flood of energy and passion, and the Tigers get the jump on the Gamecocks, it will be a lot easier for South Carolina to mentally check out of this game. Missouri needs to bring a lot of energy to this game. If it does, any possible thoughts of a South Carolina resurgence after Muschamp’s departure will be harder to take seriously.
Saturday‘s game kicks off at 6:30 PM CT (7:30 PM ET). You can watch this Missouri football game on the SEC Alternate Network.