South Carolina was supposed to be one of the better teams in the SEC East this year. However, a blowout 41-17 loss to No. 2 Georgia and a 14-point loss to No. 13 Kentucky (that was worse than the score indicated) have put the Gamecocks somewhat out of that conversation.
The Gamecocks’ two losses this season can be blamed for multiple reasons. But the most glaring reason offensively is the lack of a running game. South Carolina’s leading rusher against Georgia mustered up just 26 yards, while the team rushed for just 56 yards total and averaged less than three yards per carry.
South Carolina didn’t fare much better against No. 13 Kentucky, rushing for 128 yards on 35 carries (3.66 yards per carry). Junior tailback Rico Dowdle rushed for a blistering team-high 44 yards on 13 carries (3.4 yards per carry).
That doesn’t bode well for the Gamecocks’ Week Six matchup with Missouri.
Led by Terry Beckner Jr. and Terez Hall, the Tigers have the nation’s 15th-best rush defense, allowing just 3.56 yards per carry and 102.3 rushing yards per game. To add to that, only three of the 12 touchdowns Missouri has let up have been on the ground.
What South Carolina lacks in a ground attack, they make up for with one of the SEC’s more efficient quarterbacks in Jake Bentley. The junior has completed 63.6 percent of his passes in 2018, good for fourth in the SEC. He’s done this in four games, all against teams with top-53 passing defenses (Georgia- 17, Kentucky- 29, Coastal Carolina- 43, Vanderbilt- 53).
Missouri ranks 117th in passing defense — only four Power Five teams allow more yards through the air per game than the Tigers.
That’s due in part to Purdue quarterback David Blough’s record-breaking 572 yard performance three weeks ago. But still, that’s not the best stat there for the Tigers.
Efficiency wise, the two Power Five quarterbacks Missouri has faced — Blough and No. 2 Georgia’s Jake Fromm — have combined for a completion percentage of 66.7 percent, six touchdowns and just two interceptions. Granted, Fromm is the third-most efficient quarterback in the country and Blough is 29th, but Missouri has to do better from here on out if they’re going to win games in the SEC.
Fortunately for Missouri, Bentley has been vulnerable to interceptions in SEC play thus far. All six of Bentley’s picks on the year have come against SEC opponents (Kentucky- 3, Georgia- 2, Vanderbilt- 1). While the Tigers have only two interceptions on the year, they both came by the way of Blough and Fromm — the two have combined for just three interceptions on the season.
Aside from a select two or three plays in the second half where players missed assignments or missed tackles, Missouri’s secondary looked stout against Fromm and No. 2 Georgia. Fromm had just 66 passing yards in the first half, including an interception on the game’s opening drive. This was due to a good combination of the front seven getting pressure on the quarterback and just solid overall play from the secondary.
If the Tigers’ secondary plays how it did against Fromm, it could bode for a turnover or two from the interception-prone Bentley, as well as an easy Missouri win on the road at the ~worse~ Columbia.