A personal note before we start: I am so excited that we are back to playing FBS teams, not just from an entertainment/competitive standpoint, but from a “reliably finding depth charts and stats” standpoint as well.
However, despite pointing that out, I do have to mention that Will Muschamp is protecting his depth charts like they’re the codes to a nuclear arsenal so I’ve been scrapping together old depth charts and stats to cobble together what I believe to be a reliable depth chart. If I’m wrong, let me know, and I’ll reimburse all the money you spent on this article.
South Carolina just got done taking their ritualistic paddling from Alabama so, if you subscribe to the “body-blow theory” — that Alabama is so much better that any other team that their opponent is more bruised and banged up and performs worse the following week — then you are in luck! Freshman quarterback Ryan Hilsinki, stepping in for the now-football-dead Jake Bentley, played admirably, but this team is predicated on the ground game, just the way Muschamp likes it. From an advanced statistical standpoint, Cocky plays a lot more like Wyoming, except a little more efficient, with a little more passing, and less reliance on turnovers.
That’s what we want, right? Another game like Wyoming?
...anyway, here is the (possible) starting eleven for Saturday:
Ryan Hilinski – FR: 60-87 (69% [nice])/606 yards/4 TDs/2 INTs/10.1 ypc/3.3% sack rate
Dakereon Joyner – FR: 1-1 (100%)/0 yards/0 TDs/0 INTs
The matchup: The freshman vs. The experience
I ended up watching a good chunk of the Bama/Cocky matchup last week and - no doubt about it - Hilinksi can make some excellent (and risky) throws. However, those 606 yards he’s accumulated over two starts? Well... they weren’t earned in an equal manner.
Let’s play a game! It’s called, “Guess which team was FCS and which was Alabama!” You ready?
Hilinski vs. Team A: 24-30 (80%)/282 yards/2 TDs/1 INT/0 sacks/9.4 ypa
Hilinski vs. Team B: 36-57 (63%)/324 yards/2 TDs/1 INT/3 sacks/5.3 ypa
Team B is, of course, Alabama. More yardage, yes, but so many more throws to do so, while getting smacked around way more frequently.
We’re only three games in, true, but at this point, South Carolina is in a weakened state if it’s forced to throw. They only have a 43% success rate through the air and are neither efficient (84th) nor explosive (104th). Their completion rate is a solid 44th, but that’s only so good if the throws aren’t deep or if your receivers aren’t shaking any tackles. And with the 71st-ranked sack rate in the country, Cocky is going to do whatever it can to protect Hilinski and keep ahead of the chains: their passing downs success rate (2nd/3rd and 5+ yards) is only 25%. That’s definitely something the experienced Missouri secondary — with their 10th-ranked defensive passing success rate — can feast on.
Rico Dowdle – SR: 33 rushes/251 yards/7.6 ypc/2 TDs/6.14 HLT/66.7% OPP rate/57.6% success rate
Tavien Feaster – SR: 29 rushes/169 yards/5.8 ypc/1 TD/5.98 HLT/48.3% OPP rate/41.4% success rate
The matchup: Efficiency vs. explosions
I know this doesn’t jive with the “BARRY ODOM’S DEFENSES ARE GARBAGE” crowd but... we have a solid defense (18th), that - as mentioned previously - keeps passing success rate incredibly low and keeps opposing ground games in check with their NINTH-ranked defensive rushing success rate. The issue, as you may recall me pointing out previously, is the explosive plays, where our defense ranks ... (pulls on collar)... 104th. To explain that in simple terms, you won’t be able to move the ball on the ground on the Tiger D, but if you do, it’s going a long, long way. South Carolina, by the way? 20th in rushing success rate, 22nd in rushing explosiveness. The Gamecocks will get the yards on the ground in some fashion and it would behoove them to consistently test our defense on the ground until they land some hay-makers. If Missouri limits the explosive rushes to one or two, they’ll have a chance to put a stranglehold on the South Carolina offense. If not, it’s going to be a long day.
Bryan Edwards – SR: 25 targets/15 catches (60%)/198 yards/2 TDs/52% success rate
OrTre Smith – SO: 7 targets/4 catches (57.1%)/42 yards/0 TDs/42.9% success rate
Josh Vann – SO: 14 targets/9 catches (64.3%)/62 yards/0 TDs/28.6% success rate
Jay Urich – SO: 1 target/0 catches (0%)/0 yards/0 TDs/0% success rate
Shi Smith – JR: 20 targets/13 catches (65%)/158 yards/1 TD/45% success rate
Randrecous Davis – JR: x
Kyle Markway – JR: 15 targets/11 catches (73.3%)/120 yards/2 TDs/60% success rate
Nick Muse – JR: 8 targets/5 catches (75%)/43 yards/0 TDs/62.5% success rate
The matchup: Slots vs. Nickels
As a unit, the Missouri secondary is excellent, but any weaknesses we have are in individual matchups. After the Wyoming game, I mentioned that the only success the Cowboys had through the air were their slot receivers and tight ends beating man coverage by the linebackers and safeties. Neither West Virginia nor SEMO could exploit that matchup, but South Carolina absolutely can:
South Carolina Slots/Tight Ends: 58 targets/40 catches/383 yards/3 TDs
All other South Carolina Receivers: 56 targets/37 catches/365 yards/2 TDs*
*25 targets/15 catches/198 yards/2 TDs of that is one guy, Bryan Edwards
Bryan Edwards can - and will - destroy a secondary if you let him, but I’m more concerned on the inside matchups. Is that because I have too much confidence in DeMarkus Acy to shut down a #1 receiver? Yeah, maybe it is. But it’s also because offensive coordinators who are much smarter than me can also recognize Missouri’s issues with the inside receiver matchup and will work to exploit it.
Sadarius Hutcherson – JR
Jakai Moore – FR
Donnell Stanley – SR
Jordan Rhodes – SO
Hank Manos – R-FR
Vincent Murphy – FR
Eric Douglas – SO
Jovaughn Gwyn – R-FR
Dylan Wonnum – SO
Eric Douglas – SO
The matchup: Protection vs. Pressure
In the running game, Cocky’s line is elite: 17th in getting the running back 5-yard gains, 17th in avoiding run stuffs, 36th at converting 3rd-downs with short yardage to go.
In the passing game, Cocky’s line is vulnerable: 71st in sack rate, 105th in converting passing downs.
Get them to throw, please. It’s basically a guaranteed way to limit their ability to move the ball at all.