Four weeks ago, most Tiger fans didn’t have September 21st — South Carolina at Missouri — circled on their calendars.
Sure, it would be the opening of SEC play against a team Mizzou hadn’t previously beaten in the last three matchups, but nobody (not me at least) predicted this Saturday’s game would feel like the litmus test of Mizzou’s potential this year.
The Tigers still have what are presumably their toughest two SEC games ahead of them, (Georgia and Florida), but beating South Carolinaf first is a necessity if the Tigers want to keep their hopes for a special season intact.
Scouting Report: South Carolina
Coach Odom holds South Carolina football in high regard, and during Tuesday’s press conference, he discussed the program at length. “I’ve got much, much, much respect for Will and the things he’s done in his career and coaching,” he said, “but also the program that he’s developed and built at South Carolina and just the way his team has played.”
Odom continued his praise, “They play with great skill, they play with great toughness, great schemes, and they’re really, really talented in a lot of areas.”
Odom is well aware of the challenge ahead and the stakes the game holds. “We’ve got our work cut out for us... excited to play at home again and obviously it’s huge to open up SEC play.”
With South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley out for the season with a broken foot, true freshman Ryan Hilinski will continue as the starter against the Tigers. He threw for 324 yards and two touchdowns against Alabama last week.
“I don’t see that they’ve missed a beat,” Odom said about the Gamecocks’ quarterback situation. “Hillinski is a super talented kid. We knew about him in high school, obviously, and then to be put in that moment, he doesn’t look rattled at all. They played really well around him. They’re able to run the ball, they’re balanced— about 250 rushing 250 passing— and he can make every throw on the field.”
Coach Odom was also asked about South Carolina senior wide receiver, Bryan Edwards. “Man, I feel like he and I played against each other, he’s been there forever,” Odom joked. “You know, what a great player and a great competitor. In watching him play last week, he was on a mission, and I admire and respect the way he plays the game.” Edwards had nine catches for 79 yards against #2 Alabama.
Against Alabama, South Carolina rushed for 135 yards on 29 tries averaging 4.7 yards a carry. In regards to the rushing ability the Gamecocks demonstrated, Odom said, “They blocked up front really well. Their offensive line did a heck of a job. They ran extremely well. Solid, tough runs,“ he said. “They did a lot of things on how they attacked them [Alabama]. It was impressive to watch. Coach Odom said, “We’ve got to make sure that somehow, some way, we combat that at the line of scrimmage and try to control it. We’ve got to be great tacklers.”
Odom looked back on his record against Coach Muschamp’s program saying, “It’s been a close, tested battle since I started here in ‘15.” The closest of the three meetings was a heartbreaker last year in stormy South Carolina. When asked about what he learned from last year’s game, Odom quickly remarked, “Bring an umbrella. Always understand, don’t trust the weather forecast.”
Scouting Report: The Weather Forecast (Don’t trust it)
With scattered thunderstorms in Columbia’s Saturday forecast, a rainy game might be in store yet again. And the Tigers are ready for it. Odom said, “Every Thursday, we put a heavy emphasis on [possible weather-related issues] — we have five gallon buckets of water out there, do our wet ball drills, do all the things. We had a number - two or three practices - that were rainy out, so we got a little work there but also it’s the focus, and the determination, and the grit and the toughness to be able to handle whatever the adversities are.”
Right now, Missouri has the second best defense in the nation for passing yards allowed. Coach Odom responded to the impressive statistic saying, “Next week, we’ll look at it and see again where we stack up but more than just about the numbers, how do we play. We’ll be tested in every area this week, just about.”