The Missouri Tigers will begin their SEC slate on Saturday with an all-important opener against the South Carolina Gamecocks, and to get a perspective from the other Columbia, I sat down with Garnet and Black Attack’s site manager, Kody Timmers.
Here’s the full Q and A to break down Saturday’s contest:
1. What has impressed you the most in Ryan Hilinski’s first two starts as a college quarterback? Does making his first road start as a true freshman quarterback this week worry you at all or do you think he’s ready for that challenge?
Timmers: I think what’s stood out to me the most about Hilinski is his poise. He’s had some unforced errors — a couple interceptions that were dangerous and careless throws, a fumbled snap — but for the most part, the moment has really not looked too big for him. And that’s saying a lot, considering we just played Alabama. He moves with fluidity and confidence in the pocket that we haven’t seen from one of our quarterbacks in a while, and he’s made some really challenging throws that I couldn’t believe came from a freshman. If we hadn’t just played Alabama this past week, I’d be more concerned about him going to Mizzou, but I’m feeling probably about as okay as you can when a true freshman is making his first road start. It’ll definitely be a test, though, and I won’t be shocked if Mizzou can goad him into a rookie mistake or two.
2. South Carolina had 459 total yards against Alabama last week. Did you feel like that they emptied the tank just for that game or can that be a promising performance that gives them confidence to build on for the rest of the season?
Timmers: I certainly hope it was a promising omen! It’s fair to say we threw everything and the kitchen sink at Bama, because you can’t hope to spring an upset of a team like that if you don’t. To that end, I’m not sure you’ll see South Carolina go for broke in quite that same way this week. But I honestly think it’s going to come down to coaching more so than execution as to whether the Gamecocks can keep racking up the yards. As long as the staff continues to trust Hilinski and also maintains some of that aggressive mindset they had against Alabama, that can only bode well for the offense. This team loses games when it tries to nurse a lead or settles for too many field goals, because we just don’t have an overwhelming depth or talent edge to slowly squeeze the life out of opponents with. We’ve gotta be proactive instead of reactive.
3. Barry Odom has never beaten South Carolina in his head coaching career. Why has Will Muschamp had the upper hand recently in this Mayor’s Cup rivalry?
Timmers: Honestly? I have no idea. Last year’s game, in particular, was one of the most bizarre football games I’ve witnessed in a while, if only because it made absolutely no sense that a sudden rainstorm gave South Carolina superpowers while Mizzou forgot how to play. Sports is full of little unexplained mysteries, and so maybe Muschamp’s magic over Odom is one of them (Steve Spurrier never beat Butch Jones, for example, which still blows my mind when I think of it). So yeah, I expect this week’s game to be another crazy one, because this series has produced a lot of fun games so far and I’ve enjoyed watching this rivalry grow.
4. This is arguably Missouri’s most important game of the season, and the same can probably be said for South Carolina. After both teams were dealt with season-opening losses, who do you think needs this game more?
Timmers: I know this will come off as inherent bias, but I do think it means more for South Carolina. It’s a close call, but I’m giving the Gamecocks the edge since Missouri’s postseason status is still up in the air. If y’all can’t even participate in one, becoming bowl eligible loses a lot of its luster (although of course it’s always nice to reach six-plus wins). Missouri also has a more manageable schedule than South Carolina, so the Tigers could take a hit here and still have opportunities to turn it around. If USC loses on Saturday, it’s very, very hard to picture a winning or even .500 season, because it’d require an unlikely upset of a ranked team.
5. How do you see this game playing out on Saturday? Do you have a final score prediction?
Timmers: Man, I don’t know. I think pegging the Gamecocks as a double-digit underdog was a little unfair, but as the first true road game of the season, I can understand the skepticism. As mentioned previously, the games in this series have tended to be pants-on-head crazy, with many of them coming down to the fourth quarter. I don’t expect anything different this time around, and I can see the final margin of victory being within a touchdown or less in a see-saw 35-28 type of affair. I’m really hoping South Carolina comes away with the W here.
Thank you to Kody Timmers for the time, and while he’s not on Twitter, you can follow Garnet and Black Attack on the South Carolina side of things for this week.