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Pregamin’ South Carolina

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IT’S THE BATTLE OF COLUMBIA AKA THE MAYOR’S CUP AKA GAMECOCK SEASON AKA PREGAMIN’

“Now what I say now what do you suppose that Truman the Tiger is up to right now?”

WELCOME BACK TO PREGAMIN, Y’ALL!

A few notes before we kick this thing into high gear.

  1. Rock M Nation would like to formally disclose that the above image featuring Truman the Tiger swinging a cartoonish mallet at a rooster is FAKE! NO REAL ROOSTERS WERE HARMED AND ROCK M NATION DOES NOT CONDONE MALLET-RELATED VIOLENCE!
  2. So Ryan is just going to run away with this, huh? We’ve sent two weeks of challengers at him and no one has been able to top him yet. It’s still early and there are plenty of battles to be won, but he has essentially guaranteed that he’ll be in the running all year.

Pregamin’ Scoreboard

Writer Wins
Writer Wins
Ryan Herrera 3
Ryan Faller 1
Sean MacKinnon 1
Tim Bussen 0
Nate Edwards 0
Mitch Hill 0
Brandon Kiley 0
Josh Matejka 0
Ryan Herrera continues his hot streak into Week 4.

Alright, enough stalling. LET’S PREGAME!

Let’s Take a Trip Down Memory Lane

So Fresh and So Clean, Clean

Oh shoot, that helmet got me feeling SOME TYPA WAY.
@MizzouFootball / Twitter
KELLY, WHY ARE YOU SO DAMN COOL?
@MizzouFootball / Twitter

It’s nice to see the gold-black combo again, but the real star of this week is THOSE HELMETS.

I noticed Matt, and...

If You’re So Smart, Tell Us What’s Gonna Happen

Missouri’s walk-through against SEMO went exactly as it should: the Tigers signed the Redhawks a big fat check and punted them directly out the door. Did you see anything that either encouraged or discouraged you about the team moving forward?

Ryan Herrera, Lead Football Beat Writer: I was really encouraged by the overall play from all three phases of the game. The offense ran smoothly — though it did seem to lay off the gas in the second half — the defense won the turnover battle and shut down any and all SEMO attacks, and the special teams finally produced a return touchdown. Missouri should be beating down on these kinds of teams, and a 50-0 win is exactly what that’s supposed to look like.

I was discouraged, though, by the number of penalties. Getting flagged has been a problem for the Tigers all season, and even against a completely overmatched opponent, they still managed to be called for nine penalties for 79 yards. Missouri has to be much more disciplined than that, especially now that SEC play is starting.

Mitch Hill, Podcast Producer: I liked that the D-Line was getting some pressure on the QB. Sure, it was SEMO, but I still want to see pressure on the QB more and more from the D-Line. I also like to see Larry Three-Sticks’ stat line return to what many thought it would be every week. I’ll be interested to see what this secondary does against a more capable opponent, but all in all, some solid things going on.

Tim Bussen, Staff Football Analyst: Encouraging: As Sam wrote earlier in the week, we saw nine minutes of near-perfect Tiger football— clean, explosive, overpowering. We got a short glimpse of how good this team can be in all three phases. The prospect of sustained execution like we saw during the game’s early going is encouraging indeed.

We also saw two new starters on the O line in Case Cook and Bobby Lawrence, both of whom acquitted themselves well. Cook looks like a completely different player compared to last year, and should be lauded for the improvement he’s made. Looking at the depth chart before the season began, I thought this group was paper-thin and might implode with even one injury. They now appear to have a solid swing-tackle and capable fourth man on the interior.

Discouraging: Anything I write here might seem like quibbling after so convincing a victory, but I was concerned by the let down the offense had after sprinting out to a comfortable lead. This speaks to a lack of focus and killer instinct, qualities this team will need if they want to have a special season, beating South Carolina, Kentucky and Florida.

Oh, and third-down offensive efficiency was not great against SEMO with the Tigers converting only five of fourteen third-down chances. That’s got to improve this week.

South Carolina may not be Missouri’s biggest rival in the SEC, but the Tigers certainly have had their troubles against Columbia East. Is there something about the Gamecocks that makes them that hard to beat, or is it just a run of bad luck?

Ryan Herrera: There’s definitely some bad luck that’s gone into this losing streak, but I’d lean more towards the fact that South Carolina is just a tough team to beat. The Gamecocks are a solid team, and even if they’re not College Football Playoff contenders, Will Muschamp still manages to put a respectable squad on the field every year. There’s very little margin for error when you play them, and Missouri has often shot themselves in the foot when it’s mattered most. Even looking at last season’s 37-35 loss, the Tigers were a Drew Lock pick-six or a blown coverage with less than a minute to play away from winning. Missouri has what it takes to end the streak this year, but the team has to avoid these costly mistakes if it’s going to happen.

Mitch Hill: I think it’s a little bit of both. Muschamp and Odom are pretty similar, but Muschamp has a little more head coaching experience than Odom, which is why that could be the difference between the two right now. They normally play pretty sound ball, but Mizzou has had some serious self inflicted wounds in the previous match-ups and I think that is fixed this Saturday and Odom and Co. turn the tide.

Tim Bussen: Muschamp’s teams are tough and gritty. Even when they’re disadvantaged in the talent department they’re difficult to put away. The score didn’t end up being close, but the Gamecocks played Alabama tough.

That oblong balI they play with will take some strange bounces, and it doesn’t always bounce in your favor. But for the most part, teams make their own luck. Leaving a receiver open down the middle of the field as an opponent drives for a win as the Tigers did last year against USCe — that’s not luck, that’s a missed assignment. Drew Lock served up an interception for a touchdown on a throw I’ll generously describe as ill-advised — that’s not chance, it’s a bad decision. Mizzou and South Carolina are similar teams and similar programs. In the past few games with South Carolina, the fine line between victory and defeat has been moved by focus, effort, limiting mistakes, and... well, maybe a lucky Gamecock bounce here and there.

Missouri hasn’t toppled the ‘Cocks since 2015, when Drew Lock was still sporting Bama bangs, but this year seems as good as any to get back in the W column. Name two things (one for each side of the ball) that Missouri needs to do to open conference play with a win.

Ryan Herrera: Offensively, winning in the trenches is of utmost importance. The line has generally been one of Missouri’s strong points over the years, but it’ll need to be even better against South Carolina than it looked against SEMO. A strong performance all across the line will give Kelly Bryant time to work his magic and open up holes for Larry Rountree III and Tyler Badie, which in turn will open the field for guys like Albert Okwuegbunam and Johnathon Johnson to go to work.

Defensively, the Tigers need to win the turnover battle again. Week 1, Wyoming won the turnover battle 3-0 and in turn won the game. The last two weeks, Missouri has won the turnover battle and in turn won those games. Defensive coordinator Ryan Walters told me earlier this week that one of the most telling stats in football is the turnover margin, which just shows the emphasis this defense puts on causing turnovers. If they can make it three straight weeks with more turnovers forced than turnovers allowed, I think the Tigers have a good shot at taking this one.

Mitch Hill: For me it’s the same thing on both sides of the ball. Control the line of scrimmage. On defense, if you create pressure up front, maybe you can rattle a freshman QB in his first road game and create some takeaways (which, as we know = victories), and on offense, if the line is getting a good push, the running game opens up and, in turn, you open up the door for a big play to Nance, Knox, or Albert O that could be the difference in the end.

Tim Bussen: Offense: Hit a handful of explosive plays. Against SEMO the Mizzou offense was a nice mix of ball-control running and passing punctuated by chunk-yardage plays. The two deep throws to Jalen Knox set up touchdowns and deflated the Redhawks.

Defense: Contain the Gamecock run game. After being scorched by Wyoming, the Tiger defensive front owned the line of scrimmage against WVU and SEMO. Considering the quality of the run attacks they faced, though, I’m not sure Missouri has proved much if anything in these games. The USCe game will give us the first true indication whether the Tigers’ performance in Laramie was an altitude-induced aberration or an indication of a serious problem.

PICK ‘EM. Over/Under (63.5), Score Prediction and MVP.

Ryan Herrera: I’m picking the under, Missouri wins 33-27, and Kelly Bryant takes his MVP throne back from Larry Rountree III (editor’s note- his name is now Larry Three-Sticks).

Mitch Hill: Given the weather outlook, I am going to say Under as much as I do not like doing that. Mizzou 31 SCAR 21. KB for MVP. 2 Throwing TDs, 1 Rushing, and a clean game against a foe from his home state.

Tim Bussen: Mizzou 34, South Carolina 31 (Over). MVP: Kelly Bryant