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PREGAMIN’ SOUTH CAROLINA

WAIT, WE’RE STILL PLAYING FOOTBALL?!?! WE DIDN’T EVEN HAVE A PHOTOSHOP READY!

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Keep Calm and Wear a Mask!

All Aboard the Hype Train!

I don’t plan on critiquing this one. I’m just glad to have hype videos back!

So Fresh and So Clean, Clean

I... don’t hate it! I’ve never been a fan of featuring yellow as a primary color, but it actually works nicely with the white jersey.

Of course, the Block M is back, and it’s a perfect setup with the yellow lid. As I said on Twitter, all it took for the program to fully transition to the Block M was one week of us screaming about it on Twitter.

Do we feel powerful yet?

What the “Experts” are Saying

It feels silly to start this off with anything else but the obvious. COVID-19 has prevented Missouri from playing for several weeks now, and it’s hard to say for certainty that any games will get played until they kick-off. What are your expectations for the rest of the year re: Missouri’s schedule?

Josh Matejka, Deputy Manager: I think it’s reasonable to expect Missouri to go at least 3-2 in these final five games, assuming they still play Georgia in that final make-up week. But the real question is if they will actually play all five? And to be honest, I don’t see how that’s possible.

COVID-19 isn’t getting any better around the country with infections increasing on the daily. Some schools are kind of doing preventative work by removing students from campus, but it feels naïve to think that will completely remove the threat. My expectations are almost fully out the window at this point, but if I’m forced to choose, I’d say Missouri has at least two games outright cancelled. The Tigers are likely going to be selected for a bowl game if they can notch four wins, so if they can get at least two of these last however many games, I’ll be satisfied.

Nate Edwards, Football Editor: My expectations at this point are to win two games. As of right now it’s South Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, then possibly/probably Georgia. Win all four/five and you can go ahead and let your expectations fly through the roof; three would be incredibly impressive, and two is just about right. One isn’t great but, like I’ve said a thousand times, I just don’t care enough about this season to take any long term negative issues and extrapolate them to future seasons. And, just to be a gigantic negative once again, I fully expect at least one other game to be COVID-cancelled before 2020 is done.

Brandon Kiley, Lead Football Writer: It’s so hard to say anything with certainty. We know this — Missouri is not in the same place as many other SEC schools. It’s not that the Tigers are having some wild outbreaks among the team. They’re starting at a place of disadvantage. Recruiting sanctions, opt outs and transfers have officially taken their toll on the Tigers’ roster. The team is down to 54 scholarship players before any COVID related issues. That certainly makes it difficult to field a 53-man roster on Saturdays. They have zero margin for error. Hopefully they’re able to maintain that. We’re playing through a pandemic. It’s going to be difficult to do so.

Another major bit of news dropped this weekend when South Carolina ponied up nearly $15 million to send Will Muschamp packing. Coach firings tend to have one of two effects on a team - galvanizing them to greater success or giving them cause to pack it in. How do you see the Gamecocks responding to their coach’s ouster?

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Mississippi Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Matejka: Not to get lazy, but I think we’re already seeing the response from South Carolina before they take the field. Several players, including arguably the team’s three best defenders in the secondary, have already opted out for the rest of the season. As Nate pointed out in his full preview, the Gamecocks rate 107th against the pass and 113th on passing downs. To be honest, I can’t imagine losing three starters (and two NFL prospects) out of the secondary is going to help morale much.

Of course, you can never take anything for granted against a Division I team. The guys who do stick around are likely to have some sort of chip on their shoulder and might want to put up a fight. But it’s hard to see a team like South Carolina — already facing a losing season and a long transition ahead — getting up much for a game against another rebuilding team like Missouri.

Nate Edwards: In a normal season you could maybe talk yourself into the Gamecocks rallying around interim Mike Bobo and finishing strong. But I find that hard to believe in this case: they have five losses already, there’s no way they can win the division, and since every team is eligible for a bowl no matter what there’s no effort needed to work towards a post-season game. Does this 2-win team really want to stay quarantined and sacrifice all college-life for a team that doesn’t need any effort to achieve their very underwhelming goals for a coaching staff that won’t be around next year? Hell no. I’d imagine numerous guys opt out [editor’s note: this was submitted Monday, four players opted out by Wednesday] and the team sleep walks towards the end. Of course, now that I’ve said that out loud, South Carolina will win every game on their schedule

Brandon Kiley: Well, we’ve seen a few players transfer since his firing, including multiple starters in the secondary. So that’s not great for South Carolina! I’m sure they’ll come out firing. We’ll probably see some trick plays. They’ll try things we haven’t seen on film at any point this season. What does Mike Bobo have to lose? He knows he’s not getting that job. Might as well throw everything at the wall to see what sticks.

That being said, this isn’t a very good South Carolina team. There’s a reason Muschamp was fired. The Tigers had every opportunity to win this game with Muschamp and before the transfers. That doesn’t change after the moves.

It’s been a few weeks since we were able to see Missouri on the field, and it’s hard to know what to expect. What are you most worried about with the Tigers coming off the three-week layoff?

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Matejka: Y’all ready for some ugly football? I’m ready for some ugly football.

I can’t imagine how this is going to manifest on the field. Lots of blown coverages in the secondary? I could see it. Blown reads from linebackers and the defensive line? I could see it. A lack of chemistry between Bazelak and his receivers? I could see it. Turnovers galore? I could deeeeeeeefinitely see it.

More than anything, I just want the Tigers to play a solid game. There’s definitely going to be an adjustment period early on, and I’d love for Missouri to have a bad quarter as opposed to a bad half. But my baseline expectation is that things are going to be sloppy early on, and it could extend well into the game.

Nate Edwards: Execution is going to SUCK. Practices have been on zoom and the depth on both lines is stretched incredibly thin. I think it’s going to take a few quarters for both sides to wake up and remember how actual tackle football looks and feels and that would be a shame since this is the stretch of games where Missouri has legit chances at winning games.

Brandon Kiley: I’m most worried about the depth. There are clear issues along both the offensive and defensive lines. That’s a huge concern. Otherwise, it should basically be the same team we saw the last time they took the field. Granted, that didn’t go particularly well for the Tigers. But South Carolina is certainly not on the same level as Florida. I don’t expect too many issues that we haven’t already seen.

PICK ‘EM! This feels like a major guessing game, but the line has opened with Missouri as a 6-point favorite. It’s the first time all season Missouri has been favored. Can they cover?

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Matejka: Who has 10 typing fingers and no confidence in this pick? That’s right — it’s this guy!

There are a myriad of ways I could see this game developing, and I don’t think any scenario is off the table. Maybe the least likely is a South Carolina blowout, but I still wouldn’t be shocked by anything. It all comes down to how long it takes Missouri to wake up. They’re the better team at this point, but are coming off a longer layoff than the Gamecocks. They’ve likely got more confidence as a group, though, which could help speed the recovery process.

Ultimately, I think Missouri is more likely to win than South Carolina, but I can’t see it being a fun game to watch. I especially don’t see Missouri pulling away at any point. I’d probably be more likely to push a -6 line, but it has since moved to -6.5, so I have to make a choice. I think Mizzou ends up covering... maybe? Idk, y’all, who knows anything anymore?

Nate Edwards: I find it hard to believe that either team wins by more than 3 here. Do you trust a team that hasn’t practiced in at least a week or a team that’s bad enough to kick their coach to the curb? I’ll say it’s the ugliest 28-27 win you can find, with the edge going to Missouri. But wow do I have no confidence in any read on this game at all.

Brandon Kiley: I’ve been absolutely terrible at picking Missouri games this year. I don’t think I’ve picked a single game correctly against the spread, honestly. But I’ll go ahead and take Missouri to win straight up and South Carolina to cover the spread. A 6.5-point spread just seems like a lot for a team like Missouri that still has plenty of weaknesses. I think they take care of business. But 6.5 points on the road is just too much to cover.

Missouri 31, South Carolina 26.