With three games left in the regular season, the Missouri Tigers (4-5, 1-4 SEC) have something to play for — and that is trying to become bowl eligible. For that to happen, Saturday is essentially a must-win game against the South Carolina Gamecocks (5-4, 2-4 SEC) in COMO (aka the better Columbia).
Since Mizzou joined the SEC, South Carolina leads the “Mayor’s Cup” series 5-4, but the Tigers are looking for their third win in a row over the Gamecocks. Kick-off on Saturday is set for 3:00 p.m. CST on the SEC Network.
To get the perspective on South Carolina, I talked it over with Kody Timmers over at Garnet and Black Attack.
Here’s the Q and A to get you ready for the game:
Sammy Stava: What were your first thoughts when South Carolina hired Shane Beamer as their head coach? Sitting at 5-4, how has this first year gone for him, and what are the main, realistic expectations for him at SC?
Kody Timmers: Well, I wasn’t exactly thrilled, I’ll tell you that. South Carolina had also interviewed and was considering the likes of Billy Napier and Jamey Chadwell, so the sudden pivot to Beamer — after allegedly some former players and boosters had gotten involved in the process — came as a shock for a lot of fans. The SEC is not exactly a league for learning on the job, so while Beamer has shown some encouraging signs to this point, I remain skeptical. Given his background and the fact this is kind of a unique situation, I’m not sure what I’d consider to be realistic expectations for him; like most coaches (although perhaps even more so than most), he will really have to nail his coordinator hires, and not be afraid to pull the plug if one isn’t working. If he can get us to bowl eligibility more years than not, I’ll consider that a success, although of course I’d like to see South Carolina properly in the mix for the East again. Baby steps, you know.
SS: South Carolina has seen plenty of quarterbacks this season, with Zeb Noland, Luke Doty, and Jason Brown all seeing a lot of action. Who do you think gets the start on Saturday, and which QB gives the Gamecocks the best chance to win?
KT: Jason Brown will be starting again on Saturday, and absolutely looks like the best quarterback on the roster right now. Luke Doty is talented, but a foot fracture was really hampering his mobility (the best part of his game, by far) and affecting his passing, too, so he’s now officially out for the season to get that repaired. Zeb Noland is, at best, a game manager, and I don’t mean that as an insult — game managers can be very effective in their own right. But with South Carolina’s porous offensive line play and inconsistent showings from the skill talent, the Gamecocks need a quarterback who can create, improvise, and generally just make things happen on his own. It was only one game, but Brown showed more of that against Florida than we’ve seen in at least two seasons.
SS: South Carolina picked up a huge 40-17 win over Florida last week to improve to 5-4 on the season. What were your main takeaways from that game? Did South Carolina look overly impressive or was it more about the Gators, who looked like they’ve quit or Mullen?
KT: Realistically speaking, I’m sure it was a little of both. Florida is clearly in more disarray than anyone realized (including possibly themselves), but South Carolina still deserves a lot of credit for that win. The Gamecock offense has been pretty much DOA this season, and our staff appeared to actually use the bye week to dig into the film and find ways this unit could be successful. Jason Brown finally getting a chance to show what he could do was part of that as well, but there’s no question the offensive line played its best game of the season, and running backs Kevin Harris and MarShawn Lloyd are finally starting to look healthy too. All in all, still a huge W, especially with the considerable talent edge Florida brings against most opponents. The trick now, of course, is to sustain that momentum, which South Carolina has struggled to do in the past.
SS: After a stellar sophomore campaign, junior RB Kevin Harris hasn’t been quite the same, but had a big night for the Gators — 16 carries for 128 yards. Do you think he looks 100 percent healthy now?
KT: He certainly looks the best that he has all season, and that was a vintage showing from him against the Gators. He’d been building up some steam over the last few games, so it was great to see him finally break out. The previously mentioned Lloyd, who’s also coming off an offseason surgery, looks better than he has all year, too. Hopefully they can keep it going through the stretch run; the results are encouraging for sure.
SS: Mizzou came in as a 1-2 point favorite in this one, so essentially a toss up. How do you see this game playing out on Saturday? Have a final score prediction?
KT: This is definitely toss-up territory. Frankly, I’m nervous as hell, because South Carolina has traditionally followed up statement wins with total faceplants, even against beatable competition. If Beamer is truly the guy for South Carolina, he’ll find a way to start flipping that script. If not, well — that doesn’t mean he’s destined for failure, but it would certainly be a discouraging setback and more of the same for a very tired fanbase. It’s unreal to me that this team is staring at the possibility of a bowl after how horrendously the season started, but it’s in play, and Mizzou is definitely their best chance to reach it. The optimistic part of me thinks South Carolina can keep it going and pull it off, but the traumatized part of me fears the worst. I’m gonna stop short of making a prediction, but I see this being a one-possession, 31-28 type of battle in the end.
This was a good discussion, and a big thanks to Kody for his time on these. While he’s not on Twitter, you can follow Garnet and Black Attack for South Carolina coverage this week.
Should be a fun one on Saturday. M-I-Z!