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PREGAMIN’ SOUTH CAROLINA

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WHO’S UP FOR A BUCKET OF EXTRA CRISPY GAMECOCK?

Drink Up!

Drinkwitz was uncharacteristically quiet this week outside of his regular presser. However, I did want to plug this piece from The Athletic where David Ubben spoke to high school coaches around Missouri about how Drinkwitz is recruiting the state, how he’s different than past coaches and even other programs who do a good job with Missouri players.

As with all Athletic pieces, you’ll need a subscription.

Came Through Drippin’

A very special cameo from Coach Luper this week!

Coach Luper is this week’s uni model, rocking a very clean, very sound thread design. The all-blacks look super sharp this year with the straight horizontal stripe, especially accented by the gold helmet with the Block M. I like that Missouri has simplified its designs over the course of the season, including a newfound commitment to the M. A strong 8/10 from me.

What the “Experts” Are Saying

Mizzou went into Athens and the result was... about what we expected! Even with the blowout that we saw coming, did you find anything positive to take away?

NCAA Football: Missouri at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Nate Edwards, Football Editor: Despite the defense giving up over 500 yards and 43 points, I was impressed with the scheme that Missouri ran. Steve Wilks finally did what BK and I have been asking for all year by stacking nine defenders in the box and daring the quarterback to pass the ball. Obviously Georgia was able to do that successfully but there isn’t a single team left on the schedule with the talent pool that Georgia is able to roll out every Saturday. I’m not saying its a guaranteed fix but I do think it’s going to force offenses to do more than just spam “inside zone” over and over for 50+% success rates and 300+ yards every game. And that, in the 2021 season, is a positive development.

Josh Matejka, Deputy Site Manager: The performance against Georgia’s run game was at least admirable, which is far more than we’ve been able to say to this point. Missouri made Georgia earn every scrap of run yardage, stacking the box and letting Georgia beat them over the top (which they did, of course.) Fortunately, Missouri is playing three teams that don’t have dynamic athletes at every level, so seeing them have some run game success against the Dawgs helped me feel slightly better about their chances against some of their more inconsistent opponents.

Brandon Kiley, Lead Football Writer: Actually... Yes? The defense gave you legitimate reason for hope. It’s a low bar to clear, but they cleared it. The Tigers last week quietly had their best defensive performance against against versus a conference foe. Georgia finished averaging “only” 5.1 yards per carry, and produced “just” 168 yards on the ground. For this team, that’s a marked improvement.

South Carolina is a much better matchup (obviously) than Georgia. The Gamecocks come into this week averaging 3.7 yards per carry against conference opponents, and the Gamecocks’ 128 rushing yards per game against SEC opponents ranks 10th in the conference.

If there’s a reason for optimism, it’s that. The Tigers have been bullied on the ground all season. If they found a way - both schematically and with different personnel - to improve in that regard, it should go a long way not only against South Carolina but also versus Florida and Arkansas.

Ryan Faller, Contributing Writer: This is gonna seem like a cheap jab, but I found it encouraging that Mizzou had the lead over the top team in the nation. The lead evaporated two minutes later, but that’s two minutes more than Mizzou had the lead against Kentucky, Tennessee, and A&M combined. The Tigers were ultimately out-gained on the ground against Georgia, but the run defense made the ‘Dawgs earn it over 33 carries. I don’t even mind that Georgia excelled through the air; I just didn’t want a repeat of the demoralizing death-by-a-million-papercuts performance against Tennessee.

The big debate happening in Mizzou Nation now is Macon vs. Cook... but Connor Bazelak seems like he might be ready to come back at some point. Given what we’ve seen from all three QBs, who do you think is the best option moving forward?

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Nate Edwards: “Moving forward” is a nebulous term but I’m going to interpret it as “the rest of the ‘21 season”. And, in that case, my vote would be Brady Cook. Cook has shown the ability to replicate Bazelak’s passing accuracy with Macon’s willingness to tuck it and run. I think Cook’s ceiling is much lower than Macon’s but we’ve also seen, in real life, that Macon has a much more limited grasp of the playbook than Cook does. While it is effective for an offense to do one thing really well - just ask Mike Leach teams! - you do need at least the threat of being able to run and pass competently and I think Cook is the best option for that.

And, for the record, I think Sam Horn is the “best option moving forward” for 2022 and beyond.

Josh Matejka: It appears I’m acting as the antagonist of the bunch, because I’d much rather see Tyler Macon get more opportunities than Brady Cook (assuming Bazelak is still hurt.) This probably has more to do with my apathy for the rest of the season — I could honestly care less if they win another game this year — which makes me want to see if Macon can get some strong reps in before the inevitable QB battle coming this fall. Sam Horn is probably the betting odds favorite to be Mizzou’s 2022 gunslinger, but I think out of the three remaining options, Macon has the tools and the skill most likely to challenge him. Go with your high ceiling guy and let him get some game seasoning.

Brandon Kiley: Hey! Welcome to the club, Josh. I think we’re on an island this week. I’ve seen the reaction to Tyler Macon’s performance last week and, well, it’s confusing to me. He was facing one of the best defenses in the history of college football and he was... fine? I know he missed some easy throws at the end of the game. He clearly needs more time to learn the offense. But he also adds an element with his legs that the Tigers could desperately use.

I think what intrigues me most about starting Macon is what that could do for Tyler Badie. I think it’s possible Macon’s ability in the running game opens things up even more for Badie, and you could really find an identity offensively with those two in the running game.

That said, I’m prepared to be wrong on this. I think Mizzou will start Cook even if I would go with Macon. He opens up the playbook for Drinkwitz and I do think he’ll be perfectly solid against South Carolina.

Ryan Faller: I agree with Nate. You ride Cook for what he brings to the table with both his arm and ability to run, but you supplement that with specific packages for Macon to give the defense some different looks. It appears Sam Horn will not enroll early at Mizzou, so we’ll have to wait until fall camp for the real fun to begin.

Mizzou opened as a favorite this week (the line has since moved), and this will likely be the last game where Mizzou could reasonably be favored by oddsmakers. Are the Gamecocks really worthy of picking Mizzou, or are you pumping the breaks on Vegas’ initial optimism?

NCAA Football: Florida at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Nate Edwards: After opening as 3-point favorites, then falling to 1-point underdogs, Vegas has seemingly thrown up its hands and said “I DUNNO YOU FIGURE IT OUT” and moved the line to even... essentially letting you win money on just picking the team that you think is going to win. And, yeah, I think that makes sense. These two teams are essentially the same quality - Missouri is 80th in SP+, South Carolina is 75th - and have mustered the same win expectancies against shared opponents this season. The only reason I have any hope of a Mizzou win is because it’s in the good Columbia; on a neutral field, I have no idea which team would win.

Josh Matejka: It feels like Missouri is far worse than what we’ve seen this year, but I think you have to take those feelings with some context. South Carolina, on the other hand, wasn’t expecting much, and yet their fans seem pretty happy with how things have turned out. Funny how those two changes in perception affect the pulse of a fanbase for two teams who are basically the same quality.

Anyway, I’m not really sure what to expect on Saturday, but I can’t imagine it’ll be pretty. Vegas was smart to make this a toss-up, and I wouldn’t bet money on it to save my life. As Nate said, it’s good that we’re in Columbia West for this one as I feel far more positive about the Tigers’ chances at Faurot Field.

Brandon Kiley: This is a legitimate coin flip game. South Carolina have been the same program, more or less, for a decade. This year is no different. The resumes, as Nate pointed out this week, are eerily similar. That said, I do think Missouri is a slightly better team when fully healthy. But the Tigers aren’t fully healthy.

Let’s break down just how similar these teams are, shall we? Here are their respective rankings among SEC teams in conference games.

  • Scoring offense - MU 11th (21.8 points/gm), SC 13th (19.7 points/gm)
  • Passing offense - MU 7th (243 yds/gm), SC 11th (199 yds/gm)
  • Rushing offense - MU 9th (136 yds/gm), SC 10th (128 yds/gm)
  • Scoring defense - MU 13th (40.6 points/gm), SC 8th (30.3 points/gm)
  • Passing defense - MU 3rd (202 yds/gm), SC 5th (214.2 yds/gm)
  • Rushing defense - MU 14th (301 yds/gm), SC 11th (189 yds/gm)

Missouri has a slightly better offense, South Carolina has a slightly better defense. This is a battle of two evenly matched teams. I’ll take the team that’s at home. I would feel better about it if they were healthy.

Ryan Faller: The way this series has played out in the past, Vegas would have been wise to save its time. Throw the odds into the wind and let the chips fall as they may. Outside the two Columbias, this match-up doesn’t move the needle for anyone, but I could care less. This is one of the games on the schedule that I get the most excited for every season, and a big part of that is that I have no idea what the hell to expect.

PICK ‘EM! Mizzou is a one-point dog after opening as a three-point favorite. They’ve now officially covered (lmao) so can they get an ATS streak going? If they do, who will play an instrumental role?

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Nate Edwards: Let’s not dance around it; the engine that makes this offense go is Tyler Badie. If he doesn’t have a good day this offense doesn’t have a good day. If Missouri wins he needs at least 25 combined touches and certainly over 100 yards and few touchdowns to give the defense a chance. Speaking of that defense, the line needs to get good push to throw off the Gamecock ground game and Chad Bailey, specifically, needs to be ready to clean up the messes that disruption creates.

Josh Matejka: No need to overcomplicate this one. If Tyler Badie has another Tyler Badie-esque performance, Missouri has a great shot to take home the Mayor’s Cup. They’ll, of course, need more than just that but getting your star running back going would be an immense help. I have no idea if Mizzou can beat the spread again, but it would be rad for Mizzou’s two wins ATS in 2021 to be a game in which they lost by 37 points and a last-minute winner that put them over by one or two points.

Brandon Kiley: This is pretty simple. Missouri will win the game if the defense has a similar performance against the run as it did last week and if Tyler Badie looks (once again) like the best player on the field. The defense needs another strong performance out of Chad Bailey and Blaze Alldredge, the offense is going to need someone on the outside to come up with an explosive play (can Boo Smith get on the field this week, please?) and it’s time to continue another streak for the Thiccer. If all of that happens, the Tigers have a real chance to win this game.

I’ve got Missouri winning this one 27-26 at home. If this was in the Other Columbia, I would take South Carolina. Home field wins out and the Tigers take another step toward bowl eligibility.

Ryan Faller: I’ll take the committee approach. If the line can perform, I want to see Brady Cook (presumably) take the top off here and there with some deep shots. Why not let it hang out? Badie will get his touches, but show out, Dominic Lovett. Give me some tough third-down catches by Chance Luper and the old man of the group, Barret Banister. On the other side, if that run defense that made the trip to Athens shows up, you’ll get the Gamecocks in a plethora of predictable third-and-longs to flip the field-position game in your favor.