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PREGAMIN’ SOUTH CAROLINA

THE MAYOR’S CUP IS UP FOR GRABS, TIME TO HEAD DOWN SOUTH FOR A LITTLE ROAST CHICKEN

♫ I’m So Sophisticated ♫

Oh lord, we’ve done it.

If Pregamin’ offers the commentariat nothing else, it allows me (Josh) a platform on which to continually stump for the all-white uniforms that no one else seems to care for. But I don’t care for your dissension. All-whites are the way.

This week’s set is a great spin on the traditional, with the script replacing the oval tiger or Block M. While I’m not sure I’m in love with the helmet design, I can’t deny that the script looks extra crispy in black and white, accenting this gorgeous fit well. I can’t confirm, but I’m pretty sure Mizzou has never lost wearing all white uniforms. Something to consider...

What’s On Tap?

There’s nothing that a Carolinian loves more than a glass of sweet tea.

Personally, I’m not a big fan. Do I enjoy a glass of the syrupy concoction now and then? Sure, but I can’t put down pitchers of the stuff like some can. Maybe it’s the fact that I used to mix sweet tea and Fireball for a truly abominable cocktail that I pretended to like in my early drinking years. I should have been arrested.

That being said, I’m still open to the idea of incorporating sweet tea, South Carolina’s state hospitality drink, into a cocktail. And the more I think about it, the more I think a simple bourbon may be the answer. In an effort to keep things simple, we’re going to go with a Bourbon Sweet Tea for this week’s cocktail. Recipe and image courtesy of Liquor.com below.

Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

4 cups boiling water

1 cup sugar

12 black tea bags

6 cups cold water

24 ounces bourbon (approximately one 750 milliliter bottle)

For a true Carolina experience, maybe go with Trey Herring’s bourbon or, if you’re really feeling spicy, swap it for a Drizzly moonshine

3 cups crushed ice, plus more for serving

Garnish: 16 lemon slices

Garnish: 16 mint sprigs

Know Thy Enemy

If you listened to yesterday’s Before the Box Score, you’ll know that neither Nate nor I are big believers in Cocky being back under Shane Beamer. That being said... it’s hard to deny 5-2 even if the competition hasn’t been the stiffest.

So, despite the fact that South Carolina is a pretty good team, they’re not unbeatable, even in Columbia Least. In fact, they remind Nate a whole lot of one of Mizzou’s recent teams...

So, South Carolina is good but they’re not intimidatingly good, especially when you see they only had a 40% win expectancy against A&M. Simply put, they do all the little things right and are rewarded at the end (like Mizzou in 2020).

On offense — man oh man, do I hate typing those words — Missouri is going to have a big opportunity on the ground. Which sort of sucks, considering they’re not very good on the ground. But as bad as they might be at running, South Carolina is worse at stopping it.

The Gamecocks are allowing a 51.2% success rate to opponents when they run the ball and woooooo-weeeee that must be a huge relief to Drinkwitz’s game planning efforts. Despite the fact that Missouri is averaging a 38% success rate on the ground so far this year, I’d expect at least 45% success rate running the ball at the end of this game.

We know Drinkwitz loves to build his offenses around the run game. Maybe South Carolina finally allows him to do that in this game?

On defense, Missouri doesn’t have a ton to worry about in one-time Heisman favorite Spencer Rattler, who hasn’t been all that great for South Carolina. However, they do tend to be pretty good in passing down situations — despite having the 99th passing attack in the country — so Missouri will have to flex the secondary muscles.

...in passing down situations, the Gamecocks come alive with the 44th best success rate thanks to one of the best passing downs explosive plays execution in the country (currently 5th). Missouri is prone to giving up big plays throughout the game so the hope is that they can keep that down and limit South Carolina to a 30% or worse success rate in passing downs.

In summary: Mizzou could certainly win this game! Their defense should keep them close and the Gamecock defense isn’t so strong that they won’t allow the Tigers some opportunities of which to take advantage. We’re all wondering, will Missouri finally get a road pelt?

Here’s my prediction: Missouri plays like dog crap the entire game but somehow finds itself within one score late. Not a stretch, right? We’ll see whether fortune favors Missouri this week or the continuous road woes befell another Eli Drinkwitz close game blunder. Can’t wait!

Missouri didn’t exactly inspire confidence in its return to the field, but they did find a way to “just win, baby.” Did the near-loss against Vanderbilt change your feelings about the second half of the season, or are you still holding out on judgment?

NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Matejka, Deputy Site Manager: In a season in which Missouri played the best team in the country to a fourth quarter nail-biter and then nearly dropped a home game against maybe the worst Power 5 team in the country, anything can happen. Their sterling defense plays a massive role in that, as it will keep them in just about any game. And while the Vanderbilt game was nothing short of an abomination against God and man, I’m reserving judgment until Missouri truly lays another egg. Until then, I’ll have some modicum of hope.

Parker Gillam, Beat Writer: Considering I figured that this team’s season was going to be characterized by close games, this result didn’t surprise me. Let’s face it, this team isn’t capable of blowing anybody out of the water. Therefore, they’re going to have to win ugly.

So, I think this team will continue to play at this level. That means they’ll likely only get blown out by UT and only blow out NMSU, with every other game coming down to a single-digit margin. That’s just the fate of the 2022 Missouri Tigers. In terms of did the win change any of my opinions on the personnel itself, the answer is no. The defense played lights out again, the offense was inconsistent as anything, and the play-calling was similar.

Sammy Stava, Staff Writer: Man, a 3-point win and getting shutout in the 2nd half against Vanderbilt is kind of alarming. Even if the final score ended 17-0, I think everybody feels a little bit better — but it was so dangerously close to a loss that’s it really difficult to generate much hope and optimism for the rest of the season.

Having said that, with the exception of Kansas State, this team is playing (losing) a lot of close games.

They are what they are at this point and whatever happens, happens.

While the defense continues to excel, something has to give with the offense. The line isn’t good, the QB is playing scared, and the injuries are mounting. Is there any hope for this unit beyond a little bit of luck or some guys suddenly figuring it out?

NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Matejka: No. Next question.

Parker Gillam: I mean, hope is an interesting term here. I think we’ve seen the ceiling of Brady Cook, and unfortunately, it’s just fairly low in general. So, you could “hope” that Sam Horn gets a shot, and although the offense probably wouldn’t drastically improve, he’d show some flashes at the QB spot. Now, putting him behind this patchwork O-line at this point in the season is another debate entirely (I don’t think it’s worth it).

As for the rest, I don’t see this O-line getting any better this season, and Drinkwitz better hit the portal hard this offseason to improve the unit. The receivers are still playing to the level we know they’re capable of. The only wild card in my eyes are the running backs. Peat and Schrader have each had some solid games, but I do feel like one of the two is due for a breakout game at some point. That could tip the scales in favor of the Tigers in one of these close contests.

Sammy Stava: If you have a bad offensive line, maybe you can get by with a good quarterback. If you have a bad quarterback, maybe you can get by with a good offensive line. Problem is, obviously Missouri doesn’t have either that are good. It’s literally the two positions that are holing this team back.

Maybe there’s one game for the rest of the season where they just figure it out and everything “clicks”, but there’s definitely not any hope to for them to put it all together consistently week in and week out.

South Carolina made headlines after it “upset” Texas A&M this weekend and moved into the Top 25. Is Shane Beamer figuring things out in Columbia East?

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Matejka: It would appear so, wouldn’t it? Landing Spencer Rattler certainly helped, even if he hasn’t looked like the world beater he once was. And it’s sort of hard to argue with 5-2 and a top 25 record.

That being said, South Carolina only really has one impressive win — on the road against Kentucky which, to be fair, is very impressive — and has padded its record against a lot of mediocrity. It was pasted by Georgia and seemed unconvincing against an Arkansas team that has turned out to be pretty mid. And while the win over Texas A&M feels significant, we’ve long known that this year’s Aggies are simply Missouri with more talent spread across the roster. In no way am I suggesting South Carolina is as bad a team as Missouri, but I’m not sold on their re-emergence as a perennial Top 25 program.

Parker Gillam: Yeah. After they entered the year with some levels of hype, South Carolina took some beatings to start the season and fell out of the spotlight. Credit to Beamer and his staff, because he kept this team together and focused throughout it all, and they are now still on track to improve their win total from last season. The Rattler experiment hasn’t worked out as planned, but this team plays incredibly hard and has a tough defense. They are a tough out for any team in the SEC at this point, and it’s due to the culture change that has occurred.

In terms of competing at a national level, Beamer and co. still have many, many steps to take, but this 2022 squad is one that can serve as the foundation for that.

Sammy Stava: Definitely. Shane Beamer has a bowl win in Year 1 and a Top 25 ranking in Year 2 and riding a lot of momentum. The Gamecocks are ahead of schedule. This is what building a program looks like.

Yes, rebuilds take time — but this is the kind of progress we would all like to see Mizzou make under Drinkwitz. It hasn’t happened yet.

Despite the Gamecocks’ apparent ascendancy, they’re less than a touchdown favorite over the Tigers. Kansas State notwithstanding, Missouri has proven it won’t play scared on the road. Does Missouri have enough juice to pull the upset and keep the Mayor’s Cup for the fourth consecutive year?

NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Matejka: I’m holding my stock answer on this one... I’ll believe it when I see it. By all accounts, Missouri should have come away from Jordan-Hare with a win and their performance in the Swamp, while unconvincing, was close enough to make me think they’ve got a chance in most road contests. But the defense, tremendous as they are, can’t keep holding the line like they did against Vanderbilt. South Carolina’s offense — 45th in SP+ — will be good enough to break through at some point, and it will be on Missouri’s offense to respond. And be honest... do you really expect that to happen? I’m calling another ugly game, 23-13 Gamecocks.

Parker Gillam: Well, it’s Cocktober. (Editor’s note: really, Parker?) So that really isn’t working in Mizzou’s favor. Outside of that, I do believe this is going to be a close game. Neither of these offenses are going to be capable of consistently driving down the field against two stout defenses, so points will come at a premium. I agree with Josh that it will be ugly, with mistakes from Cook and the O-line abound yet again. The defense will keep the Tigers in it, but the momentum surrounding the Gamecock program and the atmosphere at Williams-Brice will be too much to overcome for a struggling offense.

24-13 South Carolina, as the Mayor’s Cup moves to the other Columbia.

Sammy Stava: Despite the Gamecocks’ recent run, South Carolina is still a team that can be beaten. They’re vulnerable.

This is a game Missouri CAN win. Eli Drinkwitz is 3-0 in his career against South Carolina including a win with Appalachian State. That matters.

But if Missouri can’t beat Auburn and Florida on the road — how in the heck are they going to beat a better South Carolina team? This has all the makings of a slow, boring, ugly football game.

21-13 Gamecocks.