South Carolina football: Missouri game preview

South Carolina football takes on Missouri in SEC East showdown.

The South Carolina football team will play its first game without Will Muschamp on the sidelines, after the former head coach was relieved of his duties amid a three-game losing streak. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo will take over in his absence as the Gamecocks finish out the last three games of the 2020 schedule.

Missouri comes into the game having not played since Halloween, when they were taken down by SEC East leader Florida. Last week’s scheduled game versus Georgia was cancelled due to COVID concerns.

 

STORYLINES

The Gamecocks have been reeling of late, having lost three straight games. The defense has played particularly poorly, allowing a total of 159 points to opponents in those three contests. The uninspiring performances led to the canning of fifth year head coach Will Muschamp, with a 59-42 loss to Ole Miss being the final nail in the coffin.

The defense was already going to have its hands full with a Missouri passing attack that ranks sixth in the conference, but now the Gamecocks have learned they’ll be without three starters in the secondary. Jaycee Horn, Israel Mukuamu, and RJ Roderick have all opted out of the remainder of the season.

The Gamecocks may be shorthanded on defense, but they’ll look to keep pace on offense with a strong rushing attack. Running back Kevin Harris is the SEC’s leading rusher, having run for 817 yards and 13 touchdowns. He’ll carry the load once again, after a 243 yard performance last week versus the Rebels.

Missouri will hope to slow the Gamecocks’ ground game, as they rank fifth the SEC in run defense. If South Carolina can’t get the run game going, they’ll have to rely on Collin Hill and a group of pass catchers that have been less than impressive in 2020.

 

KEY MATCHUPS

SC secondary vs. UM passing attack

The Gamecocks will be without three members of its starting secondary, which doesn’t bode well when facing Connor Bazelak, a freshman who’s thrown for more than 200 yards in each of his first four starts. That includes a 406-yard performance against defending champion LSU.

John Dixon, Cam Smith, and Shilo Sanders will be asked to fill in. Even running back ZaQuandre White will move over to defense to help with depth at safety. Things could get ugly if South Carolina’s young corners are taken advantage of.

Kevin Harris vs. UM front seven

Harris is the league’s leading rusher, and is coming off of his best performance of the year. The sophomore star is averaging 6.2 yards a carry and ranks second in the SEC in touchdowns.

MIssouri will attempt to slow Harris down with a front seven that allows just 131 yards a game to opponents. This matchup will likely determine the Gamecocks’ success on offense.

 

PREDICTION

The Gamecocks have not looked good these last three weeks, and with the dismissal of Will Muschamp, it’s hard to tell where the team’s head is at. The departures on defense hurt an already weak unit that’s allowing nearly 37 points a game. Quarterback play on offense has been suspect, and the receiving corps has struggled with drops.

Missouri hasn’t played great this year, but they’re in a better place than the Gamecocks. It’s shaping up to be a fourth straight loss for South Carolina.

Missouri – 34

South Carolina – 27