South Carolina Football: How to watch, storylines, injuries, expert picks, predictions vs. Missouri

The surprise SEC football team in 2023 is the Missouri Tigers, led by quarterback Brady Cook. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports
The surprise SEC football team in 2023 is the Missouri Tigers, led by quarterback Brady Cook. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports /

Coming off of an embarrassing defensive effort against Florida, the South Carolina football team is surviving on its last bit of hope as it trudges through the nation’s most difficult schedule in search of a bowl invitation.

Awaiting them the next two weeks are the season’s longest road trips to Columbia, Missouri and College Station, Texas. This Saturday, the battle for the Mayor’s Cup with Missouri will be a stiff test and Mizzou is a good football team that is still in contention for the SEC East title.

Faurot Field will be a madhouse Saturday night as fans from the “other Columbia” welcome the Gamecocks to town.

South Carolina Football vs. Missouri:
How to watch

A sold-out homecoming Saturday for Missouri is sure to create a major home-field advantage for the black and gold as Eli Drinkwitz’s team goes for its fifth-straight victory over the South Carolina football program.

The SEC East showdown will be broadcast on the SECNetwork and ESPN app at 3:30.

South Carolina Football vs. Missouri:
Storylines to watch

There will be tons of talk on Saturday about a few things that don’t matter. Shane Beamer broke his foot after the loss to Florida last Saturday, and he also (rightly) criticized his team’s defensive effort. Both of those “storylines” will get far too much airtime and are not factors in this game.

A storyline that will matter is that Saturday’s matchup features one of this season’s best showdowns between quarterback-receiver combinations. Spencer Rattler to Xavier Legette and Brady Cook to Luther Burden have been two of the country’s top pitch-and-catch duos all year. Fans can expect some fireworks through the air in this game.

One of the Gamecocks’ biggest weaknesses this year has been defending receivers in the slot with man coverage from the nickel position. For most of the year, safeties like Nick Emmanwori, DQ Smith, and Davis Spaulding have manned the spot, but the results have been poor in the passing game.

Opponents have sought out the mismatch and moved their top targets inside to take advantage of defensive coordinator Clayton White’s commitment to leaving his nickel on a man coverage island. Luther Burden will play a lot of snaps in the slot on Saturday, and without any changes to the plan, that could mean trouble for the Carolina defense.

In an extreme rarity, both South Carolina football and Missouri will be starting running backs who were formerly D-II players. Mario Anderson (Newberry College) and Cody Schrader (Truman State University) were dominant backs at that level and have transitioned very nicely to the SEC. Schrader is listed as questionable for this game with a quad issue.

Speaking of hurt players, injuries will be a storyline on Saturday. South Carolina football will continue to be without Juice Wells, Jaylen Nichols, and Cason Henry who were all starters before getting hurt. Also, center-turned-right tackle Vershon Lee will not play after getting banged up against Florida last Saturday.

For Missouri, starting linebacker Chad Bailey will not play. Schrader, defensive lineman Darius Robinson, and cornerback Ennis Rakesraw are all banged up but expected to give it a go.

Another talking point for this Saturday’s contest will be how much Eli Drinkwitz has owned South Carolina football over the years. As the offensive coordinator at NC State in 2017, his unit racked up over 500 yards of offensive in a Gamecock win. Then, in 2019 as the head coach at Appalachian State, Drink led the Mountaineers to an upset win in Williams-Brice Stadium. And since taking the Mizzou job, the Tigers are 3-0 over USC.

Missouri is heading into their Bye Week after facing the Gamecocks, and the Georgia Bulldogs up next on the Tigers’ schedule. Could Mizzou get caught looking ahead? A win over Georgia would set up Missouri for the SEC East championship if they also can win three of their other four games against South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, and Arkansas.

South Carolina Football vs. Missouri:
What experts are saying

The spread for South Carolina-Missouri is tighter than many expected. The 6-1 Tigers are hovering around a touchdown favorite over the 2-4 Gamecocks. South Carolina football is better than their record would indicate, and the Spencer Rattler-led offense has the ability to keep USC in just about any game.

However, with how well Missouri is playing, the relatively close spread is still somewhat surprising given the porousness of the South Carolina defense.

ESPN’s Football Power Index gives Mizzou a 64.6% chance to win the game on Saturday.

The college football team at FoxSports picked Missouri to win and cover 37-22.

The Greenville News’ Emily Adams picked South Carolina football to fall to the Missouri Tigers by a score of 34-24. That score would also mean a Missouri cover of the betting line.

This week, Kevin Miller of Garnet and Cocky had the opportunity to speak to Sammy Stava of Rock M Nation to discuss the game. To see that conversation, click here.

South Carolina Football vs. Missouri:
Official Garnet and Cocky prediction

This Saturday’s game has a lot of potential variance.

South Carolina has an offense that can keep them in this game. Unfortunately, they also have one of the country’s worst statistical defenses, so there is the chance that Mizzou just picks apart Clayton White’s unit so badly that the Gamecocks can’t keep up on the scoreboard.

What seems most likely for this Saturday’s contest, however, is that both teams have offensive success. Missouri, seeking to prove that they are “for real” and not just a flash in the pan at 6-1, will come out aggressively. However, South Carolina football has been one of the country’s best first-half offenses this season.

A close and fireworks-filled first half could set the tone for an exciting finish in CoMo.

Although it has been happening for weeks, most of Gamecock Nation has finally started to recognize the problem with the current state of the plan at nickel. The public outcry and continued lack of success should cause defensive coordinator Clayton White to make an adjustment before facing Luther Burden this weekend. Fans should expect to see something different in the slot.

Missouri quarterback Brady Cook has been excellent this season, but the Tigers have been at their best on offense when the running game has been successful. The only games this season in which they have scored 30 points or fewer have been the two lowest-scoring outputs of the year. If the Gamecocks can limit the ground game, that will mean good things on Saturday.

The Gamecocks should keep this one close, and both teams should have success moving the football, but unless the Gamecock defense steps up in a big way, fans should expect the Missouri Tigers to score just enough to stay at an arm’s length on the scoreboard until the final whistle sounds, dropping the Gamecocks to an extremely disappointing 2-5 on the season.

822. Prediction. 31. 850. 35

In what has become a one-sided SEC East rivalry, Missouri appears poised to win its fifth-straight over South Carolina. The Gamecocks are certainly capable of pulling off the minor upset, and the USC offense should not allow the recent trend of ugly, sleepy games to continue, but Missouri is playing better right now and should be considered the likely winner.

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