Missouri (2-1) at (7) South Carolina (3-0)|
Saturday, September 22, 3:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The seventh-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks will try to continue
their ascent up the national rankings when they entertain SEC newcomer
Missouri on Saturday afternoon.
Missouri bounced back from a conference loss to Georgia (41-20) in its first-
ever game in the SEC two weeks ago with a gutsy win over Arizona State last
weekend, 24-20. It was the Tigers' first win over an active member of the
Pac-12 since 1990.
The Gamecocks opened the season with a tough conference road win against
Vanderbilt, 17-13, then followed that up with two non-league home wins that
came much easier over East Carolina (48-10) and UAB (49-6). South Carolina has
now won seven games in a row dating back to last season, the second-longest
streak in school history.
Although the win over UAB was Steve Spurrier's 200th as a college coach, he
believed the game was not as convincing as the score may have indicated.
"This was one of the closest 49-6 games I've ever been around," Spurrier said.
"They stuffed us pretty good in the first half. We were fortunate to get what
points we could. It was a struggle. The real SEC season is getting ready to
start. Hopefully we can play better (against Missouri)."
Missouri is 2-0 all-time against the Gamecocks. Both of the Tigers' wins in
the series have come in bowl games, the most recent of which being in the 2005
Independence Bowl (38-31).
Transitioning from the Big 12 to the SEC has been a relatively smooth one for
the Tigers offense, as the unit is averaging more than 35 points per game.
James Franklin had been effective in the team's first two games with 400 yards
and three touchdowns, but he missed the Arizona State matchup with a shoulder
injury. His status for Saturday's game remains up in the air.
"That was going to be a game-time decision," head coach Gary Pinkel said of
his star quarterback. "He has an irritation in his shoulder. There are no
structural problems at all. It was just too painful for him. We'll find out
next week on his health."
If Franklin cannot go, Corbin Berkstresser will once again get the nod. He
threw for 198 yards and ran for a touchdown in the win over ASU.
Kendial Lawrence has been one of the conference's best running backs, rushing
for 224 yards and an SEC-high four touchdowns.
In the receiving game, T.J. Moe, Marcus Lucas and L'Damian Washington all have
at least 148 yards and a touchdown.
The Mizzou defense has been a pleasant surprise, holding opponents to fewer
than 300 yards of total offense. It has forced two or more turnovers in all
three games, including four against Arizona State.
The unit makes plenty of plays in the backfield, with 27 tackles for loss and
nine sacks, highlighted by the outstanding play of Brad Madison (four TFL,
With 38 points and more than 433 yards per game, the Gamecocks offense has
looked sharp, but the effectiveness could sway largely depending on the health
of quarterback Connor Shaw (507 passing yards, TD, INT, 86 rushing yards).
Shaw suffered a shoulder injury in the East Carolina game, and although he
started against UAB, he needed to leave the game early. With his status up in
the air, the offense might have to roll with Dylan Thompson under center, and
he has played well in limited action (507 yards, five TDs), but has completed
just 52 percent of his passes (26-of-50).
Regardless of who the quarterback is, the Gamecocks know they can rely on one
of the nation's best running backs in Marcus Lattimore. Fully recovered from a
knee injury suffered last season, Lattimore has 235 yards and four scores to
this point in the campaign.
Bruce Ellington is the team's leading receiver with nine catches for 161
yards. Even though he has just four catches, Damiere Byrd leads the squad with
188 yards, including a 94-yard touchdown catch from Thompson against UAB.
USC is widely regarded as having one of the top defensive units in the nation,
and in allowing fewer than 10 points per game, it has lived up to the hype so
far in 2012.
Jadeveon Clowney has three sacks on the season, two of which came against UAB
in helping him earn SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors. D.J. Swearinger
had a fumble return for a touchdown last week, but will miss this game as he
serves a one-game suspension for a helmet-to-helmet hit.
Missouri's first road game of the season will be in hostile territory,
something it must get used to in playing an unrelenting SEC schedule. The
Tigers have some playmakers that can cause the Gamecocks trouble, especially
with Swearinger out of the lineup, but even if Franklin is able to suit up,
South Carolina's defense is too good to lose this game at home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Carolina 24, Missouri 17
09/19 10:41:15 ET