Just in case anyone is still questioning their 7-0 mark, the No. 5 Missouri Tigers are out to prove all doubters wrong once again as they host the No. 20 South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday night at Faurot Field.
Missouri and defensive end Michael Sam’s three sacks rolled past No. 22 Florida 36-17 last week, and they are now in line for the SEC championship game. The Gamecocks represent one of the final two games against ranked opponents for Missouri, the other being Nov. 30’s regular season finale at home against Texas A&M.
Sam earned SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors, as the Tigers only gave up 61 Gator yards in the first half, and running back Henry Josey totaled 136 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Freshman quarterback Maty Mauk filled in nicely for the injured James Franklin, tallying 295 passing yards with one score in the air and another on the ground.
Mauk should be the starter for the remainder of the regular season, with Franklin out at least another five games with a separated shoulder injury.
Once national title hopefuls, the Gamecocks held a six point lead heading into the fourth quarter against Tennessee last week, but the offense was forced to punt on its next three possessions in a 23-21 loss.
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Running back Mike Davis recorded 137 rushing yards and a score, while quarterback Connor Shaw went 7-for-21 for 162 yards with two total touchdowns, but was responsible for both South Carolina turnovers. Receiver Damiere Byrd had four receptions for 121 yards, the bulk of which came on his 76-yard touchdown scamper.
Shaw suffered a sprained knee in the fourth quarter after he was sacked, and reports say redshirt junior Dylan Thompson is expected to start against the Tigers. Thompson has gone 29-for-51 for 421 yards, two touchdowns and two picks in six appearances this season.
Thompson will face a Missouri defense that’s fourth in the SEC in scoring defense, third against the rush, and tops with 23 sacks for a loss of 124 yards. Sam leads the way with 9.0 sacks, followed by 3.5 from junior defensive lineman Kony Ealy.
But the Tigers are quite aware of the Gamecocks top pass rusher, Jadeveon Clowney. The 6-foot-6 defensive end has been slowed to 2.0 sacks and 19 total tackles due to minor injuries, but his size and speed is always a factor. Junior defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles has picked up for Clowney’s lack of production with 5.0 sacks.
Point Spread: Missouri favored by 3 points.
Kickoff Time: 7 PM Eastern Time
Where To Watch Online: ESPN3
TV Channel: ESPN2
Prediction: Missouri 30, South Carolina 20