Missouri hits the road for the first time this season and for SEC play traveling to face the seventh-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks 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, three sacks).
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.