Josh Kendall's take
Dylan Thompson has been here before. Thrust into the starter’s role by an injury to Connor Shaw, playing one of the most important games of the season in front of a very hostile and motivated in a night game.
Even the kickoff temperature – 48 degrees that night – probably will be the same.
The last time it was the Clemson game. This time, Thompson and South Carolina will take on Missouri in Columbia, Mo. The last time, it worked out well for the Gamecocks, so let’s look at the blueprint for that 27-17 win.
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South Carolina ran the ball 45 times and threw it 41 times, controlling the ball for 39 minutes, 58 seconds and thus keeping the ball away from an potent offense much like the one Missouri has this season. It will probably take a similar effort to beat these Tigers.
Here are the three main problems for South Carolina – Missouri has the SEC’s most productive pass rush (something that Clemson team could not come close to boasting), a trio of tall wide receivers going against a secondary that has been a liability (something South Carolina did not have last year) and a running game that relies on three talented runners who love to find cutback lanes, thus increasing the need for discipline among an opponent's linebackers (you know how that has gone this season).
The Gamecocks will thrust themselves back into the SEC East race with a win Saturday and will be virtually eliminated with a loss. In the end, too many things are stacked against South Carolina.
Prediction: Tigers 28, Gamecocks 21
David Cloninger's take
Many national media types are picking USC to pull an upset at Missouri. The reasons vary – Missouri’s not the surprise team anymore, so it seems natural for it to lose a game; USC’s defense played well last week despite the one huge play at the end of the game, and can do so again; Steve Spurrier becomes double the mastermind after a loss. Normally, I would agree with some of those points and think that the Gamecocks had a pretty good shot at winning the game.
But I look at so many other factors. Missouri’s at home, riding the wave of a stellar season. Their backup quarterback played like a fifth-year senior in his first career start, against one of the best defenses in the country. USC’s defensive back seven has struggled to cover the middle of the field all season, and is sending small defensive backs against receivers that are 6-foot-6, 6-5, 6-4, 6-2 and can jump to the moon. The Tigers’ prolific passing is the reason that they should be, and are, favored.
There is the X-factor to consider – Dylan Thompson. He’s proven he can win big games on the road, and proven that he can get the job done when he’s told with plenty of notice that he’s going to start. While USC has hinted that Connor Shaw could be available as a backup, if Thompson is playing well, there might not be a need to use Shaw. Thompson can hit the long throws, which have been a wonderful addition to USC’s offense this season, and if he’s in trouble, the Gamecocks can always turn to Mike Davis.
I think Thompson will play well. I think Davis will have another Herculean game. I think USC’s defense will come up with some stops, but not enough to keep pace with the Tigers. Missouri is flying high right now, deservedly, and the Gamecocks won’t be the ones to trigger the wipeout.
Prediction: Missouri 35, USC 25
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