David Cloninger

USC vs. Missouri: 5 gameday storylines, 5 key numbers

Game preview: Missouri a trap game for the Gamecocks?

The State's Josh Kendall and David Cloninger preview and predict the Gamecocks' game against Missouri, set to begin at 4 p.m. Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.
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The State's Josh Kendall and David Cloninger preview and predict the Gamecocks' game against Missouri, set to begin at 4 p.m. Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.

1. MAKE ’EM SAY UNCLE, RICO

Rico Dowdle is the Gamecocks’ best running back and is coming off his first career 100-yard game. With the Tigers’ rushing defense worse than Tennessee’s was, the game plan seems simple – hand the ball to No. 23.

2. GREAT, KID! DON’T GET COCKY

USC pulled off the win it needed to have to save this season last week and winning two more games (with two home games against Missouri and Western Carolina remaining) will send the Gamecocks to a bowl game. But they have to get those two first. Missouri may have lost to Middle Tennessee, but it lost to Indiana last year before it played USC.

3. SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE

USC’s offense is still last in the country in points per game, but has scored 58 points over the last two games. Missouri gives up over 30 points per game. The Gamecocks have scored quickly in each of the past two weeks and if they do it again this week, need to keep the gas pedal floored.

4. LOCK’ED AND LOADED

Mizzou QB Drew Lock had his coming-out party against USC last year and when he gets hot, he’s tough to stop. The Gamecocks will be without safety D.J. Smith for the first half this week, which could be all the time Lock needs to get into rhythm. Smith’s replacements – such as Chris Moody, who’s been picked on by opponents this year – have to be ready.

5. ONLY ONE SHALL SURVIVE

The talk is how USC has the best chance to clinch a bowl game if this is the toughest hurdle it has to clear, but Missouri’s remaining schedule isn’t that difficult. The Tigers (2-6) need four wins and have USC, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Arkansas. It’s harder than USC’s road, surely, but Missouri is playing for its postseason life, too.

FIVE NUMBERS

2: Wins needed for South Carolina to attain bowl eligibility. Two home games – Saturday against Missouri and Nov. 19 against Western Carolina – seem to be the best chance to get those two.

7-13: Missouri’s record since winning 23 games and consecutive SEC East championships from 2013-14.

14: The SEC rank of the Gamecocks’ rushing offense (113.2 yards per game) and Missouri’s rushing defense (240 yards allowed per game).

21-of-28: Completions and attempts by Mizzou quarterback Drew Lock against USC last year in his first career start. It was the worst representation of the Jon Hoke defense.

2: Points needed by USC kicker Elliott Fry to surpass Collin Mackie as the Gamecocks’ top career scorer.

David Cloninger

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