David Cloninger

Cloninger’s pick: No Wilds a big blow to Gamecocks

South Carolina running back Brandon Wilds is out again with a rib injury.
South Carolina running back Brandon Wilds is out again with a rib injury. gmelendez@thestate.com

I can see this game going either way.

South Carolina is not a good football team. The lack of playmakers and key injuries have sent this season down a dark path, and while it can still be brightened, a whole lot has to go right for this team to win ballgames.

Why this one can still be won is because of the opponent. One never knows, just as in the last three years, which Missouri team is going to show up. Will it be the back-to-back SEC East champs, or the team that plodded through a 9-6 home win over UConn and fizzled in a loss at Kentucky last week, now playing with a freshman quarterback?

If Brandon Wilds was healthy, I’d probably call the Gamecocks. He would be able to give this offense a different look and stop it from being so dependent on Lorenzo Nunez and Pharoh Cooper. Without Wilds, Missouri will do what UCF did – stack the box and dare Shon Carson and David Williams to run, and neither has proven capable of delivering consistent positive results.

Nunez is going to be pressured by an elite defensive unit (it seems as if LB Kentrell Brothers will play) and QB Drew Lock will be making his first start. Lock can most likely depend on open slant routes against USC’s defense, but perhaps he’ll make a few mistakes the Gamecocks can pick up on.

If the Gamecocks are down a score and driving late, especially toward the “Rock M” end zone, buckle up. But I’m thinking this game will be at least a 10-point affair in the fourth and Missouri’s defense won’t give up two scores.

I believe USC fans will get more delight out of Notre Dame this week than their true beloved.

PREDICTION: MISSOURI 21, SOUTH CAROLINA 17

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