Josh Kendall

On brink of three-game win streak, USC must slow Tigers offense

South Carolina’s defense has proven it can play well this season. Saturday, the Gamecocks will have to prove they can play fast. Missouri, which comes to Williams-Brice Stadium for a 4 p.m. game on Saturday, leads the SEC and is 15th in the nation in plays per game at 79.

“The tempo is the fastest we have seen this year,” Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp said. “We haven’t been exactly the most mentally focused defense at times, so we’ve really got to be dialed in to what we need to do to be successful on game day against this bunch.”

Missouri is fourth in the SEC in total yards (490.1 per game) and fifth in the SEC in points (33.1 per game), and the Tigers are fifth in the SEC in plays of more than 20 yards, which could be a big factor in the first half with starting safety D.J. Smith sitting out due to last week’s targeting ejection. Muschamp expects Missouri to take “10 to 12 shots” at big plays against his team.

Those are the worrisome statistics for South Carolina. Now for the good news: Missouri’s defense is terrible. The Tigers are last in the SEC in total defense (allowing 475.6 yards per game) and 11th in scoring defense (allowing 30.4 points per game). Missouri’s defense has been so bad that head coach Barry Odom, the team’s former defensive coordinator, is taking over the play calls this week.

That has thrown the Gamecocks a preparation curveball as they try to anticipate how Odom might do things differently.

“You can’t wholesale change things in the middle of the season. That’s very hard to do. So within the concepts they already have within their defense, there are some things that he likes to see and call and how they may attack us by looking at some like opponents from previous years,” Muschamp said. “It creates a little angst for us from the standpoint of, ‘Are they continuing to stay with what they're doing, or are they changing what they’re doing?’ Those are things you’ve kind of got to go through as a coach and vet out as far as the films when he called the games.”

Muschamp expects his offensive staff to have to adjust during the game as they get a handle on Odom’s plan. The Gamecocks proved they could do that well despite their offensive youth last week against Tennessee, and the Volunteers defense was better than the Tigers.

South Carolina 34, Missouri 15