South Carolina (2-2 overall, 1-2 SEC) plays Missouri (3-1, 0-1) on Saturday at noon in Williams-Brice Stadium. The game will be televised by the SEC Network. Here are five burning questions entering the game:
How will Michael Scarnecchia do?
As of Friday, the senior from Florida was set to replace Jake Bentley as South Carolina’s starting quarterback. Bentley has nursed a knee sprain all week after sliding awkwardly against Kentucky last week. The Gamecocks expect to start Scarnecchia this week although they will take a last look at Bentley on Saturday morning. While fans have clamored for a glimpse of true freshman quarterback Dakereon Joyner, South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp has expressed complete confidence in Scarnecchia all season, and Scarnecchia looked sharp in limited action after replacing Bentley against the Wildcats last week. There’s little on-field evidence to go on, but it’s reasonable to think Scarnecchia could play as well as Bentley has thus far this season.
Will Dakereon Joyner play?
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Speaking of the state’s reigning Mr. Football, he’s next in line behind Scarnecchia at quarterback. That means if Bentley is completely unavailable and Scarnecchia were to be injured, it’s Joyner’s show against the Tigers. There’s also a chance the Gamecocks could insert Joyner in spots because his athleticism would bring another dimension to an offense that has struggled to find its stride this season. With a new NCAA rule that allows players to appear in up to four games and still redshirt that season, there’s little reason not to play Joyner at some point this season. If Scarnecchia doesn’t look sharp or the offense just needs a jolt, look for Joyner to make his collegiate debut Saturday.
Can South Carolina stop Drew Lock?
Not many teams have. Missouri’s quarterback is ninth in the nation in passing with more than 320 yards per game. South Carolina safety Steven Montac says Lock is the best or second-best quarterback in the nation, and that could be a problem for the Gamecocks. The South Carolina secondary has struggled with its communication all season, and starting safety J.T. Ibe is not expected to play this week due to a knee injury. Missouri wide receiver Emanuel Hall is one of the most dangerous deep ball targets in the SEC, and Lock has plenty of arm to get it to him.
What’s up with the Gamecocks?
Beyond the specific questions, there is an overarching question after a discouraging loss to Kentucky: Is this team good or not? South Carolina has shown flashes on both sides of the ball but no consistency. On offense, there have been too many dropped passes and turnovers. On defense, there’s been too little discipline and too few turnovers. If the Gamecocks don’t figure out how to smooth out their rough edges, it could be a long season.
What will the crowd look like?
Muschamp expects good things. “We need our crowd to be there and be loud,” he said. “They do a lot at the line of scrimmage. They got a good football team, but we need to be out in full force, and I know our players will appreciate it and I know our fans will be excited at getting us back home.” However, there’s an unease in at least parts of the fan base about this team, and it’s going to be a scorcher of a day for October and it’s a noon game. The Gamecocks have played two straight road games and now have three in a row at home, and the atmosphere at their home field will be interesting to see Saturday.