COLUMBIA, Mo. – Homecoming week here in the other Columbia, No. 5 Missouri looking to seize firm control of the SEC East with a victory over No. 20 South Carolina after back-to-back wins over Georgia and Florida.
“They’re all big and they keep getting bigger” Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said, “so that’s all positive.”
What a Columbia-Columbia contrast of opposites.
Veteran South Carolina fans know what it’s like to be the new kid on the SEC block, but the Gamecocks were expected to be in the thick of the SEC East race.
Picked sixth in the seven-team division at SEC Media Days in August (ahead of Kentucky).
Both teams have fierce pass rushers.
You know Jadeveon Clowney.
You might not know the Tigers lead the SEC in sacks (and turnover margin).
In the battle of backup quarterbacks, the Gamecocks’ Dylan Thompson has the experience edge.
But Missouri redshirt freshman Maty Mauk came to school with the better resume. A Parade All-American, he is the younger brother of former Wake Forest and Cincinnati quarterback Ben Mauk. He set national passing records at Ohio’s Kenton High School, and beat Florida last week.
Gamecock Nation thinks South Carolina’s path to victory tonight is via more Mike Davis carries than ever before.
But Missouri coaches are well aware Davis is the SEC’s leading rusher. Expect defensive coordinator Dave Steckel – in his 12th season on the Missouri staff – to cheat up in the box.
So let Thompson fling it to open larger lanes for Davis. He’s done it before, in tight spots (at Clemson), in big gulps (330 yards against East Carolina) and coming from behind (Outback vs. Michigan).
One more thing: South Carolina’s receivers are as healthy and intact as they have been in a while. Watch head coach Steve Spurrier and Dylan Thompson take advantage.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff