COLUMBIA, Mo. (CBSMiami) – With Florida effectively eliminated from contention in the SEC Eastern Division race, the focus of the Southeastern Conference will be on Columbia, Missouri and a former head coach at UF, Steve Spurrier.
Spurrier will lead his number 20 South Carolina Gamecocks into the ‘Zou to play fifth-ranked Missouri in a game that could decide the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division champion.
A Missouri victory will effectively wrap up a phenomenal turnaround from 5-7 and just one SEC victory in 2012 to East Division champs in 2013. Missouri would have games left against Tennessee and Kentucky from the East Division after the Gamecocks.
South Carolina could jump right back into the race for the East Division crown and if Missouri slipped up again in their conference schedule; the Gamecocks could be primed to jump into the SEC Championship game.
“Our players are aware of one thing, and that is keep playing and good things are going to happen. That is where our focus is at,” Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said.
Missouri is seeking its first 8-0 start since 1960. The Tigers have vaulted 20 places in the poll the last two weeks with consecutive wins over Top 25 teams for the first time since 1976.
Missouri became the first SEC team since 1992 to beat Georgia and Florida in back-to-back games in the last two weeks as well.
Spurrier, an offensive guru, said that Missouri’s defense is one of the best in the SEC this year and poses a big challenge to the Gamecocks.
“They are a quick defense. Very seldom do you ever see a guy out of position. They’re a well-coached team,” Spurrier said of Mizzou. “They really react to the ball. They play a little bit of man-to-man, of course. They mix it up. It’s hard to tell exactly what coverage they’re in. They disguise well. They do what good defenses do.”
While Missouri brings with it a very potent offense, South Carolina is ready to unleash future NFL star Jadeveon Clowney on the Tigers offensive line.
Clowney has the ability to compress the pocket and collapse running lanes by himself. He had his best game in nearly a month last week at Tennessee in the Gamecocks’ loss.
But the Tigers are going to respond by turning loose arguably the best defensive line in the SEC this season. Led by sack specialist Michael Sam, the Tigers lead the country in sacks and have had two defensive ends return interceptions for touchdowns this season.
Missouri will have to be able to stop the running game of the Gamecocks if they want to move to 8-0. Running back Mike Davis has spearheaded a potent running game for the Cocks and with starting quarterback Connor Shaw out against the Tigers; Davis may have to carry a bigger load against Missouri.
Still, Missouri may be without its best cover cornerback for a second straight week and if E.J. Gaines can’t play; Spurrier may have his quarterback test out the youngsters filling in for Gaines early and often.
But, South Carolina will be starting a backup quarterback, much like Mizzou did last week. However, Dylan Thompson has played in multiple games the past few seasons and led the team to a 33-28 victory in the Outback Bowl win over Michigan in January.