It may not seem fair, but the Missouri Tigers are quickly learning what their fellow SEC mates learned long ago – there’s rarely a down week in conference play. And for Missouri, its hopes of contending for the SEC’s Eastern Division title could fade away before the calendar turns to October. That’s because, for the second time in this still new 2012 season, the Tigers will face the nation’s seventh-ranked team. And for the second time, that No. 7 team will be an SEC East opponent.
Despite Missouri’s valiant toe-to-toe fight for three quarters against No. 7 Georgia in the teams’ SEC opener, the Bulldogs upended the Tigers’ upset bid, exploding for 24 unanswered points in cruising to a 41-20 victory. Fast forward two weeks and the Tigers again take on a No. 7-ranked team, this time on the road in hostile territory.
If Missouri is to claim a statement victory at South Carolina, it may have to do so without its starting quarterback. Nursing an injured elbow, James Franklin sat out the Tigers’ 24-20 win over Arizona State last weekend, turning the reigns over to redshirt freshman Corbin Berkstresser. Franklin’s ability to get back on the field will be key, as freshmen QBs don’t have great success on the road in the SEC.
But the Gamecocks won’t feel any empathy for Missouri, as they too face quarterback uncertainties. Starter Connor Shaw has not played since injuring his shoulder in the season opener and is listed as questionable for this week. But it’s not the South Carolina offense that is expected to steal the show in this game or any other. Steve Spurrier’s crew depends on its tenacious defense, led by an NFL-ready defensive front.
South Carolina is seventh in the country in scoring defense and has not allowed touchdown from inside the red zone this season. Such is typical of top SEC defenses, but the Tigers are still getting use to this whole SEC thing. Unfortunately for them, there is no time for on-the-job-training in a year that might see the Tigers’ conference championship dreams burst before the newness of the season even wears off.
MISSOURI vs. #7 SOUTH CAROLINA
SAT. SEPT. 22 – 2:30PM / CBS