So here's a little background on our game previews at TSK: the people running this place decide early in the week which of the impending weekend's games are worthy of being previewed, and then open it up for the other writers to call dibs on the match-up they wanna type about. As is usually the case in first-come, first-serve scenarios, the best games are picked first, the worst last.
I was 12 hours late in responding to our thread, and by the time I did so, all but one game had been taken, and I don't have to tell you which one, and I don't have to tell you why. I got the runt of the group. I'm sure everyone involved in this game, from the players to the coaches to the fans to the refs, hope this tussle is over with quickly; and I'd imagine for the two of you actually reading this, you're hoping the same for this writing, so let's skip the foreplay and get down to business.
1No Maty Mauk. One would assume that Mizzou backup Drew Lock is not as good as Maty Mauk, because as bad as he's been, Mauk has remained the Mizzou quarterback this season. However, it would be really hard for Lock to perform much worse than Mauk has thus far, leaving one to wonder what, if any, drop off the offense would experience without Mauk. (My guess? None.) Mauk's completed just 54 passes through four games (51 percent) throwing for 654 yards and just six touchdowns in the process; compare those stats with those of TCU's Trevone Boykin, who last week alone completed 34 passes for 485 yards and four touchdowns (yes, the defense Boykin faced was just a step above air, but Mizzou is also yet to face any world-beaters defensively). Oh yeah, meant to say, Mauk won't play this weekend; he's suspended. He violated team rules, which is a serious no-no.
2Meet Drew Lock. So Drew Lock is going to start this weekend in place of Mauk. (Ha ha, Lock and Mauk. Cute.) Anyway, Lock is a true freshman, and though he's not like, Josh Rosen or anything, he was pretty well-regarded out of high school, and has played in every game this season. Lock isn't the runner that Mauk is, which has been Mauk's one saving grace this season. However, hey, perhaps the offense could have a new look with a quarterback who can throw it a bit, supposedly! I guess we'll all find out together.
Denny Medley -- USA Today Sports
3Playing for Hope. Yeah, sure, thinking about Sout Carolina's bowl eligibility seems silly now because even if the Gamecocks do win this weekend, do they reeeally have three more wins on that schedule of theirs? No, probably not, but: if Carolina loses this weekend, its hopes go from doubtful to no chance in hell, and once the season is like, officially lost, no one will care anymore. Players won't care to play, coaches won't care to coach, fans won't care to watch. This is how crime rates go up. Life in Columbia would be uncomfortable, and dour, and sad, and that's fun for no one, except for maybe Clemson fans. It would inarguably behoove the Gamecocks to win this game, but at the very least it should be competitive, for their sanity.
4Pharoh, Pharoh. Just throw it to Pharoh Cooper, OK? I mean, this should be Carolina's strategy for every game, really, but should definitely be employed this weekend. Missouri's defense is quite good; it's ranked eighth nationally in total defense. But the Tigers struggled immensely with Kentucky's receivers last weekend; Garrett Johnson had six catches for 119 yards. The Tigers gave up 249 passing yards to the ‘Cats, and the ‘Cats don't have Pharoh Cooper who, is better than any of UK's offensive personnel. Just give him the damn ball.
5If Carolina's defense can't get it done this week, I mean ... South Carolina's defense is a microcosm of its entire team this weekend. We've established above the must-win-iness of this game for both the team and Gamecock Nation's collective spirit. Missouri's offense was struggling before it lost its starting quarterback, and if there was ever a time to establish some confidence and to have a successful outing, this is it, really: for the defense, for the team. And yes, I know I said there may not be much of a drop-off with Lock in for Mauk, and there won't be, I'm almost sure of it, but he's a true freshman dammit; y'all can't rattle a true freshman?! (That's not me talking, it's what Gamecocks fans will be yelling at their TVs should the baby-faced Lock carve up their D.)
THREE TO WATCH
Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina: Cooper has produced more than a third of the Gamecocks' receiving yardage this year, and while that's not anything to write home about this season -- it only requires him having 220 yards through four games -- he's still a dynamic talent. Cooper is averaging 12.9 yards a catch and 6.8 yards per rush.
Drew Lock, QB, Missouri: Lock has played in all of seven series thus far, and here are his numbers: 15-of-25 for 225 yards passing, one touchdown, one pick. I mean, OK for the number of snaps he's gotten, I guess. As for physical numbers, Lock is 6-foot-4, 205 lbs. -- much bigger than Mauk.
Lorenzo Nunez, QB, South Carolina: So Nunez is now Carolina's starting quarterback, at least on a temporary basis, appointed to the position officially last week. He's a dual-threat guy, and showed off that dual-threat ability against hapless UCF last weekend, when he threw for 184 yards and ran for 123. He, too, is young and relatively inexperienced, but he has tools, and he's exhibited them against real, live competition over an entire game. He'll be the guy tasked with getting Cooper the ball, and if he can run it from time to time for positive yardage, Carolina might do okay.
Jim Dedmon -- USA Today Sports
Call me crazy, but I think South Carolina wins the game! Russell Hansbrough laid an egg last week for Mizzou, and if the running back can't rack up some yards and help take the pressure off of Lock, things could get a bit dicey. Honestly, I'm not sure Hansbrough's up the task. Lock will be pretty well protected when he drops back to toss the rock, but Missouri's receiving corps isn't this year what it's been in years past. But Missouri's offense against Carolina's defense won't decide much. It's strength vs. strength on Saturday; and though Mizzou may not have trouble stopping running backs, a running quarterback presents a different challenge. That's not to mention Mizzou's pass defense, which may have been exposed last weekend once finally tested. I think Nunez has a good enough day on the ground and in the air to escape with a much needed win. South Carolina 20, Missouri 17