On Saturday night, the South Carolina Gamecocks will be under the lights at Williams-Brice Stadium as they face off against the Missouri Tigers.
Losers of their last three games, the Gamecocks are coming off a loss where they allowed 59 points to Ole Miss. Moving forward, the team will be without head coach Will Muschamp, who was fired on Sunday and replaced by offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.
Four defensive players have decided to opt out for the remainder of the 2020 season, three of whom are starters. At Tuesday’s press conference, Bobo said, in addition to the loss of junior cornerback Jaycee Horn, the team would also be without junior cornerback Israel Mukuamu, junior safety R.J. Roderick and freshman defensive lineman Makius Scott.
“I can’t speak personally for each one of those guys 'cause you don’t know exactly what’s going on with each individual,” Bobo said. “Now, there was communication with all these guys. I mean, it’s been a long year, it’s a different year, and when it’s told to young kids that, 'Hey, you don’t have to play this year, you can opt out and it doesn’t count,' it gives them a way out, in my opinion.”
Fortunately for South Carolina, the team will be charged with overpowering a Missouri defense that ranks last in the SEC in sacks, tackles and interceptions. Sophomore running back Kevin Harris will likely continue to lead the team. He ran for a career-high 243 yards and five touchdowns against Ole Miss and is the leading rusher in the conference with 817 yards.
“The best guy at every position is going to play in a game. Period. That gives us the best chance to win. I’ve been coaching for a long time, and I’ve been coaching quarterbacks for a long time. I’m not an expert or a guru, but I know what it takes to win at that position and get things done,” Bobo said when asked about the quarterback situation.
Missouri is coming off a 41-17 loss to Florida on Oct. 31. The team’s most recent matchup against No. 12 Georgia was postponed due to a rising number of coronavirus cases.
"I think we're 18 weeks into the season and have only played five games, so this is not normal or new, but this is a no-excuse league, and we got to figure it out as coaches and players," Missouri head coach Eliah Drinkwitz told Columbia, Missouri's ABC 17 News. "This week is a trophy week. We got a chance to play for the Mayor's Cup, and so we ought to be real excited and have an opportunity to play. So, we're going to do the very best we can."
"It's very hard to know what to expect," Jack Soble, sports editor of The Maneater, said of the Missouri football team. "I would expect them to come out looking better on offense than they did against Florida, especially given the life of the secondary, but more than that I expect them to execute better."
Soble said he thinks the Tigers have "been using this past two-week break to focus on what they need to do better and who they can use to do better." He said the Missouri offense has started "rotating between seven or eight receivers" to help the "drops problem" the wide receiver core is having.
"Some of the unforced errors that they've made, I expect them to shore those up a little bit," Soble said.
Bobo said the Missouri game is going to be "a big challenge" for Carolina because Missouri has "been off a couple weeks." This time has allowed the Missouri team to get to the point where Bobo said he is sure "they’re rested and healthy."
The Gamecocks will kick off against Missouri at 7:30 p.m. Saturday on SEC Network.