Gameday prep: Three storylines

The Gamecocks are traveling to Missouri this week, and fans are hoping their hearts can take a nail-biting game again. Between the Shaw-shank Redemption two years ago to USC’s fourth-quarter debacle last year, this new SEC East showdown has potential to cause cardiac problems every year.

A win could be big for the Gamecocks in their quest for a bowl bid. If they pull out a road win, it gives them three wins with four more winnable games on the schedule against Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Florida and The Citadel. (Not that I’m saying LSU and Texas A&M aren’t winnable, but those are two formidable SEC West opponents.)

So this game is a big one if South Carolina wants to go bowling this December. Here are three storylines to keep in mind when the Gamecocks kickoff at noon on the SEC Network.

1.    Can Lorenzo Nunez keep up his play?

Nunez had a big day in his first start against UCF, contributing over 300 yards of total offense. Now, his first big test comes in his second start against a pretty stout Missouri defense. The Tigers rank in the top half of the SEC in almost every major defensive category, including leading the conference in pass defense. It’ll be interesting to see how Nunez plays against an SEC defense and if he’ll be able to continue his good play from last week. If he can, that could spell success for the Gamecocks on the road.

2.    Will the pass rush get a sack?

The Gamecocks are 2-0 when recording a sack. The two games they didn’t have a sack? Kentucky and Georgia. The rush seemed to come alive against the Knights by way of Boosie Whitlow, who looked like an extremely viable option for a third-down pass rusher. Whitlow, who made the tackle in the end zone for a safety, also pressured UCF quarterback Bo Schneider enough to force T.J. Holloman’s second interception. So it’s important for the front seven to make true freshman QB Drew Lock, who’s making his first college start, feel uncomfortable in the pocket. If they can pressure Lock, they could force some mistakes the secondary could capitalize on.

3.   Will Shon Carson and David Williams rebound?

Brandon Wilds’ availability for Saturday’s game seems to be fading by the hour. He missed the UCF game with a rib injury but was listed as the starter Tuesday on the depth chart. After Wednesday’s practice, it seems he is doubtful for any playing time against the Tigers, meaning it’s another Shon Carson-David Williams show. The two didn’t do so hot against UCF, combining for only 67 yards on 21 carries. They’ll need to be better against a good Missouri defense. If they can get good yards on the ground, it could take some pressure off of Nunez to try and be Mr. Do-It-All. Also, they have to protect Nunez better. The lone time Nunez was sacked against UCF was after Williams whiffed on a blitz pickup. They’ll have to do better against the Missouri blitz if they want to be effective.

Prediction

his game is essentially a toss-up. Two SEC teams that haven’t lived up to either of their potentials this season hurting for a big SEC win. I think if South Carolina can come out early and score, it takes some of the pressure of its defense. But, if the Gamecocks have to come from behind, trying to get past the Missouri defense could be challenging. Lock, who was a highly touted recruit in high school, can sling the ball around. I think it’s going to be a close game (no surprise there) with Missouri making one or two more plays down the stretch. Score: Missouri 24, South Carolina 21