X-factors leading up to Battle of Columbia

With one game as a starter under his belt, Lorenzo Nunez is going to try to lead the Gamecocks to a victory in his first road and SEC start.

The defense is a little bit better than that of the 0-4 UCF team the true freshman sliced through last week.

It’s a big task for Nunez because while Missouri doesn’t look like the team that won back-to-back SEC East titles, they are still stacked on the defensive front.

Defensively, the Tigers (3-1, 0-1 SEC) are allowing less than 10 points per game and limiting opposing offenses to only 217 yards per game. They rank fifth in the SEC in rush defense and lead the conference in pass defense.

So how will Nunez and company fare against this Missouri defense?  The answer may be in his surrounding weapons.

Aside from the UCF game where Nunez put up 300 of the Gamecocks’ 400 yards of offense, the role players have been a major X-factor this season. Here I’ll go over some of the big role players not named Lorenzo Nunez that could help secure a win in the “other Columbia.”

Brandon Wilds

First and foremost, Wilds is a tone-setter. He’s a guy that has been a wrecking ball (and a mainstay through three different starting quarterbacks). He proved how important he is to this South Carolina offense last week when he was out with a rib injury and Shon Carson and David Williams struggled to get anything going. Wilds is a competitor and won’t let this nagging rib injury sideline him for too long. Look for him to come back in a big way against Missouri. If he can, it takes some of the pressure off of Nunez throwing the ball.

Any wide receiver not named Pharoh Cooper

I’m sure the coaching staff will take any guy at this point to step up. Pharoh Cooper has been, well, Pharoh Cooper, but the guys around him haven’t put up a complete performance this season. Deebo Samuel, Carlton Heard and D.J. Neal have all shown flashes, but no guy has solidified the No. 2 role. These guys, along with Terry Googer who is listed as the slot receiver, need to step up and help out Cooper. If they can, it forces Missouri’s defense to spread out and cover everyone and not just double-team No. 11.

Zack Bailey

Bailey had a really good start to his college career and at a position he never played before. Starting at center for the injured Alan Knott, Bailey was consistent and did a good job keeping Nunez upright. He’s listed as the starter this week as well and if he plays like he did against UCF, then the Gamecocks should be able to move the ball effectively.

Jerell Adams and Jacob August

The two tight ends have been solid playing together this season, combining for 170 yards receiving and two touchdowns. They have also been helpful to the offensive line, sealing ends and giving the running backs room to move. The all-important “safety valve,” these two tight ends could garner a lot of attention from Nunez if the receivers down field are blanketed.

The entire South Carolina defense

The best offense is a good defense right? Well, in this case it holds true at least. The Gamecocks really need the defense to step up and play well against a Missouri team that ranks near the bottom in almost every offensive category in the SEC. If they can limit the amount of points the Tigers can score, then it takes the pressure off the offense to try and score on every possession.