From the outside, it appears that Mizzou’s 2015 campaign is careening toward disaster. Three lackluster wins against lackluster non-conference opponents led to a deflating loss at Kentucky. An utterly deficient offense has flailed in every facet of play, culminating in the surprise suspension of team leader and quarterback, Maty Mauk. On top of all of this, injuries, specifically ankle injuries have already ravaged the team, taking out star linebacker Kentrell Brothers, center Evan Boehm, tailback Russell Hansbrough and tight end Sean Culkin.
Five Reasons Mizzou will Beat South Carolina
Given this cavalcade of woes, Mizzou fans should have little reason to hope for a win against Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina squard, right? Well, maybe not. There are still signs of life in Columbia, Missouri and for those who know where to look, there may even be signs of optimism. Here are five reasons Mizzou will beat South Carolina. Fans can breathe easy and expect a win against the Gamecocks.
1. The world premier of Drew Lock. Fans have been murmuring and calling for more Drew Lock with each passing week that brings more weak passing from Maty Mauk. The question on everyone’s mind was “Would Gary Pinkel ever pull his starting junior quarterback in favor of the golden boy?” Well, Mauk took that tough decision away from his coach with some mysterious no-no that landed him on the bench. Drew Lock will start his first collegiate game on Saturday and the shuffle on offense can only take one direction…up. Look for more downfield passing, look for quicker decisions, and yes look for freshman mistakes. The difference is that freshman mistakes go down much smoother than junior ones you’ve been swallowing for three years.
2. Hansbrough back for real this time. Russell Hansbrough who has been plagued with an ankle injury from his first snap in Week One was announced at the number one spot on the depth chart last week. This proved to be all smoke and mirrors though as the deeply inferior backup Ish Witter took the majority of the snaps and Hansbrough appeared still hobbled. All indications are that the 2014 thousand-yard rusher has turned a corner and could bring to life a running game that has been atrocious.
3. Expect the young receivers to find separation. Kentucky kept Mizzou’s inexperienced receivers fairly quiet last week. Kentucky smothered their routes, Mauk threw wobbly duck throws, and gift drops killed drives. But South Carolina brings a much different defense to Faurot Field. The Gamecocks should provide a break for this young crew and with smooth, well-thrown balls coming their direction, look for a breakout game from the likes of Nate Brown and J’Mon Moore.
4. More Tyler Hunt. The one tiny bright spot that Mizzou fans have seen from the offense has been the gutsy performance from former walk-on running back Tyler Hunt. The scrappy senior has made the most of his limited snaps, and fans have been screaming to see more of him. It seems like the coaching staff has finally gotten the message and the big kid might become the regular short yardage back. Maybe his weaknesses will be more exposed with more regular play, but maybe he’ll keep it up and show his fellow running-backs how to stretch for yards.
5. Improved play at offensive line. One of the most disappointing aspects of the 2015 Tiger offense has been its line play. One of the most experienced groups, the offensive line has failed to create space for the tailbacks and just seems short on personnel. Things might be about to turn a corner, however. This group needed about a month to figure things out last year; and then they made all kinds of space for Marcus Murphy and Russell Hansbrough. There’s reason to believe they can do it again. One reason is that Evan Boehm has been hampered by an ankle sprain and now appears back in top form. Connor McGovern has been a weak spot at left tackle but he’s slowly learning the position. Due to another injury to Nate Crawford, former starter Taylor Chappell has returned to the right tackle position and the line improved with the change. Should this trend continue, we could see signs of life from an otherwise anemic running game.
It’s up to the Tigers to determine whether this is all pie-in-the-sky optimism or cunning foresight; but there are definitely things to look forward to when the ball kicks off Saturday morning in CoMo.