College Sports

South Carolina-Missouri prediction: This one carries some weight

After the North Carolina loss, the South Carolina football team faced two weeks without context. Barring a miracle or disaster, the Gamecocks were headed toward 1-1, maybe with good signs or bad, but without a ton that could be truly proven.

That changes this week. USC hurt its bowl chances with the loss to the Tar Heels, and this game against Missouri will be as much a measuring stick as it is must-win.

The Gamecocks did the thing they were supposed to do against Charleston Southern. They showed fight against Alabama, which in that case meant offensive promise and somewhat stout run defense, thought the pass defense was riddled to pieces.

Missouri is a toss-up game of sorts. Las Vegas opened the line at double digits. But to a degree, it doesn’t yet feel that way.

The Tigers are a hard team to have a read on as well. They lost to Wyoming on some hard-to-replicate fumble returns. They trounced West Virginia, which appeared to be a wreck until beating N.C. State a week later.

There’s a familiar face in quarterback Kelly Bryant, the former Clemson starter whose time against USC was mop-up duty early on, and then one solid start in a somewhat bland 2017 win.

Bryant has put up good passing numbers in his new system, but hasn’t been used as quite the run threat he once was.

The whole division behind Georgia is chalked full of ciphers. USC’s fate in its recent history has been tied to how it can climb atop the likes of Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Tennessee, maybe a weakened Florida and, yes, Missouri.

A defeat here, and the Gamecocks are almost assuredly home in December. That’s in part because the path is difficult, and in part because a bowl version of South Carolina needs every win possible against similar or worse teams.

UNC was a missed opportunity, the next opportunity comes Saturday. And the weight sits heavier than it has the past few weeks.

The pick: South Carolina 31, Missouri 28