Calling the shots
Junior Connor Shaw will start at quarterback, coach Steve Spurrier said. What remains to be seen is how effective Shaw can be with a hairline fracture in his right shoulder. Shaw was not as aggressive a runner last week due to the injury and eventually had to leave the game after taking a hard hit. If Shaw cant captain the Gamecocks zone read, he will be much less effective than normal, and may have to be replaced by backup Dylan Thompson, who has been effective in the last two games but hasnt yet proven he can be against an SEC opponent. Thompson was 0-for-3 against Vanderbilt in the season-opener.
Across the way
The Tigers also are worrying about their quarterbacks shoulder. Starter James Franklin, maybe the most athletic signal-caller in the SEC, missed last weeks game and made national headlines because he declined to take a painkilling injection in order to play with a bursa sac injury. Franklin still wont take a shot, but he has said he will play Saturday. The injury occurred when Franklin was hit two weeks ago by Georgias Jarvis Jones, and hes sure to be harried again Saturday, so his shoulder is worth watching.
Growing up fast
The suspension of senior safety D.J. Swearinger (who is being disciplined by the SEC after a flagrant foul last week) may end up being Saturdays biggest storyline. The Tigers run the most complicated and diverse offense South Carolina has faced this year, and the Gamecocks will be starting true freshman T.J. Gurley in place of Swearinger. Its a tall order to ask Gurley to be in the right place at the right time all the time against Missouris spread offense, so his secondary teammates will have to be ready to take up the slack. Plus, losing Swearinger, who has shown a knack for finding the ball or the ball carrier, is never a good thing.
On the road (not again)
Missouri made its SEC debut against Georgia (and got thumped 41-20) two weeks ago, and now marks another new-conference first with its first road game in the league. The Tigers home field holds 71,000, and they will be facing a sellout crowd of more than 80,000 in Williams-Brice Stadium Saturday. This is just the third time the Gamecocks have played Missouri, which joined the conference this summer, and its the first time in the Palmetto State. We dont care whether theyre from Georgia, Missouri, or California Spurrier said. You try to just concern your guys with playing their assignments the very best they can no matter who the opponent is. Weve all known Missouri and Texas A&M have come in the conference. Our guys know this is an Eastern Division game. Its crucial.
The start of something big
Saturdays game is the first of seven straight SEC games. The Gamecocks schedule can basically be divided into two halves, and this is the easier half, which means South Carolina needs to come out unscathed if it wants to contend in the SEC East. Missouri if the fourth of five unranked opponents South Carolina will play to begin the season. After that, four of its next five are expected to be against ranked opponents.
Head to head
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney vs. Missouri offensive tackle Justin Britt
The Tigers lost their best offensive lineman, senior Elvis Fisher, against Georgia, and they could ill afford to lose talent up front. Missouri and Texas A&M knew their biggest issue coming into the SEC was going to be dealing with the conferences defensive fronts, and Britt is going to have his hands full with Clowney, who is coming off perhaps his best game as a collegian. Rotoworld.com NFL draft writer Josh Norris believes the Tigers offensive line might be their undoing Saturday. Missouris offensive line was just dreadful (against Georgia), and I dont think theyll be any better this week because South Carolina has even better rushers than Jarvis Jones and whoever else Georgia puts out there.