Cloninger's five gameday storylines: USC vs. Missouri

Posted by DAVID CLONINGER on October 25, 2013 

Dylan Thompson

TRACY GLANTZ — tglantz@thestate.com

1. WILL HE SPIT HOT FIRE?

Dylan Thompson has carved a legendary place for himself in Gamecock lore, for beating Clemson on the road and then firing the game-winning touchdown in the Outback Bowl, both times in relief of an injured Connor Shaw. It will be his show again tonight, with a chance to pull off another huge win. Thompson has historically been at his best when told in advance that he’s going to start, and that’s the case here. USC certainly needs him to be at his best.

2. PHENOM MEETS PHENOM

Jadeveon Clowney had the best game of his season last week, and will need to have another one against Missouri. Maty Mauk is taking over many headlines with his play in relief of James Franklin, and after a stunning debut against a very good Florida defense, is hoping to carry the Tigers to a win that could nearly lock up the SEC East. Clowney and his line mates have to get to Mauk, make him feel pressure and let him know that it won’t be as easy as it was against the Gators.

3. RUN MD

Steve Spurrier faced criticism last week for not relying more on tailback Mike Davis, particularly in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. This week, the challenge seems to be keeping Missouri’s high-octane offense off the field. The best way to do that is grind clock, which means that Davis could get around 30 carries. He was held up some against Tennessee, but they couldn’t keep him down for long. If Davis can get some big runs early, Thompson and USC can settle in and the defense won’t be as gassed as it was during the first half last week.

4. WATCH YOUR HEAD

Who knows how much a full game from Kadetrix Marcus would have helped last week? As it was, Chris Moody and T.J. Gurley had to play extended minutes, with each on a roller coaster. The targeting rule isn’t going away this year, so USC, like every other team, just has to deal with it and start hitting players lower. If Chaz Elder can’t play, it makes the concentration on legal tackling that much more important to USC’s secondary.

5. BE SPECIAL

The one consistent thing about USC’s special teams is it hasn’t lost a game by itself. The problem is, it’s not helping win any games, either. There’s just nothing consistently good about the unit, with the last bit of solid play – kicker Elliott Fry – missing his first field goal of the season last week. All of those problems, from last week and really from the last 10 years, aren’t going to go away in a week. What the Gamecocks are hoping for is something, anything, on special teams to help them win.

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