The Battle for Columbia: Mizzou vs South Carolina Preview

Peter Alexis, 23 Sports

There is a palpable energy swirling around Columbia, Missouri this week. Tim Tebow and the SEC Nation crew are on hand for a highly anticipated Saturday morning gameday from the Francis Quadrangle. The students will rise early to swarm the columns and support their Tigers, hours before game time. The game between Mizzou and South Carolina is billed as the SEC game of the week, with experts predicting an epic showdown in this year’s battle for Columbia.

The matchup features two teams that have struggled over the past two years following the departure of their legendary coaches, Gary Pinkel and Steve Spurrier. Both teams went through the rebuilding phase, and now feel ready to return to relevancy here in 2017. The long road back features this signature test on Saturday night to see which opponent is truly back. The Gamecocks defeated a tough ACC dark horse in NC State last weekend by a score of 35-28, while the Tigers put up an astounding 72 points in their offensive domination of FCS Missouri State. QB Drew Lock will go head to head with Jake Bentley after two impressive showings to begin the season.

The key to this contest looks to be overwhelmingly in the defensive department. It was evident through both week 1 performances that these foes have little to no trouble moving the ball down the field with ease and racking up points on the scoreboard. But neither team did much stopping in the first week either. Granted, the more scoring a team does on offense, the more possessions their opponent has to add to their own score, but the defense needs to be better for both teams. Head coach Barry Odom commented on that this week regarding the 43 points allowed to Mo State when he said, “As bad as it seemed on the field, it was that bad on video.”

While many in the media and the college football world were shocked to see Mizzou introduced as a three point favorite earlier this week after a poor first week performance on defense, there is reason behind it. The electric atmosphere of college football road games, especially in the SEC, can sway the entire momentum of a game. Some of the best teams over the years have stunningly fallen flat against mediocre conference opponents when on the road in a raucous environment. With these two teams seemingly even matched in the first place, the Tiger faithful will make a major impact when they pack the Zou under the lights for the first night game of the year. The fans can expect to see a highly engaging, back and forth affair that looks to come down to who can get stops against these top offenses, and who can control the all-important pace of play in the end.