Bary Odom’s brief history against the Gamecocks over his first three seasons in charge has not been pretty. The 42-year old head coach is 0-3 against MU’s SEC East rival and each contest has come with a different kind of cruel disappointment, with last fall’s calamitous, rain-soaked 37-35 road defeat taking the cake as the worst among them.
But if there was a year for Odom to finally get over the hump against his rival from the other Columbia, this one just might be it.
South Carolina enters Saturday with a record of 1-2 in the midst of a rocky start to the 2019 season. In their season opener against rival North Carolina, the Gamecocks squandered a 20-9 fourth quarter lead, ultimately falling 24-20 to a Tar Heels program that finished 2-9 a year ago. A 72-10 hammering of Charleston Southern the following week had Will Muschamp’s squad back on track, but last weekend’s visit from Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide proved a tricky task and the Gamecocks took another defeat, falling 47-23. Now, South Carolina comes to Memorial Stadium looking to avoid suffering its third loss in 2019 before summer even turns to fall.
Under center for South Carolina Saturday will be true freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski, who took over during Week 1 after senior Jake Bentley suffered a season-ending foot injury in the team’s opening game against North Carolina. The 18-year-old passer has held his own for the Gamecocks through the first two starts of his collegiate career. Hilinski threw for 242 yards and two scores against Charleston Southern, and followed up his debut performance with 324 yards on 63% passing with two touchdowns and an interception against the Tide.
The effort against Alabama was good enough to earn Hilinski SEC Freshman of the Week honors, and the freshman will be no pushover when he arrives at Memorial Stadium this weekend.
Despite losing the dyanamic Deebo Samuel to graduation, South Carolina still brings with it a receiving threat in the form of senior wide receiver Bryan Edwards, who caught two touchdowns against the Tigers in 2018. Edwards has gotten off to a fast start in 2019 with 15 receptions for 198 yards and two touchdowns, and he’ll be a potent test of Missouri’s pass defense, ranked No. 2 in the nation through three weeks.
Also back for South Carolina is senior running back Rico Dowdle, who started against Missouri in 2018. He has been sharing carries with Clemson transfer Tavien Feaster. Dowdle excelled in the loss to Alabama, running for 102 yards on an impressive 8.5 yards per carry. Missouri, which struggled against the run in Wyoming, will have its hands full with Dowdle on Saturday.
Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant is no stranger to South Carolina. Hailing from the Palmetto State, Bryant was offered a scholarship by the Gamecocks before committing to in-state rival Clemson. As Clemson’s starter in 2017, Bryant threw for 272 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-10 victory over South Carolina.
Larry Rountree III ran for 94 yards and two touchdowns in last year’s game, but was overshadowed by former Missouri running back Damarea Crockett who torched the Gamecocks for a 154 yards on the ground that afternoon. On Saturday, Rountree will likely be the primary ball-carrier for Missouri as he looks to add to his 142-yard performance against Southeast Missouri State a week ago.
The Gamecocks feature a mostly veteran unit on defense with some inexperience in the secondary. Both of the team’s starting corners, Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu, are just sophomores. Horn, however, did play in 11 games last season, including in Carolina’s win over Missouri, in which he recorded two solo tackles.
The Gamecocks leading tackler thus far is sophomore middle linebacker Ernest Jones, with 10 solo and 12 assisted tackles. Against Alabama, Jones had two tackles for a loss. He did not play last season against Missouri.
Missouri enters Saturday as a 9.5-point favorite against South Carolina, and on Saturday, Odom will have his best chance yet to finally beat the team from the other Columbia.
Missouri and South Carolina kick off at 3 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network.