Q&A: South Carolina football writer previews Saturday’s matchup

In a conversation with The Maneater, Adam Orfinger breaks down the SEC matchup between Missouri and South Carolina.
Sophomore offensive lineman Kevin Pendleton, 71, lifts sophomore wide receiver Ray Wingo, 14, into the air after Wingo received a 17-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Drew Lock to score the final Mizzou touchdown of the game.

Missouri faces South Carolina at 3 p.m. Saturday in a Southeastern Conference matchup in Columbia, South Carolina. Adam Orfinger, who covers football for The Daily Gamecock, spoke with The Maneater’s Nick Kelly about what to expect Saturday.

The Maneater: Was South Carolina’s upset of Tennessee a fluke? Was it expected?

Adam Orfinger: Overall, I don’t think it was really expected. Tennessee was favored by 15 points going in. But I wouldn’t call it a fluke. Tennessee did have three turnovers. One of their touchdowns also came on special teams during a kickoff coverage breakdown. I think South Carolina out-played them overall on offense and defense. On special teams, [South Carolina] could still use some work, but I think South Carolina was actually the better team on Saturday night.

ME: How difficult will it be for South Carolina to continue to play well despite a struggling opponent?

AO: Now the refocus for South Carolina is bowl eligibility. Before the Tennessee game, it looked like a lost cause. But now all it takes is a win this week against Missouri and a win over Western Carolina, bare minimum, to get in. I think the focus is going to be just as high, and I think the energy will be as high from the crowd because now they’re excited about getting a bowl game, too, so I wouldn’t expect much of a letdown as far as effort or energy or anything like that.

ME: What is South Carolina’s biggest strength?

AO: I think it’s got to be the defense. They haven’t allowed more than 27 points in a game, held Tennessee to 21, but really 14 on offense. They held Texas A&M to 24. The defense has played well. The pass defense is phenomenal. I believe it is still top 28 in the country. Jacob Eason, they held him to under 40 yards. Josh Dobbs only had about 160 last weekend. I think Missouri is really going to struggle with it.

ME: What about Missouri’s team poses the biggest threat to South Carolina?

AO: I think it is going to be defensively. It’s still a Missouri defense. They can still get after the quarterback. The secondary is not bad. And you’re still facing a quarterback who has played in two college games and should be a senior in high school. It is going to be tough on Jake Bentley. It is a very young South Carolina offense. The line hasn’t played great — it gave up six sacks last weekend. If Missouri puts together a respectable showing on defense, South Carolina could struggle to put points on the board.

ME: In last weekend’s game against Kentucky, Missouri coach Barry Odom started calling the defensive plays again. They have basically switched back to the system they had last season when they were a top defense. How much is South Carolina preparing for the old Mizzou defense? Or are the Gamecocks preparing more for the defense they have seen this season?

AO: They have known what is coming in situations like that whether it is schematically or personnel wise. I would expect they are going to prepare both ways and be ready for both schemes.

ME: What does South Carolina need to do to make sure they get the victory against the Tigers?

AO: They have to take care of the ball. They didn’t have any turnovers last week, which was a huge part of that game because Tennessee turned the ball over three times. There is no doubt South Carolina is favored in this game, which I didn’t think I would be saying in the beginning of the year. But, like I said, it is a young offense, so they have to take care of the ball. South Carolina struggled in the punt return game, but they have got to win the turnover battle. They can’t make silly mistakes penalty-wise. Basically, if South Carolina can stay out of their own way, I think they are the more talented team, and I think they should win the game.

ME: What is your prediction for this game?

AO: I think the offense keeps rolling for the Gamecocks. I think Missouri’s offense, they weren’t doing anything when they played LSU and Florida. The South Carolina defense isn’t quite in that category, but it isn’t far behind. I wouldn’t expect Missouri to put up a lot of points. I think Jake Bentley and the South Carolina offense can do enough.

Orfinger’s prediction: 27-14 South Carolina

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