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Cred Check: Drew Lock and the Mizzou Tigers Can’t Afford To Lose at South Carolina.

Mizzou’s game at South Carolina on Saturday is a credibility check.

And a credit check.

Missouri should win.

Missouri has no excuses for not winning.

Mizzou has a superb and experienced cast of offensive talent, one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, and a defense that whips up a heavy pass rush. The Tigers are 3-1 this season and have won nine of their last 11 games.

Drew Lock is a senior. He is on track to set school passing records. He’s on track to be a first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Lock is listed among the Top 25 overall NFL prospects by ESPN and others.

Barry Odom is in his third season as head coach. His program should be strengthening. And maybe it is. That’s the hope, anyway. Even with the loss to Georgia in CoMo two weeks ago, Odom’s team has won four of its last five SEC games.

Cynics rightfully point out that the four victories came against faded, chaotic, disinterested SEC opponents that already had fired the head coach, or were about to sack the head coach, or otherwise had quit playing with a purpose. (Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Arkansas.)

Yes, those wins counted in the standings. There are no asterisks. But some victories are more credible than others. And Mizzou –to its credit — took advantage of a schedule that had turned to mush.

Mizzou can gain credibility with a win at South Carolina.

And Mizzou can get some credit by winning at SC.

South Carolina is a solid and respected opponent — but nothing exceptional. The Gamecocks are 2-2, but weren’t competitive in losses to SEC East foes Georgia, and Kentucky. Georgia went into South Carolina and demolished SC by a 41-17 score. Kentucky, playing at home, beat up South Carolina 24-10.

SC quarterback Jake Bentley suffered a knee injury in Lexington and isn’t expected to start against Mizzou. According to reports  the decision isn’t final but it appears that SC will go with senior Michael Scarnecchia, who took most of the first-team snaps in practice this week. But Scarnecchia has never started a game.

No matter who starts at quarterback for the Gamecocks — a limping Bentley or an inexperienced Scarnecchia — Lock must be the superior quarterback in this game. An elite quarterback who will getting paid by an NFL team a year from now can’t lose this one. Not after Mizzou had a bye week to freshen up and get healthier as a team. Not after South Carolina turned the ball over four times and got trucked by Kentucky RB Benny Snell in the Wildcats’ 14-point win.

With Mizzou headed back on the road next Saturday to play at Alabama, it’s imperative for the Tigers to get a win at SC. Lock won’t be the best QB on the field at Tuscaloosa; that distinction belongs to Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa. But Lock should be the top quarterback in the SC game.

Moreover, South Carolina doesn’t have much of a pass rush.

And if Lock doesn’t play well, and Mizzou fails to win?

It won’t be a good look Coach Odom or his quarterback.

Why?

As MU’s head coach:

  • Odom is 4-8 in road games (and at neutral sites.)
  • Odom is 0-6 against teams ranked in the AP top 25. (South Carolina was ranked earlier this season, but not now.)
  • Odom is 2-14 vs. FBS teams that have a winning record.
  • And 7-14 against Power 5 opponents.

As for Lock, David Morrison of the excellent Rock M Nation came up with much better numbers than I did, so here they are … with a link …

— With Lock there is a minus 37.3%  career difference in passer rating in starts against non-Power 5 (185.51) and Power 5 (116.31) teams.

— Of Lock’s total touchdowns, he produced 60.6%  against FBS teams that finished with non-winning records.

— Lock is 1-18 in his career starts against Power 5 opponents that finished the season with winning records. That was Arkansas in 2016.

— And Lock has only three winning starts against FBS teams that ended their seasons with a winning record: BYU (2015), Arkansas (2016) and Eastern Michigan (2016.)

(Thank you, David Morrison.) 

This is a team sport, sure. But Lock needs more meaningful wins on the board. And so does his coach. A win at South Carolina — while hardly a career-defining occasion — is an opportunity to earn credibility and credit.

–Bernie

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