The No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks have their biggest test of the 2012 college football season when they play host to SEC newcomers, the Missouri Tigers on Saturday afternoon. While the Tigers may be unranked, they are still a dangerous team.
Both the Gamecocks and Tigers have potent offenses. Yet, over the past game or two, both have done it with their back up quarterbacks running the offense. That is because Connor Shaw has been out with an injury to his throwing shoulder since the team’s season opening win over the Vanderbilt Commodores. Shaw came back in that game, but sat out against East Carolina in week two. Shaw started the Gamecocks’ third game against the UAB Blazers on Saturday, but was reinjured in the first half and did not play in the second half.
In his place has been Dylan Thompson, who has played well in the team’s past two games. Granted, they were not against the caliber of opponents that South Carolina will face on Saturday. But their opponents are facing a similar dilemma as to which quarterback they should start.
James Franklin was Missouri’s unquestioned starter entering this season. But he sat out the Tigers’ win last Saturday against the Arizona State Sun Devils. Missouri won 24-20 behind a solid performance from back up quarterback Corbin Berkstresser. Franklin still has a bit of inflammation in his shoulder, and some people actually questioned his toughness. Missouri’s head coach said that is insane.
“Anybody that questions James Franklin’s toughness, they have to have been in a coma for the last two years,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “He’s one of the toughest athletes I’ve ever been around.”
That sounds that if Franklin is healthy enough to play, then he will start. Franklin has said he’s 90 percent certain he’ll play in Missouri’s first-ever SEC road game.
As for Shaw, it sounds as if that decision has been made by South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier as well.
“Connor Shaw was throwing the ball around very well,” Spurrier said. “He’ll start. He’s fine. If there’s a place for Dylan to come in the game and help us try to beat Missouri, we’ll certainly consider that. There’s no question that running the ball is what Connor does, which makes him a good quarterback. So if he plays, he’ll run it some. If he can’t run, I don’t think he’s quite as effective.”
Either way, the Gamecocks and Tigers will have to have all of their players at their best when they face each other on Saturday. For South Carolina, whether it is Shaw or Thompson, they will have to move the chains. For Missouri, either Franklin or Berkstresser will need to be turnover-free to put them in a position to pull off the upset.