Missouri’s Barry Odom and South Carolina’s Will Muschamp resorted to the sorts of things all college football coaches say when preparing for a big game Wednesday on the weekly SEC football teleconference.
Both teams are 1-0 entering a 6 p.m. kickoff Saturday at Memorial Stadium after the Tigers’ 72-43 victory against Missouri State and the Gamecocks’ 35-28 win against North Carolina State in Charlotte, N.C.
Here’s Odom first: “Obviously, this one’s big on a number of levels. It’s an interconference game and an East divisional opponent. It won’t make or break the season either way, but we know it’s a big one.”
Now, Muschamp: “It’s an important game, because it’s an SEC East game, a conference game and a division game. But it counts for one. It’s a long season. It’s no different than what I said before the N.C. State game. It counts as one game.”
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Obviously, no coach wants to overhype any game, nor suggest too much importance on the outcome, but it certainly feels like a massive game for the trajectory of both squads.
South Carolina reached a bowl game last season in Muschamp’s first season, but fans would surely take a loss against Mizzou as a step back for the program — one that would tamp down enthusiasm for the home opener Sept. 16 against Kentucky.
It’s also arguably the Tigers’ easiest SEC game.
Missouri plays at Kentucky, No. 15 Georgia, Vanderbilt and Arkansas, while the other home games on the schedule are No. 13 Auburn, No. 22 Florida and No. 25 Tennessee.
Two months from now, this game may determine if one or the other teams qualifies for a bowl game — not that Odom or Muschamp would say so right now.
Odom downplays Crockett’s TD-erasing penalty
Odom still refuses to take the bait and bash officials for wiping away Damarea Crockett’s 75-yard touchdown run Saturday against Missouri State.
Crockett was flagged for diving into the end zone, resulting in a 15-yard penalty from the Bears’ 2-yard line that took six points off the board.
One reporter on Wednesday’s weekly SEC football coaches’ teleconference compared Crockett’s penalty to a speeding ticket for going 72 mph on Interstate 70, but Odom refused to call agree it was a “ticky-tack” foul.
“The rule is what it is and that’s what the officials called,” Odom said. “It’s important for us as a team that it’s a learning experience and teachable moment.”
The penalty, which cost the Tigers four points after settling for a field goal on the drive instead, also cost MU a conference record.
Missouri and Missouri State’s 115 points were one shy of the SEC record for most combined points in a game. (Sophomore Tucker McCann’s missed extra point also could have delivered a record.)
Odom was asked a second time about Crockett’s unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty, but remained unflappable.
“The rule is what it is,” he said. “Any celebration that is seen as celebration, it’s very clear and that’s what the rule states. We celebrated before we got in the end zone, so they marked it back 15 yards from the spot of the foul and we got the first down. So, an error on our side and we’ve got to be better and more disciplined than to have those type of fouls.”
South Carolina braces for Irma
Hurricane Irma has decimated Puerto Rico and threatens the eastern seaboard, but South Carolina’s football team has yet to alter its plans.
“We don’t feel like the travel should be affected,” Muschamp said Wednesday on the SEC football teleconference.
He added that South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner is working on contingencies in case the storm makes landfall as projected.
However, Muschamp’s got a different challenge on his mind right now.
“I’m working on game planning for Missouri,” he said. “They’re a really good, explosive offensive football team. We haven’t gotten that far down the road (with storm preparation), so I’m concerned about Missouri right now.”
Muschamp wary of Drew Lock
South Carolina’s Jake Bentley received more attention in the offseason, but Missouri’s Drew Lock won the SEC Offensive Player of the Week award to open the season.
Lock’s performance certainly caught the attention of Muschamp.
“He can make all the throws,” Muschamp said. “He can make the short and intermediate and he throws the deep ball very well. … He’s got a Sunday arm.”
The Gamecocks’ coach also praised the Tigers’ array of pass-catching talent.
“Lock’s throwing to some very skilled players in J’Mon Moore, Dimetrios Mason and Jonathon Johnson,” Muschamp said. “He’s got two really good backs behind him (Crockett and Ish Witter) and some tight ends that are very difficult to match up with.”
Mizzou’s tight ends — senior Jason Reese, junior Kendall Blanton and redshirt freshman Albert Okwuegbunam — combined for five catches, 103 yards and two touchdowns last week.