In preparation for Saturday’s pivotal SEC showdown between Mizzou and South Carolina, Saturday Down South is taking a look at key matchups that could eliminate a pretender from the Eastern Division race.

Steve Spurrier’s offensive game plan vs. Mizzou’s Shane Ray + Markus Golden

As an offensive-minded coach with a game plan to set, Steve Spurrier hasn’t had the time time to sit and gaze at Maty Mauk’s exploits this season.

Instead, his viewing sessions have centered around Mizzou’s defense, the Eastern Division’s leader in sacks, tackles-for-loss and interceptions. He has picked and prodded for hours hoping to find a weakness he can exploit with one of his ‘ball plays’ within a group that flies to the football with aggression.

Dialing up a big play will be tougher than it looks.

“They don’t have any fat guys,” Spurrier said Wednesday. “They’re quick and fast, they’re tacklers, they loop around. They’re a pressure-type team. That’s the best way to describe it. Just really well-conditioned athletes. They fly around and play very fast.”

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Eliminating the opposition’s best player defensively is what Spurrier often tries to do in marquee games, but the Tigers have multiple game-changers of equal caliber who could cause quite a disruption in the Gamecocks backfield.

Future draft picks Shane Ray and Markus Golden, arguably the best pass-rushing duo in college football, have combined for 16 tackles behind the line of scrimmage this season and nine sacks through four games, doubling the pace set in 2013 by Mizzou standouts Michael Sam and Kony Ealy.

Golden missed last week’s loss to Indiana with hamstring issues, Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel snapped at his absence being the reason for the surprising setback.

“He’s one of our best players, but we don’t have excuses,” Pinkel said. “It doesn’t matter. We gave up too many big plays, regardless of if he was playing or not. We’ve had some trouble with that in a couple of our games, and it’s very difficult to play consistent defense if you give up big plays.”

How will Spurrier lessen Ray and Golden’s impact when South Carolina has the football?

Three-step drops and getting the ball out quickly to the boundary is a start, along with blitz pick-up and strong performances from right and left tackles Corey Robinson and Brandon Shell.

Considering Gamecocks quarterback Dylan Thompson is leading the SEC in pass attempts this season, the Tigers should have plenty of chances to feast off the edge Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium.

“This is a huge game for both Missouri and us to try to stay in the Eastern Division race,” Spurrier said. “Hopefully our team can play a little bit better than we’ve been playing.”