Each Monday night during the football season, the blog will look ahead to South Carolina’s next opponent. This week, it’s Mississippi State.
South Carolina should be worried this week – at least a little.
No, it’s not Mississippi State that presents a concern. The Bulldogs are near the bottom of the SEC, their only conference win coming against Kentucky. At home. By less than a touchdown.
Inside Williams-Brice Stadium, South Carolina should win this game by three touchdowns. Maybe four. Or five.
Of course, the Gamecocks were good enough to beat Tennessee by three touchdowns too, even on the road. They failed to deal with their own success two weeks ago, coming off a blowout win at Arkansas. Now, after its comeback at Missouri sealed one of the most memorable wins in program history, USC will try to navigate its own success again.
This week could be a wonderful maturation moment for a young team, the type of test that will tell us more about what this team is capable of doing this season. Stay tuned.
Who: Mississippi State (4-3, 1-2 SEC East) at No. 14 South Carolina (6-2, 4-2 SEC East)
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250) | Columbia
When: Saturday, noon
TV: SEC TV (MNT)
Radio: Gamecocks Sports Network (WWIK-FM, 98.9 in Charleston) | Affiliates
Line: South Carolina -13 (Opened as South Carolina -11.5)
What to know about Mississippi State: Remember when the Bulldogs opened their 2012 season 7-0? Neither do MSU fans. Since then, Mississippi State has lost eight of its past 10 games to BCS opponents. Its only two wins were against Arkansas last season, and Kentucky last week. Sure, the Bulldogs are 4-3 this season, but wins over Alcorn State, Troy, Bowling Green – by 1 point – and Kentucky aren’t likely to puff up egos in the alumni base.
All-time series: South Carolina leads 8-6. The Gamecocks have won six straight against the Bulldogs. Their last loss to MSU was Sept. 25, 1999.
When they last met: South Carolina 14, Mississippi State 12. Oct. 15, 2011. Bruce Ellington threw three passes in that game, so there’s the answer to a trivia question. It was not Connor Shaw’s fondest moment. Nor Marcus Lattimore’s. The Bulldogs scored first, and they took a 10-7 lead early in the fourth quarter. But Shaw – as he’s been known to do – came through in the clutch, tossing a game-winning, 4-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery with 3:50 left.
Which Gamecock is crowing loudest: Connor Shaw. Like we could choose any other player this week. Shaw did to Missouri in one quarter what no other quarterback had done in a game this season – namely, beat them. He was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week and Davey O’Brien National Quarterback of the Week on Monday. Both honors were well deserved.
Who’s keeping South Carolina coaches up at night: Well, since the answer can’t be “nobody,” let’s go with the open weekend. Yes, that’s right. Mississippi State beat Kentucky on Thursday, leaving a couple extra days to prepare for the Gamecocks. Hey, when beating Kentucky snaps a lengthy losing streak against BCS opponents, talent isn’t exactly thriving.
In all seriousness, Dak Prescott had a decent game against Kentucky, completing 23-of-34 passes for 268 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. (Did I forget to mention it was against Kentucky? No? Just checking.) For what it’s worth, Prescott isn’t much of a passer – he entered last week with three touchdown passes and three interceptions, and he’s completing 57.3 percent of his attempts – but he’s a dangerous runner with 490 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground this season. That dual-threat ability will be something to game plan against for USC’s defense.
Quotable: Steve Spurrier on returning home after three-game road trip: “We’re coming home. We’ve got a chance to win 15 straight at home next week. So we’ve got a lot to play for, a lot to play for next week. We could tie a school record for 15 straight home victories. So, hopefully the home crowd will love us now. Winning two of three on the road is not bad.”