Mississippi State vs. South Carolina Game Notes

When the SEC went to two divisions in 1992, each team had two annual opponents from the other division they played. For MSU, it was Kentucky and South Carolina. That tradition ended after the 2002 season, and MSU dropped the Gamecocks. Since then the these two teams have only played twice, in ’06 & ’07, with Carolina winning both times.

Currently, State has lost five in a row to the Gamecocks, but has a 6-7 record against them since they joined the SEC in ’92. From ’96-’99 MSU won four in a row, including outscoring USC 55-0 in ’98 & ’99’s games. In 2000 USC won in Columbia on a heartbreaking fade rout at the end of the game. The 2001 game was on a Thursday night in Starkville, the first major sporting event after 9/11, a game which South Carolina won 16-14.

Fast forward to 2011 and we’ve got this week’s game, one in which both teams badly need. Entering the season, USC and MSU had very high hopes, and each team has barely had control of the steering wheel throughout the first half of the season. Due to a light schedule, the Gamecocks have managed a 5-1 record while State is just 3-3. Both offenses have sputtered, and even gone backwards at times prompting their high-profile QB-nurturing head coaches (both have coached high NFL draft picks and Heisman Trophy winners at QB) to make a switch from their preseason all-SEC quarterbacks to the younger backup.

South Carolina has the most intimidating defensive line in the SEC. With Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney the standouts, Devin Taylor, Travian Robertson, and Kelcy Quarles are all highly regarded as well. They have been devastating to poor offenses they have faced, holding Vanderbilt and Kentucky to under 100 yards in total offense. However, East Carolina, Georgia, Navy, and Auburn together averaged 369 yards of offense…so MSU better bring the A game, not the D game we’ve seen the last four weeks.

The Gamecocks have averaged 213 yards on the ground so far this year. MSU is giving up 159 rushing yards per game. Auburn has beaten South Carolina three times in the past two years by holding Marcus Lattimore to under 100 yards each time.  Conner Shaw is a true sophomore and doesn’t have much experience, his only appearance on the road in a SEC game was against Auburn last year when he threw two late interceptions that cost them the game.

Earlier this week, on the same day Spurrier refused to speak to the media until a certain reporter left the room, South Carolina kicked troubled quarterback Stephen Garcia off the team. So the job at USC is clearly Conner Shaw’s, and will be the rest of the season. At MSU, Mullen has been vague and not-willing to commit to Chris Relf or Tyler Russell at quarterback….chances are both will see significant time in this game.

State’s defense is giving up just under 400 yards per game while USC’s offense is averaging just over 400 yards per game. So you can bet they will get it. The question will be can State’s offense play well enough to keep South Carolina’s defensive line from running all over a banged up offensive line that is still licking it’s wounds? Will MSU’s offense rise to the occasion and match USC’s offense’s production…if so this game will come down to the wire.

Steve’s Spurrier’s all-time record vs. MSU is 4-2. His record in Starkville is 1-2. This game will mark the first time Ellis Johnson will face MSU since he left the Bulldogs to become the defensive coordinator for Arkansas briefly, then South Carolina. Game time will be 11:21 at Davis-Wade Stadium. South Carolina is currently ranked #15 in the AP poll and is favored by 3 points.

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