MSU’s Week 2 game vs. South Carolina will play a pivotal role in the direction of the 2016 football season.
It’s pretty obvious that the first SEC game of the year is important, but there are a few more layers to the South Carolina game than what first meet the eye.
1. MSU has never won more than six regular season games when losing to an Eastern division team.
Dan Mullen has guided State to eight win regular seasons in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2015. In each of those years the Bulldogs were a combined 9-0 vs. the East. In the other years (2009, 2011 and 2013), MSU only beat Kentucky going 4-4 overall and losing at least one game each of those seasons.
The Dawgs have fallen victim to South Carolina twice in that stretch – 2011 and 2013 – accounting for half of MSU’s losses to the East under Mullen. The Gamecocks are also one of only two SEC teams Mullen has yet to defeat.
2. A quarterback will have to emerge.
Coach Mullen is likely to play all four QBs in Week 1 vs. South Alabama:
- Damian Williams (Jr)
- Nick Fitzgerald (So)
- Elijah Staley (So)
- Nick Tiano (Fr)
One of these quarterbacks needs to stand out enough to play most of the game vs. South Carolina. If we are still operating musical chairs at the most important position, that’s not a good sign, and the SEC schedule will get off to a bad start.
3. It’s a transition year, and this is a transition game.
No one is expecting MSU to compete for the SEC West crown in 2016. That goes for the “experts” as well as Bulldog fans. But that ‘rebuilding’ process is still expected to yield 7-8 wins.
Every game in Starkville can be considered a swing game: South Carolina, Auburn, Texas A&M and Arkansas. But USC is perhaps the most winnable. They are coming off a 3-9 season with a new coach who most question his ability to win in the SEC.
The road schedule is very difficult this year, so winning these games at home will go a long way to determining if State gets to 7-8 wins, and it all starts with South Carolina.
In all likelihood, Mississippi State will be 1-0 heading into this game. Being 2-0 after it and heading into Baton Rouge Week 3 is so much better than behind the eight ball at 1-1.
Lose to South Carolina and you’re chasing bowl eligibility all year. Beat South Carolina and you’re chasing 8-9 wins.