Cloninger's gameday storylines: USC vs. Mississippi State

Posted by DAVID CLONINGER on November 1, 2013 

Connor Shaw

TRACY GLANTZ — tglantz@thestate.com

1. WILL HE?

Connor Shaw has been sick, last week and this week. Last week, sick and with a busted knee, all he did was single-handedly win a game on the road against a Top-5 team after trailing 17-0 in the fourth quarter. The company line is that he may or may not play, but considering that his heart pumps not blood, but a mix of diesel fuel and an organic paste that tastes like baby food, I’d bet on him playing and playing well.

2. GOT THAT ‘ITIS’

Mike Davis inexplicably fumbled twice last week, once on the 2-yard-line. The Gamecocks are hoping that it was just the standard bad day at the office. Simply, despite the success of the screen pass last week, USC needs Davis to win. I’m thinking that with the two fumbles last week hanging over his head, and also knowing that he only needs 70 yards to become just USC’s fifth back since George Rogers to rush for 1,000 in a season, he’ll have a great game Saturday.

3. SCOREBOARD WATCH

USC plays at 12:21 p.m., so it shouldn’t be an issue, that of watching the flashing videoboards at Williams-Brice Stadium for updates from the SEC. USC will be done by the time its chief competition for the SEC East crown (Georgia, Florida, Missouri) get started, leaving it time to watch football all afternoon and evening. But it won’t matter unless the Gamecocks take care of business and win their game.

4. KEEP IT BETWEEN THE 20s

As Steve Spurrier has pointed out, USC’s defense isn’t that bad. In fact, it’s quite good, ranking third in the SEC in total defense. It’s just the Gamecocks have given up some big plays, and big quarters, that have made it feel a lot worse than it actually is. The Bulldogs aren’t a team known for their big-play potential, so if USC can play an entire game without a big-play breakdown, it can breed confidence to start the end-of-season stretch.

5. CARRYOVER

It’s very difficult to carry over the emotion and excitement from one epic win to the next game. This isn’t baseball, where you can play the next night. It’s (I believe) the main reason that the phrase “big-game hangover” is most prevalently used in football. There’s just too much time to forget what inspired the win before the next game. USC is facing the same test that Missouri faced last week, of following up a big win with a home game against an opponent that has been struggling. The Tigers surely didn’t handle it well.

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