Staff predictions, USC-Mississippi State game preview

November 1, 2013 

Kendall: Gamecocks should win easily in return home

Mississippi State is third in the SEC in turnover margin. The Bulldogs have acquired turnovers four more times than they’ve committed them.

Still, Mississippi State is 4-3 and without a win on which it can hang its hat. The Bulldogs have beaten Alcorn State, Troy, Bowling Green (by one) and Kentucky this season. Their losses have come to decent-to-good teams in Oklahoma State, LSU and Auburn. So it’s hard to judge from that perspective exactly what kind of team is coming into Williams-Brice Stadium.

That turnover margin, though, provides a clue. Usually teams who get more turnovers get more wins. Missouri and Alabama lead the SEC in turnover margin and lead their divisions. For the Bulldogs to be as high as they are in that category and to not have done more with it is a red flag.

The Bulldogs are fair-to-poor in most other major statistical categories. They are 10th in the SEC in scoring (30.1 ppg), sixth in points allowed (22.9 ppg), seventh in rushing (205.4 ypg), ninth in passing (250.6 ypg), etc., etc.

South Carolina, meanwhile, has struggled at times this season. But those times haven’t come at home. After three straight road games, the Gamecocks come back to Williams-Brice Stadium looking for their 15th straight home win. South Carolina will get it easily.

Prediction: Gamecocks 41, Bulldogs 20

Cloninger: Gamecocks will win to set up bigger games ahead

The talk this week hasn’t been about Mississippi State. It’s been about Missouri.

I suppose that’s expected. South Carolina pulled off one of the most unlikely comebacks you’ll ever see last week, and a lot of demons were cast into the pits. Connor Shaw won a game on the road against a ranked opponent (although starter Dylan Thompson will go down as the winning quarterback). The Gamecocks reclaimed their season when they easily could have folded the tents and meekly headed home, on the way to the Liberty Bowl.

The game has been talked about and replayed all week, and I suppose it should have been. Shaw’s heroics bordered on the supernatural last week, the way he calmly fought off a stomach virus and played with an injured knee to fire a fourth-and-15 touchdown and then direct another scoring drive to win the game.

The problem is, that game’s over. Saturday’s game isn’t. As Steve Spurrier said, it’s human nature to think about big games, or overlook other games to get to big games, and USC is dealing with that.

USC has to win to keep Atlanta in its sights. And there hasn’t been much talk about the Bulldogs (1-2 SEC), a middle-of-the-pack team in the standings.

They mix the run and the pass nearly evenly, they rank fifth in the SEC in total defense. This game isn’t a gimme. Despite having Florida in two weeks in a game that could make or break this SEC championship dream, this game could do that as well.

I think USC will win, and perhaps I’m giving it too much cushion. I just think that the Gamecocks will wear MSU down. What I’m interested in is to see when the back-breaking score occurs – before halftime, leaving the Bulldogs in a hole too big to claw out of?

Or in double overtime, like last week?

Prediction: USC 32, Mississippi State 20

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