South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs: Complete Game Preview
South Carolina comes into this game riding high off last week's 27-24 two-overtime victory at previously unbeaten and No. 5-ranked Missouri.
Avoiding a letdown will be paramount for a Gamecocks team that have played their way back into the SEC East chase.
Things set up favorably for the Gamecocks, who have an off week next week before closing out the conference portion of their schedule at home against Florida.
In fact, the Gamecocks are finished with the road. Remaining games against Coastal Carolina and Clemson also are at home, where South Carolina has won 14 straight.
Mississippi State has won its last two, but it has been a struggle.
The Bulldogs beat Bowling Green 21-20 and Kentucky 28-22 with both victories at home. Mississippi State's only other victories were against Alcorn State and Troy.
Who: No. 14 South Carolina Gamecocks (6-2, 4-2 SEC) vs. Mississippi State (4-3, 1-2 SEC)
When: 12:21 p.m.
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, S.C.
Watch: SEC TV
Series history: South Carolina leads 8-6
Unless otherwise noted, all rankings refer to BCS.
Keys to Victory for South Carolina
After falling behind 17-0 against Missouri last week, South Carolina wound up throwing the ball 56 times for 423 yards.
The Gamecocks would like to return to some semblance of balance between run and pass this week against the Bulldogs.
With Connor Shaw back at quarterback, South Carolina should have an excellent chance of doing just that.
Tailback Mike Davis, who fumbled twice last week, needs to do a better job of ball security, and the Gamecocks need to tighten up on special teams play, an area that has been a problem all season.
Keys to Victory for Mississippi State
Mississippi State's biggest challenge against the Gamecocks will be stopping an offense that features a lot of weapons.
Quarterback Connor Shaw, running back Mike Davis and a talented and deep wide receiver corps will present the Bulldogs with some problems.
Offensively, the Bulldogs have used two quarterbacks this season. Tyler Russell is the better passer, while Dak Prescott is the better rusher.
Prescott got most of the snaps last week against Kentucky.
Overall, Mississippi State is a much less talented team than the Gamecocks, but the Bulldogs can level the playing field by forcing turnovers and with superior play on special teams.
Special teams play was a huge factor in Tennessee's upset victory against the Gamecocks.
Players to Watch for South Carolina
South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw is having an excellent senior season, and while he's the man who makes the Gamecocks go, he has been fortunate to be surrounded by excellent talent.
Shaw has completed 64.4 percent of his passes for 1,508 yards and 14 touchdowns with one interception. Tailback Mike Davis continues to lead the SEC in rushing, averaging 116.2 yards per game.
South Carolina has four wide receivers with at least 21 receptions, led by Bruce Ellington. Ellington had a breakout game last week against Missouri with 10 catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, South Carolina's talented defensive line, led by Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles, is starting to play up to preseason expectations.
Players to Watch for Mississippi State
Mississippi State wide receiver Jameon Lewis is a game-breaker for the Bulldogs.
Lewis has a team-leading 30 receptions for 446 yards and four touchdowns.
In addition, he has been used at quarterback in the Wildcat formation. He has rushed 12 times for 111 yards and three touchdowns and completed two passes for 53 yards and two touchdowns.
Lewis also handles punt and kickoff return duties. He's averaging 24.7 yards per kickoff return, including a long of 66 yards.
Defensively, linebacker Benardrick McKinney leads the team in tackles with 46.
What They're Saying
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen is impressed by the talent level of the Gamecocks, starting with defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Per the team's official website, he called Clowney "the best defensive player in all college football" in his weekly press conference.
Meanwhile, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is hopeful that the Gamecocks can put last week's victory over Missouri behind them and focus on the Bulldogs, as noted in his weekly press conference on the team's website.
South Carolina appears to have a decisive edge in this one, most significantly because of a big edge in offensive talent and a 14-game winning streak at home.
It's a must-win for the Gamecocks, who trail Missouri by one game in the SEC East.
Mississippi State has been average at best this season, and a victory over the Gamecocks at this point would constitute a major upset.
Prediction: South Carolina 38, Mississippi State 17.