A close look at the USC-Mississippi State matchup:
FIVE STORY LINES
1. ROUND AND ROUND IT GOES
The quarterback picture for each team is as clear as mud, although South Carolina has made it clear that Perry Orth earned another start. Still, Brandon McIlwain will play, and Mississippi State MIGHT play two as well. Nick Fitzgerald started for the Bulldogs last week, but Damian Williams played the majority of the game.
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2. SPREAD OUT
The Gamecocks’ defense looked completely transformed from the mess of the last two years, swarming (not flocking) to the ball and finishing tackles. Yet, it was against a team USC knew would run 80 percent of the time. The Bulldogs like to get in space and throw short passes, particularly with Williams in the game. Can USC cover those routes?
3. THE LEGS
Elliott Fry is USC’s resident hero after booming a career-best 55-yarder to beat Vanderbilt, while the Bulldogs’ Westin Graves’ 28-yard chip shot to beat South Alabama clanged into the left upright. Do the roles reverse this week, stay the same or does Graves (who made attempts from 37 and 48 yards against the Jaguars) deliver MSU’s first SEC win?
4. WHAT’S THE STORY?
USC’s last three trips to Starkville had plot lines overshadowing the game, either before or during. In 2001, it was the first college football game after 9/11. In 2006, Ryan Succop had one of the greatest single-game performances in USC history. In 2011, USC won but lost Marcus Lattimore for the season. What’s the deal this year?
5. FLAG FREE
The Gamecocks’ offense was derailed by seven penalties against Vanderbilt, and a host of other mistakes (dropped passes, a freshman screwup on the opening kick). First-game jitters are a natural excuse and they didn’t cost USC the game. This is the second game.
Combined quarterbacks and touchdowns South Carolina and Mississippi State had in their season openers.
Tackles for loss the Bulldogs accumulated against South Alabama. The Gamecocks gave up six to Vanderbilt.
Number of tenure-opening road wins by USC’s other 33 head coaches. Will Muschamp was the first to pull it off.
Suspended players USC will get back this week. Christian Pellage, Alan Knott and Toure Boyd are cleared after missing the Vanderbilt game.
Consecutive MSU wins over the SEC East. Its last loss was to USC in 2013.
Who: USC (1-0) at Mississippi State (0-1)
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field, Starkville Miss.
Line: Miss. St. by 6 1/2