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Gameday preview: USC vs. S.C. State

Florida Atlantic cornerback Ed Alexander runs after South Carolina freshman tailback No. 31 Kenny Miles in the first quarter at Williams Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2009.
Florida Atlantic cornerback Ed Alexander runs after South Carolina freshman tailback No. 31 Kenny Miles in the first quarter at Williams Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2009.

FIVE STORYLINES

WHO GETS THE CARRIES?

USC's tailback situation is becoming muddled, but not in a bad way. Brian Maddox, who started the first four games, will take a backseat today as Jarvis Giles and Kenny Miles get carries. Eric Baker and Bryce Sherman were running scout team this week, but if the game gets out of hand they could see the field too.

WHO'S GOING STREAKING?

After starting his career with a missed 27-yarder against N.C. State, Spencer Lanning has made nine consecutive five field goals, six short of the program record. It has helped that they've been short, with 41 being the longest and five inside the 30.

KEEPING IT CLOSE

This is S.C. State's fifth game against an FBS team, and none of the first four were competitive in the second half. The Bulldogs have yet to score a touchdown against one of the big-time teams. The Bulldogs are aiming to change that and have a good showing.

NOT KEEPING IT CLOSE

USC has had a maddening time putting away non-BCS opponents. Two weeks ago it took an 17-3 lead on Florida Atlantic, only to see it become17-16 at halftime. The last real blowout happened in 2006. Even the 38-3 victory against S.C. State in 2007 was a bit closer than the score indicated, with it 17-3 at the half.

GOOD FEELINGS

Much was made two years ago when USC and S.C. State met for the first time. It will still be a big deal for the Bulldog fans, many of whom live in and around Columbia. And the vast majority of Bulldog players are from South Carolina, so they get to live out a dream of playing at Williams-Brice Stadium.

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GAME WITHIN THE GAME

GAMECOCKS

Defensive line

ABOUT THE LINE

The Gamecocks have a depleted tackle position after the season-ending injury to Travian Robertson. Starter Nathan Pepper has knee problems that date to the game against S.C. State in 2007, when he got injured after scoring a touchdown. True freshman Aldrick Fordham is listed as second team even though he is set to redshirt. Backup Kenny Davis was back at practice this week after an injury.

HOW THEY'LL WIN

Pepper and Ladi Ajiboye need to contain the run and force S.C. State into third-and-longs. The less time the starting defensive line has to spend on the field, the better - a better chance at victory, and at not having any more injuries.

KEY NUMBER: 3.0

The average yard-per-rush by the Gamecocks' four opponents, fifth-best in the SEC.

VS. BULLDOGS

Will Ford

ABOUT FORD

The senior from Travelers Rest needs 65 yards to reach the 4,000 mark at S.C. State. He is averaging 5.1 yards per carry this season. Pepper, who played against Ford in high school, said between Ford and backup Travil Jamison he thinks S.C. State "has two SEC running backs."

HOW HE'LL WIN

The Bulldogs will need a big game from Ford to dominate time of possession and keep the score close. Ford and Jamison play off each other well - Ford as the explosive back capable of rattling off big yardage, and Jamison getting the tough yardage.

KEY NUMBER: 3.7

S.C. State's yards-per-rush this season.

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Five questions with Shaq Wilson, linebacker, No. 16, Jacksonville, Fla.

After the Georgia game, the coaches said it looked like you were a little overwhelmed at times by opposing offensive lineman. But now you're tied for third in tackles. Do you feel like you've improved?

Yes sir. Every game you're going to get better and stuff. So just coming with experience and playing in games, you get better and better. So that's basically what was going on.

Were you discouraged at all?

No. I knew we were out there doing the right things. We were just making little mistakes and stuff, just stuff we could come out and correct the next week.

Has it been a matter of using your speed to your advantage and not being caught in a position where a lineman could overtake you?

Yeah, basically with that it's just about getting the right keys, putting myself in the right position. Just making sure I get the right calls. Basically it's all about lining up in the right position, reading what you see and reacting to it. I have to use my speed and stuff, and stay low and dip my shoulder. But it's basically about having to be at the right place at the right time.

Is it fun out there?

It's definitely fun. I dreamed when I was little of coming to a big school and playing big-time football, playing against big-time talent. I mean (playing with Eric) Norwood, it's great. I'm having fun out there. I'm loving the contact.

And using everything you learned while playing behind Jasper Brinkley?

Oh yes. I'm using everything I can learn from coach (Ellis) Johnson. Coach Johnson teaches me a lot of things. And playing behind Jasper last year, that really helped me out a lot.

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