Corbett: MSU game is barometer of success
The Bulldogs have often been the barometer of success for USC football – the Mississippi State Bulldogs, that is.
For too many years, Gamecock football fans have looked at the schedule, hoped to beat Georgia to start a special season, and then said "win" as the eye glanced over Mississippi State, and for too many seasons, they were wrong.
So what does Saturday's game with an improving Mississippi State team mean to USC's season? Perhaps everything.
The importance of beating Georgia has often been chronicled, but the games with the Starkville Bulldogs have just as often been taken lightly. While USC has gone 6-6 vs. Mississippi State since 1992, losses in 1996 (14-10) and 1997 (37-17) likely kept USC out of bowl games, while trouncings in 1998 (38-0) and 1999 (17-0) showed how bad the Gamecocks would fare those forgettable years. Gamecock victories in 2006 (15-0), 2001 (16-14), and 2000 (23-19) heralded bowl years and bowl victories by Carolina.
Only the unforgettable 65-39 triumph in Starkville in 1995 and 1992's 21-6 upset of the #15 Bulldogs to snap a five game season-opening losing streak came in non-bowl years. There has been one other quirk in the series; the 1994 Gamecocks lost 41-36 to Mississippi State, but still finished 6-5, 4-4 in the SEC and won the Carquest Bowl.
Otherwise, the MSU contest has been the game to gauge the Carolina football season, not just Georgia.
Mississippi State is no longer a yearly SEC opponent as it was from 1992-2001. Before last year, the Bulldogs' recent poor seasons have not included contests with the Gamecocks. Now Sylvester Croom's squad seems to be improving, with an upset win at Auburn (19-14) and three straight wins to their credit, including two of them on the road (Tulane, Auburn). Auburn's home loss to South Florida makes the State upset of the Tigers somewhat suspect, but it's still an SEC road win, something Gamecock fans think they are used to seeing under Coach Steve Spurrier.
Carolina can improve to 4-1 Saturday. The last time USC had four wins by the end of September was by beating – you guessed it – Mississippi State, in both 2001 and 2000. Carolina has won four straight in the series, with a three year hiatus before last season's win in Starkville.
As Steve Spurrier coaches his 300th game as a head coach and his 30th game at USC this Saturday, he hopes for win #100 over SEC opponents. "I believe we are due to play our best game of the year," says Head Coach Steve Spurrier. He then added that he felt he said that every week.
History shows that USC, more times than not, better beat Mississippi State if it wants a winning season and a bowl game.
The Last Time...
The last time Carolina shut out an opponent was Mississippi State (15-0) to open the season on August 31, 2006. It was also the last time USC held an opponent to less than 200 total yards (161). MSU's last shutout opponent? Carolina in a 17-0 shellacking of USC in 1999 in Starkville, also the Bulldogs' last SEC shutout. State's last road shutout also came against Carolina, 38-0 in 1998 in Columbia.
The 2006 match up with the Gamecocks was also the last time Mississippi State recorded four or more sacks in a game. The Bulldogs are second in the SEC so far this season with 9 sacks.
The last time USC scored more than 60 points or had a player with more than 450 yards passing or more than 500 yards total offense was in 1995 vs. Mississippi State. Carolina beat the Bulldogs 65-39 when Steve Tanneyhill threw for 473 yard and had 512 total yards. That was the last game MSU has given up more than 60 points.
The last time MSU had a PAT blocked was by the Gamecocks in 2000, the 23-19 game in Columbia.
Junior receiver Kenny McKinley's next reception will be the 100th of his career; and if it comes Saturday, it will extend his streak of catching at least one pass in a game to 26 games. He has led USC in receptions each game this season and is 11th all-time on Carolina's receiving list with 99 catches.
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