Five Keys To Victory Against MSU
I. Contain Anthony Dixon
The Mississippi State offense is built around Dixon and his ability to pound off tough yardage. With the Mississippi State passing attack ranked dead-last in the SEC and 112th in the nation, the Gamecock defense will stack the box and force the two MSU quarterbacks to try and beat them through the air.
Containing Dixon should allow the defense to force a few turnovers and lead to some three-and-outs, which would allow the offense to get more much-needed reps. It will also be interesting to see how the Gamecocks fare in their first full game without Jasper Brinkley against a run-oriented team. Junior Marvin Sapp and true freshman Melvin Ingram will both see significant time at the MIKE linebacker spot.
II. Limit Turnovers
Against a ball control offense and a stout defense such as MSU's, the last thing the Gamecocks need to do is give them extra opportunities and good field position. As a new and still relatively young starting quarterback, Chris Smelley will need to play within the system and not force things when nothing is there. Smelley has impressed with his leadership and confidence, but he can't get too confident and become careless with the football. If Smelley plays smart and runs an efficient offense, the Gamecocks should be able to move the ball.
III. Make a Few Plays Downfield
Just as South Carolina will stack the line of scrimmage in an attempt to slow Dixon, the State defense will likely do the same to contain Cory Boyd and Mike Davis. This should potentially gives the offense chances to connect on passes downfield, but that has not been the case in the first third of the season. For the Gamecocks to win comfortably and continue to improve on the seasonm the quarterback, offensive line, and wide receiver play will all need to improve, starting Saturday. Smelley, offensive guard Seaver Brown, wide receivers Mark Barnes and Dion Lecorn are all players who will get their chances to make an impact.
IV. Protect Smelley
Mississippi State's defensive line is ranked third in the SEC in sacks and will be a stern test for the Gamecock offensive line, albeit not the mammoth test they faced last weekend. MSU's offensive line is definitely talented, but luckily for the interior of the Gamecocks line, there won't be a Glenn Dorsey in sight.
Smelley played pretty well in the face of some pressure at LSU, but for him to protect the football, and the coach's to get a real look at what he can accomplish as a starting quarterback, the line will need to protect consistently for him.
V. Find a Second Receiver
While South Carolina can likely win this game without another wide receiver stepping up, it is becoming a pressing matter for the team as a whole. Three more young receivers will likely get their chances at significant playing time, as Dion Lecorn will start, while Mark Barnes and Chris Culliver are expected to see time off the bench as well. The offense is not that far off as a unit, but MSU is a good defensive team who the Gamecocks can ill afford to be one-dimensional against.
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