Mississippi St. Bulldogs vs. South Carolina Gamecocks Preview: Trying to Handle Success

Peter Aiken

One of the most puzzling teams in the race for the SEC title returns home to face Dak Prescott's bruised shin and Mississippi State

Mississippi St. Bulldogs vs. South Carolina Gamecocks, 12:21 p.m. ET, SEC-TV

Maybe it's not just this year that has been infuriatingly inconsistent for South Carolina. After all, think back to 2010: South Carolina defeated the then-No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide -- only to cough off the following game at Kentucky in an upset that could have ended the Gamecocks' division hopes in a less forgiving year in the SEC East. Look at what happened a few weeks later, when South Carolina thrashed Clemson in the Upstate by 22 points -- then experienced the worst blowout in the history of the SEC Championship Game the next week against Auburn.

Consider what happened last year after the Gamecocks clocked Georgia by a 35-7 score in what was supposed to be one of the decisive games of the division race that year. What happened next? South Carolina lost on the road to a reeling LSU and then got annihilated by Florida in Gainesville the following week, ending their chances of going to Atlanta. So maybe it's nothing special about this year's team; maybe it's just that the Gamecocks, in the words of the sportscasters' cliche, don't handle success very well.

That's what makes this game a little perilous for South Carolina. After all, the last time they looked as good as last week's game against Missouri was when they waxed Arkansas 52-7. The Gamecocks followed that up with a loss at Tennessee in a game that currently means the difference between leading in the East and needing the Tigers (and probably Georgia, just to be safe) to lose another.

South Carolina is home -- that's good for them. And there's a bye week before the Florida game, which should keep them from looking ahead in this one. But there's still the small matter of Mississippi State. The Western Division Bulldogs have Dak Prescott, kicked shin and all, and are just good enough to cause some problems for South Carolina. The only demolition for Mississippi State this year has been against LSU, though it's also worth pointing out that the Bulldogs lost to the only other quality teams (Oklahoma State and Auburn) that are only the schedule.

What's more likely is that the Bulldogs are just good enough to cause problems for South Carolina, which does its usual disappearing act for a quarter or two before bouncing back and putting the game out of reach for good. A late touchdown just as the game is starting to get close makes things look easier than they are.

South Carolina 30, Mississippi State 17

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