• The matchup: South Alabama (1-2) at No. 23 MSU (3-0)
• The kickoff: 6 p.m., pay-per-view
• The weather: Sunny and warm in the afternoon, but temps will dip quickly once the sun goes down. Bring a light jacket.
• The line: MSU –34
Last week I might have underestimated MSU’s opponent, Troy. I might be guilty of the same with South Alabama, which is a program transitioning to the Division I-A level. The Jaguars will be full-fledged I-A members next year as they also join the Sun Belt Conference.
USA is 0-2 against BCS schools, both of those losses coming to N.C. State – 35-13 last year and 31-7 last week. The line on this game tells us what we intuitively know, that MSU is on a different level than South Alabama in every sense of the word. So the question here isn’t who’s going to win, but by how much.
Sure, USA runs an offense very much like Troy’s, and MSU gave up 572 yards in that game last week. But the talent level at South Alabama isn’t the same. Then there’s the size difference, and you can bet MSU will be able to wear down the Jaguars. Not that they’ll go down easy; they trailed N.C. State 28-0 at halftime last week and, according to their coach Joey Jones, never lacked for effort in the second half.
“I think the kids really fought hard and kept fighting. That’s one thing I like about this team,” Jones said at his Monday press conference.
MSU has something to prove, though. The Troy game, while a win, was a frustrating one for the Bulldogs. They made numerous mistakes on both sides of the ball and darn near lost the game. The emphasis this week has been to refocus and make sure the fundamentals are sound.
South Alabama could very well end up being a solid Sun Belt program. But this week, it’ll be MSU’s stepping stone to a 4-0 start.
• The prediction: MSU 52, South Alabama 7.