Today’s game: South Alabama (1-2) at No. 23 MSU (3-0), 6 p.m., PPV (Bart Gregory play-by-play, Jackie Sherrill analyst), XM 191, Sirius 94.
MSU is back home for another non-conference game, its third of the season. Up next is a bye week, so the Bulldogs obviously want to get some things fixed from last week and regain any confidence that was damaged last week in that 30-24 win at Troy.
This is likely to be a blowout, but if you’re watching, keep this in mind: Quarterback Tyler Russell has thrown 119 consecutive passes without an interception; 19 more and he’ll break Wesley Carroll‘s school record. Russell’s last pick was Nov. 5, 2011, against UT Martin. In his career, he’s thrown 10 interceptions in 273 attempts.
Personnel note: Defensive lineman P.J. Jones remains on indefinite suspension, so this will be the fourth game he’s missed.
• Remember to follow me on Twitter today for updates during and after the game, and be sure you visit the Journal’s college football page to stay up-to-date on what’s happening around the country. Now, let’s review MSU’s three keys to victory from the Journal’s GameDay section.
1. Don’t get burned again. South Alabama runs a spread offense very similar to that of Troy’s, and the Trojans burned MSU last week for 572 yards. Troy has more experience and athletes than USA, but the scheme itself clearly gave the Bulldogs some trouble.
Players and coaches blamed a lack of focus and missed tackles, and they felt those problems would be easily fixed during practices the past week. Russell called the Troy game a “wake-up call,” while linebacker Cam Lawrence called it a “kick to the butt.” Defensive tackle Josh Boyd said MSU was “playing down” to Troy’s level, something MSU has shown a tendency to do in the past.
2. Win the turnover battle. MSU has done this every week, and its plus-11 turnover margin is tied for first in the country. State won this battle 4-0 against Troy, which was a huge reason for winning the game.
A young program like South Alabama could be prone to mistakes, especially considering this is its first trip to an SEC stadium and its first game against a ranked opponent. The Jaguars have been better passing than running the ball, and that plays into one of MSU’s greatest strengths – it has seven interceptions on the year.
3. Wear ’em down. MSU will be the deeper, stronger team, and pounding away at the Jaguars on both sides of the ball will likely wear them down. The Bulldogs ran the ball very well against Troy (213 yards) and go four-deep at tailback.
MSU’s offensive line has three inches and 43 pounds per man on USA’s defensive front, and there’s a size advantage going the other direction, too.
• Notable stat: Under Dan Mullen, MSU is 23-0 when leading after three quarters, 0-15 when trailing, and 1-2 when it’s tied.
• Weather: My trusty Weather Channel app tells me that it will be clear (my eyes tell me that, too) with temps down near 80 come kickoff, and dipping to about 70 by game’s end. Perfect.