South Carolina at Mississippi State Preview: Quick Thoughts on USC's Defense

STARKVILLE, MS - SEPTEMBER 15: Coach Dan Mullens of the Mississippi State Bulldogs watches his team from the sidelines in a game against LSU on September 15, 2011 at Davis Wade stadium in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images)

This post continues our series previewing Miss. St. Yesterday we talked about Carolina's offense.

--I think the key matchup in this game, or at least the one where we have a huge advantage that we can use to our gain, is probably our defensive line against Miss. St.'s offensive line. (FWtCBT agrees.) State has been plagued with injuries on the offensive line all year long, and the line's inability to get anything going against the league's better defenses has contributed immeasurably to State's current 0-3 league record. Against LSU, they lost stalwart G Tobias Smith for the year, and they are currently playing a freshman at center. The Bulldogs have not been able to protect their quarterbacks, and their vaunted rushing attack is having more and more trouble getting much going on the ground, too. They're 82nd in the nation in sacks allowed. This is all great news for Carolina. Melvin Ingram will be back to full strength this week, and I expect you're going to see Carolina getting after Chris Relf, Tyler Russell, and Vick Ballard early and often. State has some solid players at the skills positions, but if the line doesn't give them time for the plays to develop, they're going to have a lot of trouble.

--If the Bulldogs have trouble protecting Relf / Russell and opening running lanes for Ballard, you can expect they'll go to the quick passing game, which is a trademark of the Urban Meyer / Dan Mullen spread option. Ever since we went to playing more press coverages, I've really, really liked our ability to slow down opposing passing games. Our defensive backs and linebackers have been playing very physical ball, breaking through blocking schemes, and making plays on the ball. MSU obviously has better playmakers than Vandy and Kentucky, both of whom Carolina stuffed in the short passing game. However, MSU is probably no better than Auburn in this regard, and Carolina would have easily held the Tigers to under 300 total yards if not for all of the problems the offense had staying on the field that afternoon. I like our chances to hold MSU off if our defensive line establishes itself early in the game.

That's a wrap for tonight.

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