KEYS TO VICTORY
Beat the heat
Today is expected to be a scorcher with temperatures in the mid-90s by the time toe meets leather this afternoon. Suspensions and injuries could have Mississippi State mighty thin at some spots, so the coaching staff will need to do a good job of keeping a steady flow of substitutions throughout the game.
The Bulldogs’ offense, with newcomer Tommy Stevens at the helm, showcased balance last week with 261 rushing yards and another 236 through the air. It might be tempting to keep handing the ball to Kylin Hill after he ran for 197 yards in the opener, but MSU must continue to evolve its passing game for future games on the schedule.
MSU has forced at least one turnover in 17-straight games and is coming off a week in which it created four of them. With the Bulldogs still young and inexperienced on defense, creating turnovers is a good way to build confidence and also get the ball back to their offense.
WHAT TO WATCH
When MSU has the ball
Not only was State balanced on offense in the opener, the Bulldogs also spread the ball around. Nine players caught passes and five different players scored touchdowns against Louisiana last week.
Southern Miss finished No. 3 in the nation in total defense in 2018. The Golden Eagles only gave up 229 yards to Alcorn State last week, forcing two turnovers.
When Southern Miss has the ball
Jack Abraham may have led the country in completion percentage a year ago but is turnover prone, having tossed 11 interceptions in 10 career games at USM. The Golden Eagles are also without their top wideout Quez Watkins, who was suspended for the first two games of the season.
Mississippi State forced four turnovers last week but also missed a lot of tackles. A young and inexperienced defense will try to correct some of their mistakes in Week 2.
CRUCIAL MATCHUP Kylin Hill vs. Southern Miss run defense
MSU junior running back Kylin Hill has passed the century mark four times on the ground in his career, including a career-best 197 yard performance last week.
However, Southern Miss has a streak of 15-straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher dating back to 2017. The Golden Eagles limited De’Shawn Waller of Alcorn State to 56 yards and the Braves to just 80 total rushing yards as a team.