STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi State has won two straight games and is in relatively good health heading into November.
That momentum is nice for the Bulldogs, because the schedule is about to get very difficult, with No. 14 South Carolina, No. 12 Texas A&M and No. 1 Alabama looming in the next three weeks.
Mississippi State (4-3, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) travels to face the Gamecocks (6-2, 4-2) on Saturday in Columbia, S.C.
"We see this as a great opportunity to continue to show what we've got and to get better against great opponents," Mississippi State cornerback Cedric Jiles said.
That's an optimistic take on a punishing stretch of games, but the Bulldogs do have some reasons for confidence, including a more productive defense, a rapidly improving young quarterback and one of the league's most diverse playmakers.
Mississippi State was torched by LSU on Oct. 5 for 59 points and 563 total yards, but has played much better in recent wins over Bowling Green and Kentucky.
Now the Gamecocks will have to deal with South Carolina's talented offense that includes quarterback Connor Shaw, running back Mike Davis and receiver Bruce Ellington.
Even hobbled with a knee injury, Shaw helped rally South Carolina past Missouri in a 27-24 double overtime win on Saturday. He completed 20 of 29 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns.
"That's what makes them a championship contender team — they've got a weapon at every position," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. "If you want to go stop one of them, they have four other guys who can beat you."
Mississippi State's quarterback situation is still a little murky, with sophomore Dak Prescott sharing time with senior Tyler Russell.
Mullen says Russell is expected to play following an ankle injury in Thursday's 28-22 victory over Kentucky.
Both quarterbacks have had good moments, but it's the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Prescott who has had the breakout season, with 1,158 passing yards, 490 rushing yards and 13 total touchdowns.