October 3, 2008

The Ole Miss - South Carolina match-ups




The match-up:
 The 1. p.m. meeting on
Saturday will be the 14th meeting between Ole Miss and South
Carolina dating back to 1947, and the fifth since the Gamecocks
joined the SEC in 1992. The Rebels lead the series 8-5 and have
won five straight dating back to a 20-13 win at Columbia in
1981. Ole Miss has won the four SEC meetings: 30-28 at Oxford in
1998, 36-10 in 1999 at Columbia, 43-40 in Oxford in 2003 and
31-28 in Columbia in 2004. The Rebels are 4-2 in home games
against the Gamecocks, including one game each in Memphis and
Jackson, and own a 3-1 mark in Oxford.


At stake:  After a 2-2 start that
included a home loss to Vanderbilt, Ole Miss was pretty much given up for dead
when it came to the bowl scene, but a 31-30 road win at Florida has the Rebels
half way home to bowl eligibility.  With a road trip lingering in two weeks
to Alabama after an open date next week, the Rebels are looking at a near
must-win situation against Carolina to stay on track and not have to depend on a
win over the likes of Auburn or LSU later in the season to have a winning
season.  The Rebels also don't want the Florida win to be viewed as a fluke
and want to keep the momentum they gained last week in Gainesville before
playing back to back road games at Alabama and Arkansas later this month.




Keys to the Game:
1) Turnovers.  The Rebels had nine combined in losses at
Wake Forest and Vanderbilt, but won the turnover battle three to
one last week in Gainesville. It was a major consideration in
winning the game.  With Carolina featuring a stingy
defense, the Rebels can't give up short fields and the ball on
turnovers  2) Defensive domination. The Rebels gave up over
400 yards to Florida, but limited Heisman Trophy winner Tim
Tebow to just seven yards on 14 carries and put relentless
pressure on him.  The defense doesn't need to allow
Carolina's sometimes struggling offense to get any confidence
and needs to dominate, especially early in the game. 3)
Offensive line play.  The Ole Miss offensive line wasn't
aggressive and certainly was dominating in the first half at
Florida. Head coach Houston Nutt challenged the group
and they played much better in the second half.  They'll be
challenged against a good Carolina defense, but must find a way
to effectively run block and protect Rebel quarterback Jevan
Snead.


Ole Miss rushing versus the
South Carolina ground defense: 
Ole Miss enters
the game ranked No. 45 among the 119 Division I-A teams in
rushing offense picking up 172 yards a game, which includes
running for 140 yards last week against Florida.  The wild
card in Ole Miss' success on the ground has been the Wild Rebel
- and Nutt noted after the Florida game that he used the unique
formation last week because of its success - getting six or
seven yards a carry and keeping the clock and chains moving. 
It also produced the 40-yard run by Wild Rebel quarterback Dexter
McCluster that went for a touchdown.  The Rebels will
face the current rated "best defense in the country (total
defense).  However, the Gamecocks are currently giving up
116 yards a game on the ground and are ranked No. 39 in the
country in that category.  Expect the Rebels to continue to
use a trio of backs led by junior Cordera Eason along
with true freshmen Brandon Bolden and Enrique
Davis. Eason and Bolden have picked up 261 and 219 yards,
respectively, through five games, while McCluster has added
another 175. Key for Ole Miss will be run blocking along the
offense line.  If the Rebels can establish a running game,
it should put pressure on the Gamecock defense that should open
up some passing opportunities.


Advantage:  Ole Miss 




Ole Miss passing versus the
South Carolina secondary: 
 After struggling
against Samford and Vanderbilt, Snead rebounded with a nice game
against Florida including an 86-yard touchdown strike to junior
wide receiver Shay Hodge late in the game on what
turned out to be the game winner.  While Snead's
performance wasn't flashy - nine of 20 for 185 yards with three
touchdowns (one rushing, two passing) and one interception -
perhaps what he didn't do was more important than what he did
do.  He didn't force passes and made all the right
decisions as far as taking losses or getting rid of the ball
when the play wasn't there.  It was the improvement
offensive coordinator Kent Austin was looking for.  Still,
there's been times this season where not only Snead, but the
offense, has struggled in the passing game.  The Rebels
come in respectable, however.  They are currently at No 60
in passing offense, accounting for 231 yards a game, but face a
South Carolina defense that has been stingy on defense, giving
up just 105 yards a game and ranked second nationally among
Division I teams. Key for the Rebel passing game likely will be
establishing an effective running game that causes the Gamecock
secondary to loosen its coverage on Rebel receivers in favor of
run support.


Advantage: South Carolina


South Carolina rushing
versus the Ole Miss ground defense: 
Concerns for
Carolina headed into the season were along its offensive line
and having a featured back.  Through five games, that
concern is glaring in the running game with the Gamecocks coming
in at No. 91 nationally in rushing offense at 122 yards a game. 
The leading rusher is senior tailback Mike Davis with 54 carries
for 254 yards and a touchdown. Ole Miss enters the contest
ranked at No. 43 giving up 119 yards a game on the ground. 
The challenge for Carolina will be a Rebel defensive line that
is very deep, talented, and finally, healthy.  The Rebels
threw a defensive line rotation of about 10 players at Florida
with little to no drop off in talent, when for example, former
five-star recruit Jerrell Powe replaced former
four-star recruit
Ted Laurent 
at nose tackle.  Now a near full speed, All-American Greg
Hardy along with freshman All-American Marcus Tillman (now a
junior) and former four-star defensive end Kentrell
Lockett  were obvious disruptive forces at defensive
end and appeared to hang on Tebow on just about every play. 
Linebackers support in stopping the run has been excellent with
former JUCO transfers Tony Fein , Ashlee
Palmer  and Patrick Trahan  improving
greatly over the course of the season.


Edge: Ole Miss





South Carolina passing versus the Ole
Miss secondary:
 Despite
giving up 319 yards to Tebow and Percy Harvin (13 catches for 186 yards) at
Florida, Ole Miss enters the game ranked No. 71 in pass defense, giving up 219
yards a game through the air.  Despite a three quarterback rotation, South
Carolina is ranked No. 56 in passing offense, good for 220 yards a game. Among
the three quarterbacks,
Chris Smelley leads the group with 77-of-125
passing for 844 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions and apparently will
draw the start on Saturday. Redshirt freshman Stephen Garcia saw the most action
last week against UAB, completing 13-of-20 passes for 131 yards and rushing for
another 86 yards. The junior tandem of tight end Jared Cook and wide receiver
Moe Brown are the top targets with 19 catches for 262 yards and 18 for 267,
respectively.  While pass defense was to be an area of concern for Ole Miss
headed into the season, the effort has been helped considerably by a defensive
line that has applied pressure to opposing quarterbacks. 
Former offensive players Marshay Greenand
Jeremy McGee have
successfully made the transitions from wide receiver and running back,
respectively, to cover corners.  The Rebels will likely be without true
freshman
Marcus Temple, a key
contributor on special teams and rising nickel back who was one of the heroes of
the Florida win with his first hit on Tebow on fourth and one late in the game. 
The stuff gave Ole Miss the win.  He is nursing an ankle injury and is
questionable for Saturday.


Edge: Even


Special Teams:  Both teams
feature solid kickers who are ranked in the Top 50 nationally,
the Rebels' Josh Shene

is five of six on field goals on the year while Ryan Succop is
ten of 12.  The Rebels' punting has been inconsistent at
times, but senior punter Rob Park
 followed
a short punt last week with a couple of nice punts that helped
the Rebels with field position.  Justin Sparks has done an
admirable job in placing kick offs from sideline to hash mark
that has aided the Rebels coverage.  Ole Miss had 151
return yards against Florida and 208 against Vanderbilt with


Mike
Wallace

being a major threat on kick of returns for Ole Miss. On the
downside, Ole Miss has given up over 200 return yards in their
last two games.


Edge:  Even


Weather forecast: 
Generally sunny despite a few afternoon clouds. High 81F.
Winds light and variable.


Broadcast information:  TV:
The South Carolina-Ole Miss game will be televised on a
pay-per-view basis in the state of South Carolina. It will also
be available throughout the rest of the country as part of
ESPN's GamePlan package. However, the game will be blacked out
in the state of Mississippi and in Memphis. The
CSS replay of the game will be Sunday at 1 p.m. CT (Richard
Cross, play-by-play; Harry Harrison, color analyst). RADIO: Ole
Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli,
color analyst; Stan Sandroni, sideline reporter). XM Satellite
Radio channel 201. WEB: OleMissSports.com will provide live
audio through RebelVision, live stats and an in-game blog. The
official Rebel athletics website will also provide a full game
recap, a photo gallery and live post game video.

 










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