South Carolina Gamecocks vs. No. 4 Ole Miss Rebels
ESPN, 7:30 ET
Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, SC
Tonight, the No. 4 Ole Miss Rebels (2-0) travel to Columbia to face the South Carolina Gamecocks (2-1, 0-1 SEC). The game is a Thursday night game and is possibly the biggest game on South Carolina's schedule this year.
The game is also circled for Ole Miss, as last year South Carolina came into Oxford and beat the Rebels 31-24 one week after they handed Florida their only loss of the season.
There has been some talk leading up to the game, specifically from Ole Miss defensive end Kentrell Lockett, who said, "This Thursday might be a replay of the Mississippi State game. We might have 11 or 12 [sacks]."
Uh, Kentrell, you guys have three sacks in two games. Against Memphis and Southeastern Louisiana, no less.
To be fair, Lockett wasn't predicting 11 or 12 sacks, he just said it is a possibility. Still, the chances of that happening are so unlikely, and saying something like that is stupid because the USC offensive line could take that like a direct insult to them.
The line for the game is Ole Miss -3.5, and the over/under is 53 points. I would personally take South Carolina +3.5 and the over. While USC may not necessarily win, they will definitely keep it close, and the game will go down to the wire.
Also, Ole Miss has a high-powered offense with QB Jevan Snead and WR Dexter McCluster, while USC seems to have found an offense behind QB Stephen Garcia, scoring 75 points over their last two games (@ UGA, vs. Florida Atlantic), so they should definitely combine for over 53 points (last year they combined for 55).
Going into the game we have two teams that have looked very different this year.
While Ole Miss was expected to compete for the SEC West crown with Alabama and LSU, they have only looked average so far, waiting until the fourth quarter to put away Memphis.
Jevan Snead has not looked as good as he did last year and the offense has been a bit stagnant. I think the No. 4 ranking is a little too high. Are they a top 20 team? Yes. Are they a top five team? No.
Snead has some threats in his wideouts, specifically Dexter McCluster. McCluster is a great athlete who can catch a deep bomb or run for a score. He was hospitalized last week with flu-like symptoms, but appears to be better now, as do the rest of the Rebels who exhibited flu-like symptoms.
Snead also has another deadly target in WR Shay Hodge, who is actually his favorite target. RB Brandon Bolden can also cause problems.
On the other hand, South Carolina has looked better than most expected so far, especially the offense. After a poor showing against NC State, they scored 37 points against UGA and 38 points against Florida Atlantic, both bowl-winners from last year.
Most impressive has been QB Stephen Garcia. Garcia managed the game well against NC State and looked like a superstar QB against UGA and FAU.
The running game looked good against FAU—totalling 287 yards—with three running backs all looking great. Brian Maddox had three touchdowns, Kenny Miles had 56 yards on five carries, and Jarvis Giles had 113 yards on 11 carries and earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors.
The Gamecocks also have a big receiving threat in TE Weslye Saunders, who an bring in almost any ball and is almost impossible to take down. They also have some quality wideouts in Moe Brown, Tori Gurley, Jason Barnes, and Alshon Jeffrey, to name a few.
The offensive line has looked okay, but not great and will need to have a great game if the run is going to get going. Sacks shouldn't be an issue, as Garcia has shown he is more than capable of avoiding the rush.
On defense, the Rebels return a secondary with an extra year of experience since the last time they met the Gamecocks, so expect a pick or two. They had a very heralded front seven coming into the season, but they have not looked so great this season, only tallying three sacks.
While they will definitely get pressure on Garcia, he has proven that he can make plays out of the pocket and escape the rush, so there shouldn't be more than two sacks. The Rebels' D is also led by former USC coordinator Tyrone Nix, so there is a bit of a revenge factor.
For Carolina, the defense looked great against NC State, bad against UGA, and average against Florida Atlantic. There was not nearly enough pressure in the UGA game or the first half of the FAU game. During the second half, however, the D looked great.
Jevan Snead is by far the best QB the Cocks have faced and they will certainly give up some big plays, but they should be able to limit the damage and keep the score low enough that the offense can keep up.
Both teams are getting back some important defensive lineman. Ole Miss DE Greg Hardy is at full health for the first time this season, and looks to make an impact in the backfield.
Meanwhile, Carolina gets DE Nathan Pepper back from injury and DT Ladi Ajiboye back from suspension. Ajiboye has yet to play this year, but he made a huge impact last year, while Pepper looked great in the first game of the year.
Carolina's kickoff coverage has been horrible. Adam Yates has been kicking the ball deep (last week he didn't look great but was playing with a leg injury that forced him out of the game late, so this week he should be back to his form from the first two games), but no one seems to know how to tackle once the returner has the ball.
Hopefully they've improved since Saturday, or the defense could be in for a long night of having to defend 40 yards of the field.
Spencer Lanning has proven himself as a capable kicker over the last two games, and he will not lose the game for Carolina.
The crowd will be rocking and will definitely make it tough for Snead to communicate the signals at the line. During the UGA game last year, Matt Stafford was forced to go to the silent count, and it will certainly be louder tonight. Top five opponent + Thursday night nationally televised game + one of the best student sections in the nation = an insanely loud stadium.
Carolina is 1-31 against Top Five teams all time, with the sole win coming against UNC in 1981. Hopefully they can make that 2-31 tonight. They have all the tools to beat Ole Miss, as the offense that scored 31 points against them last week has a better QB, better RBs, a better offensive line, and better receivers, and the defense is just as solid.
With the crowd at their back, Carolina should pull off the upset.
USC 31, Ole Miss 28