As the No. 20 Ole Miss Rebels prepare for their toughest test of the year, one of the keys for success obviously lies with the play of quarterback Jevan Snead.
Snead, who was the talk of plenty a preseason Heisman discussion, had his best game Saturday, passing for 237 yards and three touchdowns against Vanderbilt. But Snead also threw three interceptions.
So, what's with all the inconsistency?
A lot of it may have to do with offensive line protection. After losing Michael Oher, Ole Miss had to replace the All-American, which has been tough to say the least. The team has gone with Bradley Sowell, but he has struggled so far.
To his credit, however, Sowell's has improved drastically since the South Carolina game (that or no Eric Norwood, of course).
Snead also does not seem very comfortable in the pocket at times. When the play breaks down and receivers aren't open, Snead gets fidgety and, at times, makes some bad decisions such as forcing the ball into coverage or taking a sack.
Considering all that, what does Snead need to do to lead the Rebs over the Tide on Saturday?
If you recall, the quarterback played pretty lights-out at the end of last season. However, he wasn't putting up many 300- to 400-yard days or throwing four or five touchdown passes per game.
He was just playing his role and limiting mistakes.
Snead began the season poorly in 2008, throwing 10 interceptions in his first six games. During the six-game winning streak to end the season, however, Snead only threw three interceptions.
Snead has the playmakers to not have to put the team on his back.
Senior Shay Hodge is coming off the best game of his career with eight receptions for 122 yards receiving and two touchdowns versus Vanderbilt. After the '07 Alabama controversial play to end the game, you know Hodge wants to have another breakout game.
Dexter McCluster has the ability to turn a short underneath route into a 30-yard reception and freshman Pat Patterson has improved each week.
Add a healthy Gerald Harris, who caught two touchdowns in the Cotton Bowl and is a great pass protector, and Snead has no reason to put the team on his back.
When Ole Miss defeated Florida last year in the Swamp, Snead's completion percentage was under 50 percent (9 of 20) and he ended the day with just 185 yards, 86 of those on one play to Hodge. Snead threw only one interception.
The key is for Snead to make the easy throws, not forcing the ball due to Saban's blitzing scheme, and to score in the redzone.
Snead has to be consistent.
For 60 minutes.
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