South Carolina-Ole Miss: The Rebels' Cause Is Proving They Deserve Lofty Ranking

The ACC and SEC BlogSenior Analyst ISeptember 24, 2009

DALLAS - JANUARY 02:  Quarterback Jevan Snead #4 of the Mississippi Rebels drops back to pass against the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the AT&T Cotton Bowl on January 2, 2009 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Ole Miss Rebels at South Carolina Gamecocks
Thursday 7:45 p.m. ESPN
Line: Miss -4 (open -3.5)

The first test for the highly ranked Ole Miss awaits in Columbia as the Rebels travel to face South Carolina on a Thursday night ESPN game. Vegas has installed Houston Nutt’s Rebels as a four-point favorite over the 2-1 Gamecocks of Steve Spurrier.

Last Meeting: South Carolina 31 Ole Miss 24 Oxford, MS
The Gamecocks benefited from three Rebel turnovers and a great day passing the ball from QB Chris Smelley as South Carolina defeated Ole Miss just one week after the Rebels had taken down Florida. The Gamecocks had 327 yards passing in the upset win.

Three Keys

1. Turnovers

Thus far this season, Ole Miss is turning the ball over 2.5 times per game. They cannot continue this trend as they enter SEC play. This cost the Rebels in last year’s meeting losing the turnover margin by two.

South Carolina has done a pretty job protecting the ball turning it over just three times this season. QB Stephen Garcia has been much better in taking care of the ball, a key to his increased success this year.

2. Fast Start…Strong Finish

South Carolina’s best quarter this year has been the first where they average 11 of their 27 ppg. In the second half, the Gamecocks are averaging about the same number of points as in the first quarter. The Rebels D has not given up a first-quarter point in two games.

The fourth quarter has been very good to Ole Miss; they are averaging 21 points in the final period. But if they need 21 points this Thursday I think they are in trouble. The Gamecocks defense is averaging just four points allowed in the second half.

3. Run Defense

Something has to give here as Ole Miss is averaging 216 ypg on the ground, but South Carolina is giving up just 87 per game against much better competition. The Gamecocks have found life in their own running game churning out 170 ypg on the ground.

Both teams offensive success this year is predicated off of being able to run and throw the ball. The team that can slow the other’s run game down gains a big advantage.

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Thursday nights are always tough on a short week, especially for the road team. But Ole Miss had a bye in week 2 and played SE Louisiana last week so I think they have been slowly preparing for this game for a while.

I think Steve Spurrier is still one of the best in over scheming his talent level when he has extra time, but that will be very tough on a short week. Surprisingly, Spurrier is just 3-7-1 ATS as a home underdog in Columbia. Nutt, the guy who cannot win as a favorite some say, is 5-4 ATS as a road favorite going back to Arkansas days.

On a short week, I think talent wins out and Ole Miss has more of it.

Ole Miss 30 South Carolina 24
Ole Miss Covers -4


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