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FIVE REASONS: South Carolina at Mississippi

Sorry to be late this week. As always, visit the Open Thread during the game.


1. The QB mess. Usually, even when I disagree with Spurrier, i can understand why he's doing what he's doing. When it comes to starting Chris Smelley over Stephen Garcia, I'm lost. Say all you want about whether Garcia was too quick to run; it doesn't matter if Smelley makes a better decision if he can't get the receiver the ball. Garcia appears to have the better and more accurate arm. A worse passer whose more likely to throw the ball is not the better option.

2. A deceptive record. Yes, the Rebels are 3-2 with losses to Vanderbilt and Wake Forest. But they are 11 points away from being undefeated. And don't forget that one of those three wins is over Florida. Ole Miss is a great team.

3. Getting in the backfield. Ole Miss is 8th in the nation, and 1st in the conference, with an average of 8.4 tackles for loss a game. Yes, that's per game. The last thing South Carolina needs as it searches for its ground game is a team that's good at stopping running plays before they start.

4. Protecting the quarterback. The Ole Miss offensive line has done a commendable job of keeping Jevan Snead upright. They've allowed just four sacks in five games. South Carolina has allowed 17, better than Hawaii, San Jose and Arkansas -- and no one else.

5. Jevan Snead. Snead is not an unqualified success at Ole Miss. He's been very erratic, with poor performances against Vanderbilt and Samford(!), when he threw a combined six picks, and a great effort against Wake, where he threw just one interception and was otherwise sterling.

vs Wake Forest / 9.6.08 Passing Rushing
Comp Att Pct Yds TD Rush Yds Avg TD
Jevan Snead 20 31 64.5 253 4 5 16 3.2 0

If the good Snead shows up, South Carolina's in trouble.



1. The letdown factor. There might be something to the idea that a team has a bad game after pulling a great upset. South Carolina better hope so. The Gamecocks have no ability to generate the kind of big plays Ole Miss did against Florida; if the Rebels play like that this week, the Gamecocks won't be able to keep up.

2. Jevan Snead. Good Jevan Snead could slice and dice the Gamecocks' secondary, or at least make it look merely ordinary. Bad Jevan Snead, though, could make the defensive backfield look like it's stocked with All-Americans. This might be the "real" Snead; even against Florida, his completion numbers were mediocre (9-for-20).

3. Defense. Maybe Tyrone Nix's defense will finally win a game for South Carolina. I'm probably a bit too hard on Nix, but the fact that his offenses didn't do well last year is indisputable. Under Ellis Johnson, South Carolina is No. 1 in total defense; the only real weakness is disrupting plays; the sack numbers are middling and the TFL statistics are disappointing.

4. Mc is back. Kenny McKinley will play against Mississippi, according to Spurrier. While the Gamecocks passing game has been okay without its star receiver, it has clearly lacked a steady first option. McKinley provides that.

5. Ryan Succop. This game will be close and could come down to the kicking game. In that case, we'll take our chances with Succop, who is 10-for-12 this year and has yet to miss one from fewer than 40 yards out.

PREDICTION: I initially thought this would be a relatively easy win for South Carolina. I was wrong. The Rebels are good. They're not great, but you don't have to be to beat the Gamecocks this year. It's a narrow loss, but a big defeat for South Carolina's bowl hopes. Ole Miss 21, South Carolina 20