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#4 Ole Miss at South Carolina
Thursday Night ESPN
#4 ranked Ole Miss travels to South Carolina to take on the Gamecocks Thursday Night on ESPN. The betting line at sportsbook.com currently favors Ole Miss by -3.5 putting them in the unfamiliar role of SEC road favorite. The Total on the game is 53. Ole Miss will be looking for a little payback from a year ago in a game which saw them lose by a touchdown at home to Spurrier and company. That game was the week after last years huge upset when the Rebels knocked off Florida in the swamp 31-30.
To say that expectations are high in Oxford would be an understatement. The #4 ranked Ole Miss Rebels have their fans thinking SEC Championship or bust and the first step towards Atlanta starts Thursday in Columbia, South Carolina. The Right Reverend Houston Nutt and his Ole Miss Rebels will get their first real challenge of the season when they go up against the Ole Ball Coach Steve Spurrier and his South Carolina Gamecocks. Ole Miss is coming into this game 2-0 with victories over two overmatched opponents in Memphis and Southeastern Louisiana. South Carolina on the other hand has taken a different route.
Ole Miss ranked #4 though? Someone has to explain that one. Sure, couch Houston Nutt walked into a near perfect situation there. Loads of veteran players were returning last year from a 2007 team that although they went 3-9, was showing signs of being on the rise. In 2006 they came close in games against Georgia, Bama, Auburn and LSU. Then last year they go 9-4 and knock off Florida along the way. But they still dropped games to teams like Vandy and South Carolina. When all is said and done they may very well be deserving of the ranking. Heck, maybe they'll win the SEC. But can they please prove it on the field first? Beating Memphis and SE Louisiana should hardly qualify them as the #4 team in the Nation.
Having said that, we're not knocking Ole Miss. It's not their fault where pollsters rank them. It's a knock on the system in general. But let's move on to this game against the Gamecocks. Here's the Rebels chance to prove they belong. A Thursday Night Prime time SEC road game with the Nation watching. Knock off South Carolina and people will start believing, including this writer.
The question that needs to be answered is how will Nutt and company react when they go from playing the underdog role to being the team with the target on their back. In his career at Arkansas his teams usually faired better when he was able to sneak up on his opponent and pull the upset, but this year everyone knows about Ole Miss and they won’t be sneaking up on anyone.
One need only look at the Georgia South Carolina game where SC gave up 41 to realize that Ole Miss can certainly pull this off. Ole Miss scores in bunches. They have scored 45+ points in 4 of their last 5 games going back to last year. Heisman candidate QB Jevan Snead can lead an offense and should have no trouble doing so against a Spurrier defense that just isn't there yet.
We've been Spurrier fans since he took over the SC program. But every year he seems to find a way to let us down. The team hasn't won more than 8 games since he took over. The team seems destined to be a 7 win team year after year. Performances like the one two weeks ago in Georgia certainly don't help his cause. Ole Miss will get their points Thursday Night. We're just not so sure SC can match them.
OLE MISS KEY TO VICTORY
We all know about Ole Miss and their offense lead by Quarterback Jevan Snead. He is one of the best QBs in the country and you know he will put up points. The question I have is how good is this Ole Miss defense? Statistically they are a middle of the pack SEC defense, but that was against weaker competition. How will they hold up against a South Carolina offense that has seemed to find their rhythm after their embarrassing offensive production in their 7-0 win over NC State? South Carolina’s offense lead by QB Stephen Garcia were able to put up 37 points and 427 total yards against Georgia in their narrow loss and then put up over 500 of total offense against Florida Atlantic. The leader of Ole Miss’ defense Greg Hardy has practiced this week and Houston Nutt says he is probable for Thursday’s game. If he is able to play and be full speed that gives this Ole Miss a huge boost in their pass rush which has only 3 sacks in their first two games. Ole Miss’ defense was able to force 5 turnovers against Southeastern Louisiana and held them to an incredible 0 for 14 on 3rd down conversions. If Ole Miss can get anywhere near that kind of production from their defense they will give South Carolina plenty of problems.
SOUTH CAROLINA’S KEY TO VICTORY
Much like Ole Miss I expect South Carolina’s offense to put up points. They have found their rhythm as of late and have been very impressive in their last two games. Steve Spurrier has finally found his QB in Stephen Garcia and just ask the Georgia defense how hard he is to handle. The key to victory for this South Carolina team is the same as it is for Ole Miss, DEFENSE. Jevan Snead is a great quarterback who will be playing on Sundays and is very capable of putting up a lot of points, but in his career there have been times when he has been streaky. Memphis was able to get pressure on him early in the game and cause turnovers which is exactly what this Gamecock defense must do. Houston Nutt and Ole Miss run a very balanced attack. Ole Miss is going to use the run early to set up the play action passing game. South Carolina is only allowing 87 yards rushing a game which ranks 2nd in the SEC. South Carolina needs to be aggressive in stopping the run and getting pressure on Jevan Snead and make him make decisions quicker then he wants to. If they are able to be successful and cause some turnovers they could make it a long night for the Ole Miss offense.
We don't like to lay points, period. We certainly don't like to lay points in the SEC. Furthermore, we simply hate the idea of laying points with an SEC team on the road in a huge Thursday Night prime time affair. But that's what we are going to do here. Nothing strong. Barely more than a lean. But we're going to lay the number here with Ole Miss as they look to prove they belong. You can currently lay -3 -115 but we think that line may come down some more. It opened at -4.5 and has come down to where it sits now. We suspect the public will drive this number down even further. The Ole Miss team was hit with the flu bug last week and the more that type of news circulates, the more likely the number is to drop. You should have no trouble laying 3 or less by kickoff.
The Gamecocks only led Florida Atlantic 17-16 at the half last week. It will take a much better effort against Ole Miss. If in fact the Ole Miss defense can continue to play they way they have against Memphis and SE Lou, it will be a long night for the Gamecocks. It's a big if, but we'll know plenty more by roughly 11 pm est. Thursday. Ole Miss -3 over South Carolina. No opinion on the total. All depends on whether or not the Rebels really do have a defense.
If you're looking for more picks this week, be sure to check out all of our available options. We have a full service consensus report, a very popular service called the Consensus Club as well as a group of very talented handicappers picking games each and every week. We also have a sports monitor site which monitors all of the top handicappers in the land.
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