South Carolina Preview

Ole Miss welcomes South Carolina for homecoming Saturday in Oxford, as the Rebels and Gamecocks are both 3-2 heading into the pivotal SEC contest. Go inside for more.

The Vitals:Having just erased a nine-game SEC skid with a monumental upset of No. 4 Florida, the Rebels (3-2, 1-1) return home to attempt to establish a conference winning streak as South Carolina (3-2, 0-2) visits at 1 p.m. Saturday. The Gamecocks are winless in the SEC but tout the top defense in the country.

The Rebels lead the series 8-5 and have won five straight dating back to a 20-13 win at Columbia in 1981. Ole Miss has won the four SEC meetings: 30-28 at Oxford in 1998, 36-10 in 1999 at Columbia, 43-40 in Oxford in 2003 and 31-28 in Columbia in 2004. The Rebels are 4-2 in home games against the Gamecocks, including one game each in Memphis and Jackson, and own a 3-1 mark in Oxford.

Viewing and Listening Options: ESPN Gameplan will offer the game live, although certain areas will be blacked out – including Mississippi, South Carolina and parts of Tennessee. The game will replay Sunday at 1 p.m. on CSS. The contest can be heard live on the Ole Miss Radio Network and XM 199. The Rebel radio team includes David Kellum (play-by-play), Pete Cordelli (color) and Stan Sandroni (sideline).

The Ole Miss official athletics web site will display live audio and live stats as well as RebelVision programming.

Saturday Storylines: For Ole Miss, forgetting Florida and focusing on the Gamecocks will be key. With a bye week up next, the Rebels are facing the most important game of their season to date – against a team they should beat at home before the off week and back-to-back road games. Ole Miss is squarely back in the bowl picture, but taking care of business in the ones it is favored in must happen. Confidence is great, but the Rebels can't afford sloppiness.

The Head Ball Coach is rotating quarterbacks like the Rebels are rotating runnig backs, but Steve Spurrier has yet to find one he deems sufficient. Chris Smelley will again get the start, but Stephen Garcia will definitely play. Rebel fans should be familiar with Garcia, as he was recruited by Ole Miss before committing to South Carolina. Smelley has been feast or famine, but he provides experience that is absent with other options. Garcia provides a run option under center, but he is also guilty of holding onto the ball too long during pass plays. That problem against Ole Miss would be detrimental, considering Greg Hardy is healthy and already creating havoc in the backfield of opponents. Tommy Beecher is also an option – albeit a distant third one.

Specials teams will be vital this week, as Ole Miss is up against an anemic offense and a top-tier defense. The Rebels' recipe for success centers around making South Carolina produce long drives and benefiting from big plays in the return game. The Gamecocks haven't shown the ability to pile up points, so momentum changers with special teams could provide the difference.

Gamecock Notes

Ole Miss Notes

Steve Spurrier Weekly Press Conference

Opening Statement

We are getting ready to go out to Ole Miss. This will be our second daytime game. We're looking forward to playing Ole Miss. Of course they had that big win last week and have a lot of momentum going forward. They've lost two that they had a chance to win. We've had our chances in a couple and didn't pull through. Maybe its two teams evenly matched and we'll go out there and play our best. Houston Nutt has obviously done a good job to get hose people excited about football. It will be a full house and their crowd will be alive.

As I mentioned earlier in the week, our defense is number one in the nation. That's pretty neat. Ellis Johnson and our coaches and players have done a super job. They've done an excellent job so far and we'll be tested this week. I know our players will be looking forward to a team that throws and runs.

We're pretty healthy. Kenny McKinley, I don't' know if he'll be able to play or not. As far as quarterbacks we'll wait until Thursday to announce who's going to start. Last week if you graded them it would be pretty even. Stephen Garcia played like we thought he would play. He did some good things out of the pocket. Chris Smelley like I mentioned earlier was unlucky at times. Second pass down the middle Joe Hills had a chance to catch it but couldn't make the play. We have to keep working at it.

On if Stephen Garcia may start?

Probably. He may start. We'll let him practice this week and make a decision. We'll try to put the best one out to help us win the ballgame.

It certainly helps when you have a quarterback that can run out of there. Hopefully Stephen can make good decisions. Good decisions are what separate quarterbacks. He can make the throws. He can make some that Chris isn't comfortable making. We just have to coach the heck out of Stephen. If we can get him not scrambling every play, I think he'll be a great quarterback. For his first time out he played pretty well.

On the offensive line?

Our guys play pretty similarly week to week it appears. Our pass protection leaks were mostly the tight ends. That's bad coaching. If your tight ends can't block, don't ask them to. Usually tight ends have to block a little bit. We had some mistakes and didn't get a few balls off that I wish we could have.

On the defense ?Number one in the country.

I used to say if we could get one around here in the top half of the conference (we'd be in good position). Now we've got the top in the country. Our defense is solid. They've got good players, they're well-coached and want to play. We're starting to play better teams both offensively and defensively; the personnel is going to be better than the last few weeks.

On Defensive Coordinator Ellis Johnson?

We all feel fortunate Ellis is here. Our defensive guys are playing very well. They're well-coached. They're doing a super job.

On Bobby Wallace

?I think Bobby has earned a chance to play more. We need to get him out there more...Bobby made some guys miss. He broke tackles and did well.

On redzone offense

?We weren't very good in the redzone. We got on the one-yard line. I tried to call timeout and we couldn't get one. When I saw Stephen get in there and start checking off, I knew something bad was going to happen. He checked into something and (a lineman) didn't get something.

On SEC race

?We've lost two Eastern division games but who knows what can happen. We just have to try to play our best and win one game at a time. We don't have to worry about anything else really except to try to beat Ole Miss this week.

We don't need to put any pressure on our guys except to play the best we can. We need to play with confidence and play a little more relaxed.

On Garcia's mobility

?We've got a few designed runs. Most of the time he just took off. Most of the time it was a smart decision, but he can stick around in (the pocket) sometimes too.

PC courtesy of the official South Carolina web site.

OM Spirit Top Stories