The Opponents: Jacksonville State

All indications are that Ole Miss couldn't have scheduled a more difficult Ohio Valley Conference foe for its season opener. Jacksonville State has been picked to win its league.

Obviously winning the OVC isn't the same as winning the SEC. But nevertheless, the Gamecocks aren't a team to be taken lightly.

The Rebels host JSU Saturday, Sept. 4 at 2:30 p.m. in a game televised by CSS. The Gamecocks will bring to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium-Hollingsworth Field 46 letterwinners from last season's 8-3 team that couldn't participate in the FCS playoffs because of "academic" sanctions. Jacksonville State was an APR casualty for postseason.

But veteran head coach Jack Crowe, in his 11th season at JSU, believes what's past is past.

"We did the deal, served the time, felt the pain and hopefully we're better off for doing it," said the former Arkansas head coach. "So do we have more pride because we didn't taste the success last year? I would highly suspect we do. But is it a slogan or a theme? No, it's never really been discussed."

The Gamecocks' 6-1 record was also the league's best last season. Gone from that team are 12 seniors and six starters.

Perrilloux is gone from JSU

Crowe and staff have to replace All-American quarterback Ryan Perrilloux, the former LSU signal-caller. But they do have seven other offensive starters back including preseason All-OVC selections in tight end Cory Freeman and offensive linemen Tylor Chambers and Curt Porter.

Defensively senior defensive back T.J. Heath will once again be a point of concern for opposing quarterbacks. Heath was named an All-American by three different outlets last season when he ranked third nationally in passes defended (1.45/game) and 10th nationally in interceptions (0.55/game). His most memorable game was against Tennessee-Martin when he had three interceptions, returning two of those for touchdowns.

Marques Ivory, a sophomore from Warner-Robbins, Ga., is the likely starter at quarterback when JSU arrives in Oxford. The 6-foot-1, 235-pounder played in nine games last season, completing 39 of 60 passes for 315 yards with four touchdowns and one interception.

Jacksonville State averaged 35 points for its 11 contests last season and allowed just 17 points per game. JSU was competitive in its games against BCS teams last season, losing to Georgia Tech 37-17 and to Florida State 19-9.

Head Coach Jack Crowe

The Gamecocks hope the third time is charm – for being picked first in the Ohio Valley Conference, that is. The previous two times they were the league's choice to win it all (2005 and 2008), they failed to do so.

And only 12 times in OVC history has the team chosen to win it all gone on to do so.

"We're trying to step into the domain of a precious few, I can tell you that," Crowe said. "Eastern Illinois dominated with Tony Romo and won it. Eastern Kentucky and the others who have (won it) were really special football teams. What this means is everyone has Jacksonville State circled on their schedules."

Ole Miss and Jacksonville State have never played each other in football through the years.

Crowe was head coach at Arkansas for two seasons and one game, fired after the Razorbacks lost the 1992 season opener to The Citadel. Rebel head coach Houston Nutt coached Arkansas for 10 seasons prior to arriving at Ole Miss for the 2008 gridiron campaign.

Crowe's JSU teams have had seven consecutive winning seasons heading into 2010.

After opening in Oxford, Jacksonville State will host Chattanooga on Sept. 11. The Gamecocks have an updated stadium this year. Burgess-Snow Field at JSU Stadium will open to a new seating capacity of 24,000. That Chattanooga game will mark the end of an 18-month, $47 million expansion that included a new dorm, 33 luxury skyboxes and a new press box.

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