No. 4 Mississippi Rebels at South Carolina Preview and Pick

NCAA Football Betting Preview
No. 4 Mississippi Rebels (2-0) at South Carolina Gamecocks (2-1)
Thursday September 24th, 7:30PM Eastern betting line – Mississippi -3.5

The Mississippi Rebels reached the number 4 ranking in America this week and now they will head on the road to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks this Thursday Night. The Rebels have been stellar in their first two games outscoring the opposition 97-20. The Rebels high powered offense is led by quarterback Jevan Snead and a host of playmakers on the outside. However, most of the nation is ready to see how the 4th ranked Rebels will handle a tough SEC opponent. South Carolina is a solid football team and is just starting to click on the offensive side of the ball. Steve Spurrier’s offense has struggled over the past few seasons ranking in the bottom of the SEC in terms of production. However, the Gamecocks put up 37 points against Georgia in a close loss and also backed that up with 38 at home in a victory over Florida Atlantic. The Gamecocks have had success both on the ground and through the air, but will it be enough to hang with the Rebels this Thursday?

Mississippi returns nearly all starters from one of the best offenses in the SEC in 2008. Led by quarterback Jevan Snead who had a big sophomore campaign racking up 2,762 yards, the Rebels passing game leads the offensive attack. Snead throws a beautiful pass and can put throws in the right places. However, Snead has not looked as sharp early on in the season displayed by two picks thrown against Memphis in the opener. The Rebels offense did not come on strong until the latter part of the 2008 season and if that happens against the SEC will be in trouble. Mississippi is already averaging over 400 yards per game in their first two games. WR Shay Hodge is a big play threat on the outside while Dexter McCluster is a proven talent as well. Tailback Brandon Bolden is the primary runner on the ground and had 105 yards in last week’s blowout over Southeastern Louisiana. However, the passing game will determine if the Rebels are able to escape without being upset in Columbia this week.

South Carolina was supposed to have one of the better defenses in the conference. The pass defense ranked 2nd in the country while the Gamecocks ranked 13th overall in 2008. While the unit lost many starters, there are some young talented players stepping onto the field. Still, the Gamecocks have looked vulnerable over the last few weeks. South Carolina allowed 41 points from Georgia and had a difficult time stopping Florida Atlantic in the first half last week before pulling away to a 38-16 win. Perhaps even more important area of focus is the South Carolina secondary. The Gamecocks have some talent in their back 4, but they are all sophomores and freshmen. It may be ideal to have an experienced secondary when a superior passing game comes rolling into town and it will be interesting to see how those young guys hold up throughout the course of the game.

On the other side of the ball, South Carolina has been improving nicely. Stephen Garcia emerged as a reliable quarterback against Georgia controlling the offense. Garcia was plagued by turnovers last season, but has thrown just one pick in the last two games. South Carolina rushed for 287 yards last week against Florida Atlantic which was the most by the team since the Spurrier Era began. The added success on the ground may be a big reason the passing game is improving as well. South Carolina ranked dead last in the SEC in rushing last year averaging just 94 yards per game as a team. However behind freshman Jarvis Giles and other young backs, South Carolina is finding success on the ground. Garcia will still be a huge difference maker this Thursday night. The sophomore quarterback while have to find away for his Gamecocks to score point to contend with the Ole Miss offense. Freshman WR Tori Gurley is emerging as a big time receiver and look for him to be a main target when the Gamecocks go to the air. The question is will they have enough firepower to contend?

One interesting line that throws up warnings in this game is that Mississippi ranked dead last against the pass last year in the SEC allowing 221 yards per game. The secondary still has question marks which will be under the microscope against the emerging passing attack from the Gamecocks. However, the front 7 for the Rebels have been outstanding. Mississippi ranked 4th in the nation last year against the run holding opponents to just 86 yards per game. The Rebels will once again be dominating against the run which should help control the Carolina offense. If they can get pressure on Garcia, perhaps they could force the young quarterback into some old habits and capture some turnovers. If not, then the secondary will have to step up and play better than they have in recent memory.

What to watch for – South Carolina has yet to get a lot of pressure on the opposing quarterback. Last year, the Gamecocks defense stayed in the backfield. However, if they do not get pressure on Snead it will be a long day and that is the likely scenario here.

Pick – Mississippi -3.5

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