COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The last time South Carolina faced Ole Miss, Alabama wasn’t atop the AP Top 25.
Sounds like a long time ago, right? If you’re scoring at home, that was back in 2009 and a lot has changed since then. In fact, Ole Miss was ranked among the top 5 teams in the country. Now, both the Rebels and the Gamecocks are both under new leadership and looking to return to prominence.
Ole Miss enters this weekend’s showdown against South Carolina looking to bounce back from a 31-16 loss to Auburn. The Rebels haven’t had a lot of success in SEC play this season, but the Gamecocks aren’t overlooking this team simply because of their conference record.
“They’re a very explosive offensive football team,” said Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp. “Matt Luke, their head football coach, was previously the offensive line coach and they’ve got guys up front that really jump out at you. Obviously, (Greg) Little, the left tackle, is an outstanding player. With (Javon) Patterson, the left guard, and (Sean) Rawlings, the center, they’re probably as good of a left side of the line as we’ve faced. They’re really good up front. Jordan Ta’amu is a quarterback that has tremendous arm talent but does a really good job of hurting you with his legs. They do a really good job of using him situationally in the run game. They’re very effective.”
Ole Miss is the third-best scoring offense in the SEC averaging just over 38 points. Senior quarterback Jordan Ta’amu leads the Rebels’ high-powered, up-tempo offense. The dual-threat signal caller leads the SEC with 2,622 passing yards and is tied for second with 16 touchdowns.
“He moves around a lot,” said Gamecocks senior linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams. “He’s very elusive. He knows where he’s going with the ball and he has great playmakers around him so it’s going to be a tough task for us, but if we come ready to play in our scheme and do what we do, we can have a good game.”
Among those playmakers that surround Ta’amu is A.J. Brown. The junior wide receiver leads all SEC wide receivers in receptions (60) and reception yards (805). However, Brown isn’t the only receiver the Carolina secondary has to worry about. Ole Miss boasts five receivers with 10 or more catches who average 13 yards per catch or more.
“A.J. Brown is a fantastic player, a guy that is big, strong and physical, can catch the ball off of his body, attacks the football, (and is) one of the better receivers, obviously, in college football,” said Muschamp. “DeMarkus Lodge is an outstanding player. Dawson Knox is a really good tight end that they utilize in the passing game and obviously some in the run game that they do. Really, they’re a very explosive offensive football team.
Defensively, the Rebels are on the opposite end of the spectrum in rankings. Ole Miss is last among SEC teams in scoring defense surrendering an average of 34.6 points per game. In fact, Ole Miss is near the bottom of several defensive categories including rushing defense. For Carolina, their success on offense this week will rely heavily on running the ball well.
“As an offensive lineman, we love running the ball,” said Zack Bailey. “Every time we can run the ball, we love it. Pulling around people, moving guys off the ball, that’s what we’re here for. That’s what we love to do. Pass protection, we like doing it, but I don’t want to do it every single play. Running the ball is huge for us and we love it.”
The game kicks off at 11 a.m. local time in Oxford, but the Gamecocks believes the start time works to their advantage.