Football Preview: South Carolina at Ole Miss

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South Carolina defensive back Jaycee Horn (1) celebrates an interception against Auburn during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – The 2-4 Gamecocks are on the road this week as they take on the 2-4 Ole Miss Rebels in Oxford, Mississippi Saturday night. 

South Carolina

Since evening its record at 2-2, South Carolina has dropped two in a row and find themselves in need of a spark, especially on the offensive side of the ball. 

Following a 45-point loss to Texas A&M in which the Gamecocks produced just three points, suggestions of a quarterback change arose. Collin Hill has struggled in the past two contests, particular last week in which he was 8-21 for 66 yards with two interceptions. It wasn’t just the quarterback position that lacked production, though. Kevin Harris was the team’s leading rusher with just 39 yards on 13 carries. And Shi Smith was the only receiver to log more than two catches. Nonetheless, Head Coach Will Muschamp announced this week that sophomore Ryan Hilinski and Hill split reps throughout practice as they work to determine who will start Saturday night. Muschamp and Hill discussed the potential switch below: 

It’s been a rough go for the defense as well. They’ve surrendered one hundred points in the previous two games combined…not ideal. And after forcing seven turnovers in the first four games, the defense has managed just one takeaway in the previous two matchups. It’s been a stretch the team would certainly like to forget. That being said, they’ll have a chance to reverse that trend against an Ole Miss team that’s turned the ball over eleven times this season.

Ole Miss

Despite a 2-4 record, the Rebels present some significant threats and will find ways to score points even if other aspects of their game fall apart. They’re averaging 38 points per game, which ranks towards the top of college football. Conversely, though, they’re giving up nearly 41 points per game on defense hence their record. 

Their offense is led by sophomore quarterback Matt Corral (#2). Corral has been impressive, breaking school and SEC records in their most recent game, win over Vanderbilt. In it, Corral completed 31 of 34 passes for 412 yards and six touchdowns. His 91.2% completion percentage was an SEC record on attempts of 30 or more. He also completed 19 consecutive passes to start the game which broke a school record set by Eli Manning. He’s a big play threat with a huge arm, displays solid accuracy and pocket awareness. He has thrown quite a few interceptions, however, with nine on the season. Although a staggering six of those came in the team’s loss to Arkansas. For the most part, he’s been very efficient at moving the ball down the field. His adjusted net yards per pass attempt comes in at just under ten yards, a respectable number signifying this team looks past the chains on most attempts. And he can run when he needs to. Corral has rushed for at least 40 yards in four game in 2020, racking up two touchdowns on the ground against Auburn. 

Tight end Kenny Yeboah is Corral’s clear top target (#84). The 6’4”, 240-pounder has hauled in 22 passes for 470 yards and six touchdowns, all team-highs. He has a nose for the end zone, scoring in all but one game this season. He’s a primary target to key in on in the red zone. 

Jerrion Ealy (#9) is the team’s lead back, though Snoop Connor (#24) is often in the mix as well. Ealy has been consistent, tallying just over five yards per carry this season and has given the Rebels just enough of a ground game to establish a rhythm on offense, though they’re not running all over teams. They present quite a balanced approach, and Ealy is a perfect fit for that system. He’s not used very much in the passing game, with just ten catches for 98 yards, as they tend to try and push the ball downfield more often than not. 

The defense has had a whole slew of issues in 2020. Points aside, and they’ve given up a lot, they’re also allowing opposing offenses to convert third downs at a 57% rate. They’re getting run on to the tune of 231 yards per game, and their pass defense has been vulnerable as well. There isn’t much of a redeeming quality from this unit. And for added measure, their 533 yards allowed per game is among the worst in the FBS. If South Carolina ever needed a favorable matchup to get their offense back on track, they get it this week against Ole Miss. 

Matchup

Regardless of who gets the start at quarterback for the Gamecocks this Saturday night, one thing is for sure: they should have no problem getting points. The big question is: will they be able to keep pace with the high-scoring Rebels?

USC’s defense will have their work cut out for them against a very talented quarterback and some quality targets to contend with. For them to slow down the Ole Miss approach, they’ll need to push the pocket and get after Corral early and often. If they can do that they’ll be able to stymie the Rebels’ efforts to attack deep down the field, thus removing their biggest threat. 

Being able to control the time of possession, keeping Corral and company off the field, and winning the turnover battle should be enough for South Carolina to come away with a victory. But that’s still a tall task against as talented of an offense as Ole Miss presents. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, November 14. 

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