It’s been an interesting 22 hours here.
Arrived yesterday and was stoked to get a room at the Inn at Ole Miss – Thursday night only, game-day weekends are reserved years in advance. (Well, I guess they are. I didn’t really ask, was just told to clear out by noon Friday to make way for the homecoming crowd.)
The Inn is adjacent to the Grove, famous for its magnolias and coeds in sundresses, not necessarily in that order.
Unfortunately, my room looked out on a maintenance area. So I had a nice view of an old rubber hose and a golf cart. I kept the blinds closed.
But I did get a firsthand look at the Rebels – for a few minutes at least. Rebs coach Houston Nutt keeps his practices open for the first 30 minutes … usually.
But shortly after I introduced myself to Nutt on Thursday, the sports information official I was standing with received a call on his cell phone. Seems Houston was a little nervous about running through plays with a Columbia reporter in his midst.
I was politely asked to leave, as were the Ole Miss beat writers.
Putting my best investigative skills to work, I deduced the Rebs were working on their trick plays. Give a Rebel yell for the Wild Rebel!
That’s a close cousin of the Wild Hog formation that caused the Gamecocks fits last year when Nutt was at Arkansas. No need to recount the grisly details from Darren McFadden’s highlight film that night.
But things have changed a lot since then. Ty Nix, USC’s defensive coordinator at the time, now is on Nutt’s staff, and the staid and stoic Ellis Johnson is in Nix’s former office, overlooking – he has a better view – the nation’s top-ranked defense.
And with no disrespect to Dexter McCluster, who I’m certain is a fine Wild Rebel, I don’t put him in the same class as McFadden when it comes to running Nutt’s McWild set.
Rebs QB Jevan Snead figures to pose more of a problem for Johnson’s D.
But as has been the case for most of this season, Steve Spurrier’s offense will determine whether USC ends its six-game SEC losing streak. After announcing on his Web site Monday that quarterback Stephen Garcia would make his first career start, Spurrier offered a “my bad” on Tuesday and said the starting spot was still open.
Chris Smelley eventually reclaimed the job. But it hasn’t much mattered who’s under center lately: Neither has hit many passes downfield.
Kenny McKinley is a game-time decision, which tells me he probably won’t be able to do much. So it’s going to be up to someone like Jared Cook or Jason Barnes to go up and make a big play to give this offense some life.
You would think Spurrier knows Nix’s scheme well enough to come up with an effective attack. Of course, the same can be said of Nix, who undoubtedly will come after Smelley/Garcia with the blitz.
If the Gamecocks pick it up, there should be 1-on-1 opportunities in the secondary. If not, well, at least USC fans who made the trip will have enjoyed the Grove.
I went with USC earlier in the week in our video, but feel less confident in that pick since seeing YouTube highlights of Ole Miss’ win at Florida – set to Elvis’ “An American Trilogy,” which includes his version of “Dixie.”
Look away, Colonel Reb … USC 24, Ole Miss 23.