Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Facebook at Oxford Square

South Carolina at Ole Miss
SEC Game of the Week
October 4th at 1:00 CT (No TV)
by Bob Epling
(article originally appeared in 9.28.08 Game Day Weekly)

Facebook – football style - comes to Ole Miss this weekend.

That famous social networking site was launched at Harvard less than five years ago, quickly expanded to the Ivy League and colleges nationwide, and now is open to anybody over age thirteen. As you read this there are more than 100 million users across the globe.

My guess is that Houston Nutt and Steve Spurrier are not two of them.

The two most expressive coaches in the SEC – and my favorite two to watch coach – meet this Saturday in Oxford. Focus on the sidelines because these two faces are open books.

Spurrier, head ball coach at South Carolina, suffers through a game like a man needing another dose of Metamucil.

See the grimace when a Gamecock quarterback makes a bad read. Then the legendary visor gets pulled off, twisted around, and tugged back on when an offensive lineman jumps too early. There goes the customary mussing of the hair as a wayward pass makes the coach look like he’s developed a case of hives. Finally, the explosion replete with a new record in visor-flinging as Spurrier sends in yet another signal-caller.

That’s just one South Carolina possession.

On the other sideline, Houston Nutt should be set to music.

The wild rebel himself always appears as if he’s just polished off a six-pack of Coca-Cola, washed them down with three cups of coffee, and has his heart rate up in the “I’ve just run five miles” category. He claps more than an Ole Miss cheerleader, gnaws on his nails like a teenage boy getting ready for a prom date, and suffers like a modern-day Atlas trying to hold up the spirits of his talented – but inconsistent – Rebels. And that’s before kickoff.

This weekend should bring more facial expressions than a mime contest.

Nutt just captured the first big win of his first season at Ole Miss.

The Rebels traveled to Gainesville, played toe-to-toe with the undefeated and fourth-ranked Florida Gators, and pulled off the 31-30 upset with a combination of special teams ferocity, defensive pressure from the front four, and just enough offensive moxie from quarterback Jevan Snead.

The win moves the Rebels to 3-2 on the season, 1-1 in the SEC, and into solid contention for a bowl bid in Nutt’s inaugural season. The program is on the way up.

Over in Carolina, the Gamecocks also sit at 3-2 (0-1 in conference play) but the vibe in Columbia is not so positive.

Without committing himself fully, Spurrier has most likely found his quarterback in wayward Floridian Stephen Garcia. The brash redshirt-freshman has made more noise off the field than on it during his first two seasons. Against UAB last week, the mobile Garcia showed himself more adept at staying out of trouble on the field than he does off it, as he passed for 131 yards and ran for 86 more in SC’s 26-13 win over the Blazers. He may not start against Ole Miss, but will probably be playing when the game is on the line.

Ole Miss has no such debate at the quarterback position.

Texas transfer Jevan Snead outplayed Heisman winner Tim Tebow in the Rebel win at Florida. Snead, once a Gator commit (he bailed after finding out Urban Meyer was still recruiting Tebow), passed for only 185 yards, but made big plays when needed … none bigger than his 86-yard touchdown throw to Shay Hodge to put the Rebels ahead 31-24 with just over five minutes to play.

The Ole Miss offense will be tested by an excellent South Carolina defense.

The weakest unit in the game figures to be the South Carolina offense, but Garcia adds a wild card to the mix.

The action between the sidelines should be good, but the show put on by Nutt and Spurrier may be just as fun to watch.

Game Ball: Ole Miss