Mississippi, South Carolina appear set for close SEC matchup

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              Mississippi wide receiver A.J. Brown (1) carries a 12-yard pass reception into the end zone for a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Auburn, on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018, in Oxford, Miss. Auburn won 31-16. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
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Mississippi’s been a predictable football team this season, winning the games it has been expected to win and losing the games it has been expected to lose.

This weekend’s game against South Carolina represents one of the few true toss-ups.

Las Vegas says that Saturday’s matchup between the Rebels and Gamecocks is a pick ’em and it’s a crucial opportunity for both programs. Ole Miss (5-3, 1-3 Southeastern Conference) had last week off, giving it two weeks to regroup and prepare for a stretch run that includes four games in 19 days.

“It gives you a chance to rest a little bit, get a little bit of a head start on South Carolina, do some self-evaluation_what’s been good through eight games, what hasn’t been good,” Ole Miss coach Matt Luke said. “It came at a really good time.

“Now, we just have to make this final push for this last month.”

South Carolina (4-3, 3-3) is coming off a 27-24 victory against Tennessee last weekend. The Gamecocks haven’t been able to string together two straight wins all season.

To do so on Saturday, they’ll need to slow down the Ole Miss offense.

“They’re very explosive, they throw the deep ball and try and run the ball down your throat,” South Carolina linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams said. “You’ve got to come out ready to play early Saturday morning.”

Here are a few other things to watch when the Rebels host the Gamecocks on Saturday:

LOPSIDED REBELS

The Ole Miss offense continues to be among the SEC’s best. The Rebels are first in the league with 349.1 yards per game passing, second with 537.9 total yards per game and third in scoring with 38.4 points per game. The problem for Ole Miss is defense — the Rebels are giving up more than 34 points per game, which ranks 14th out of 14 SEC teams.

OH, THOSE WONNUMS

South Carolina brothers D.J. and Dylan Wonnum became the first brothers in SEC history to win player of the week honors in the same week. Junior defensive end D.J. Wonnum returned after missing fives games with an ankle injury to earn the league’s defensive lineman of the week while younger brother offensive lineman Dylan Wonnum earned freshman of the week honors for his play in the win over Tennessee. Are there any more Wonnums at home for the Gamecocks to sign? “No,” D.J. Wonnum said this week. “That’s all of us.”

WERNER’S RETURN

South Carolina quarterbacks coach Dan Werner is headed back to Ole Miss this week with the Gamecocks. Werner spent five seasons as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach with the Rebels from 2012-16. Gamecocks quarterback Jake Bentley said Werner may be familiar with some of the older players at Ole Miss, but probably can’t offer that much insight into the plans of new coach Matt Luke. “He did a great job there and he’s doing a great job with us,” Bentley said.

QUITE A SERIES

Twelve of the last 13 South Carolina-Ole Miss games have been decided by seven points or less, but the two teams haven’t played each other since 2009. After Saturday’s game, they won’t meet again until 2025.

McCLENDON’S CALL

South Carolina offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon has found a comfortable spot on the sideline instead of in the coaching box atop the playing field. McClendon spent the team’s win over Tennessee calling the game on the sideline. Head coach Will Muschamp said McClendon came to him and asked if he could be there for a more direct line of communication with players. Muschamp agreed. McClendon also had to coach from the sidelines in a 37-35 win over Missouri earlier this month when heavy rains caused headsets to fail.