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No.1 USC loss signals statement weekend for UF

Twenty-three years since a No.1 lost to an unranked team. That is, until Oregon State 27, No.1 Southern Cal 21 on Thursday night ... Thoughts? I got a couple: How does Penn State vs. Florida sound? What about Missouri vs. Georgia?

GAINESVILLE -- Speaking of unthinkable upsets. Ole Miss nearly upset Florida in 2007. This happened for two reasons.

1. Tim Tebow
2. Seth Adams

Tebow, of course, is the Florida quarterback who rushed for two scores and 166 yards on 27 carries last year against the Rebels. He prevented the upset and is back for Round 2.

Anyone remember Seth Adams? Didn't think so. Seth Adams, not back for Round 2, was the Ole Miss quarterback in 2007. He wasn't anything special, but he was nearly good enough to beat Florida last season. Ole Miss racked up nearly 400 yards of offense against the Gators. Let's you know how bad UF's defense was last season.

Round 2 of this wonderful SEC East vs. SEC West Raycom special features a new Ole Miss quarterback. His name is Jevan Snead and he must be good. He was once committed to Florida.

Snead is apparently better than Adams. I'm not convinced -- never really a fan of players who de-commit from one school (Florida) and then later transfer from another (Texas). Ole Miss seems like the college football haven for quarterbacks who think they're better than they really are. (See Brent Schaeffer of Deerfield Beach). Come to think of it, it all makes perfect since. Ole Miss always thinks it's better than it actually is.

ANYWAY, everyone keeps telling me that Snead is a great quarterback. At first, I believed them. I'm not convinced anymore. Snead has thrown seven interceptions in his last three games. He's an inexperienced quarterback and now he's playing at The Swamp against a Florida team that is plus-nine in turnover ratio. This is the fourth game this season Florida has faced an inexperienced quarterback.

THE DETAILS
Ole Miss (2-2) at No.4 Florida (3-0)
When: 12:30 p.m.
TV: Raycom
Series history: Ole Miss leads 11-10-1

INJURY REPORT
OLE MISS
DL Greg Hardy (foot, out)
FLORIDA
DE Jermaine Cunningham (knee, questionable)
LB Ryan Stamper (ankle, questionable)
QB Cam Newton (ankle, questionable)
OL Maurice Hurt (neck, questionable)
DT Torrey Davis (disciplinary, out)
DT John Brown (hand, out)
TE Cornelius Ingram (knee, out)
SS Dorian Munroe (knee, out)

STATEMENT GAME
Any Gators watching TV late last night? The No.1 team in the nation lost. OK, but on a Thursday night? I thought Thursday nights were reserved for bingo. ANYWAY, the significance of Southern Cal's epic collapse Part II (Stanford in 2007 was Part I) should not be lost on any team in the AP Top 10. With the No.1 ranking up for grabs, this weekend is all about making a statement to national voters. Let's take a look at the match-ups this weekend for teams in the AP Top 5.

No.1 USC (Believe it or not, USC could still be in the national title picture at the end of the season. USC losing was good news for any one loss team. Auburn?)
No.2 Oklahoma vs. No.24 TCU: Game against ranked opponent comes at great time for Oklahoma to make a case for being No.1.
No.3 Georgia vs. No.8 Alabama: A big win in Athens could vault Georgia into the No.1 spot. AP voters are apparently in love with Bama.
No.4 Florida vs. Ole Miss: Voters not sold on Gators yet. Florida fans apparently no sold on Gators yet. I think I'm the only person in the country that thinks Florida is the best of the best.
No.5 LSU vs. Mississippi State: A letdown game? Not a chance.

It is conceivable that Florida could be the No.1 team in the country on Sunday. TCU is a quality football team and many believe Alabama is going to upset Georgia (for the record, I am not one of those people).

RANDOM THOUGHT
Does ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit have a man-crush on Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford?

RANDOM THOUGHT NO.2
I'm sure Jevan Snead is upset he has to miss tonight's presidential debate. Ole Miss is hosting a presidential debate tonight (Friday) between U.S. Senators and Presidential candidates John McCain (Ariz., R) and Barack Obama (Ill., D).

OLE MISS BETTER THAN TENNESSEE?
According to UF defensive line coach Dan McCarney, it's a no brainer. He says Ole Miss' offense is much better than Tennessee's. Florida beat Tennessee 30-6.

"I thought Tennessee had a heck of an offensive line -- I think Mississippi is better," McCarney said. "[Tennessee] had a good solid quarterback. I think this one is better. Running backs, they're using four of them. I like them all."

SPEAKING OF FOUR RUNNING BACKS...
Four is exactly the number of running backs that Florida has at its disposal. (Five if you include receiver Percy Harvin.) Emmanuel Moody was the featured back against Tennessee? Who gets the call against Ole Miss? How would you break down the carries? Here's what I would shoot for if I'm Florida OC Dan Mullen...

UF BACKFIELD BREAKDOWN (projected number of carries)
RB Emmanuel Moody: 12
WR Percy Harvin: 10
RB Chris Rainey: 8
QB Tim Tebow: 8
Others (Jeff Demps/Louis Murphy/Aaron Hernandez) 5
RB Kestahn Moore: 0

REAL TALK
Florida coach Urban Meyer made a point to complain and complain and complain about the NCAA's new clock rules this week. (Cheating the players, he says...please.) Some reporters took the bait and wrote about the new clock rules like they're killing college football. Here's a thought: Just shut up and play football. If college football is going to sell its soul to the television networks, then the TV networks are going to be able to dictate how the game is played. (ESPN is going to be dictating a whole heck of a lot more in the future, so get used to it.) If Meyer wants more plays, then his offense needs to be more efficient and better prepared to run more plays. Quicker substitutions, better play calling (Mullen should always be two plays ahead of his offense) and a no-huddle offense should allow for more chances for Florida to run up the score on people. (And isn't that what it's all about?)

BIG TEST FOR JOE HADEN
Ole Miss' best player is receiver Mike Wallace. He toasted Florida's secondary last season and just last week Wallace returned a 98-yard kickoff for a touchdown. Meyer says that Joe Haden is turning into an All-SEC cornerback. We shall see.

5 KEYS TO VICTORY FOR UF
5. Pressure the quarterback. Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead is apparently still adjusting to the speed of the SEC. He tossed four interceptions against Vanderbilt last week. If UF defensive end Carlos Dunlap has a big day, then that will go a long way towards Florida beating Ole Miss. (We're assuming UF defensive ends Jermaine Cunningham and/or Justin Trattou will line up opposite Ole Miss offensive tackle Michael Oher.)

4. Contain Ole Miss receiver Mike Wallace. Wallace is averaging 136.3 all-purpose yards in his last three starts.

3. Keep an eye on the battle between UF guards and Ole Miss defensive tackles Peria Jerry and Ted Laurent. If these players get in the backfield consistently, it could be a long day for the Florida offense. Both Jerry and Laurent have 4.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Strong efforts from UF guards Jim Tartt and Mike Pouncey and center Maurkice Pouncey are critical.

2. Score touchdowns in the red zone. Florida settled for field goals last week against Tennessee. If Florida's offense continues to be limited by the new play clock rules, then the Gators need to score touchdowns. Tebow is money from inside the red zone. I repeat: Let Tebow run the ball inside the red zone.

1. Get one big play from either special teams or the defense.

THE CORNERBACK SITUATION
Is Wondy Pierre-Louis or Janoris Jenkins starting at cornerback? My guess is both players will see significant amounts of playing time. Expect a lot of 3-3-5 from Florida with Janoris and Wondy at cornerback and Joe Haden at the nickel. If Florida doesn't trust Wondy to perform, expect more playing time for Markihe Anderson if the Gators stick with the 3-3-5. Anderson will play the nickel and Haden will move back to the edge. (This is what I would do.)

BIG PREDICTION
UF is a 22-point favorite. Sounds about right to me. Ole Miss' close losses to Wake Forest and Vanderbilt were devastating for an emotionally vulnerable program. If Florida goes up early, then expect a blowout. UF 42, Ole Miss 17

-jo-

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