Back in July, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier admitted it was his school that voted for Mississippi quarterback Jevan Snead on the preseason all-SEC team instead of the obvious choice in Florida's Tim Tebow.
While the decision seemed shocking at the time, Snead is proving to be a worthy selection.
Boasting the program's highest ranking in nearly 40 years, Snead and the fourth-ranked Rebels look to continue their strong start and open conference play with a victory for the first time in six years Thursday night against Spurrier's Gamecocks.
Mississippi (2-0) has a short week to get ready for its SEC opener after defeating Southeastern Louisiana 52-6 on Saturday. The victory came after the team spent its bye week recovering from a case of the swine flu that affected more than a third of the roster.
Although they were at less than full strength, the Rebels amassed 500 yards of offense to win their eighth straight, their longest run since winning 10 in a row in 1971-72.
Snead's play has been instrumental to the school's winning streak.
The junior threw for 209 yards and three touchdowns against the Lions, extending his school record to eight straight games with multiple scoring passes. The prolific passer threw for 16 passes and two interceptions in his final six games of 2008, and evidently won the respect of the South Carolina football program over the summer.
Despite leading Florida to the national title last season and winning the Heisman Trophy in 2007, Tebow wasn't a unanimous selection by the coaches for the preseason All-SEC quarterback. Snead received the only other vote.
The question of which coach didn't vote for Tebow was a major controversy at the SEC media day until Spurrier admitted that his director of football operations filled out the ballot in his stead and voted for Snead.
While Tebow and the Gators are off to a strong start, Snead has helped lead Mississippi to its highest position in the poll since it was also ranked fourth in 1970.
Snead has five TD passes through the first two games of the season, and coach Houston Nutt believes he should have tallied a few more Saturday had his receivers not dropped so many passes.
"Jevan really came on (Saturday)." Nutt said. "I felt that he could have had five or six touchdown passes. He threw the ball very accurately."
Snead now tries to help the Rebels avenge last season's 31-24 loss to South Carolina and lead them to their first victory in a SEC opener since a 24-21 win over Vanderbilt in 2003.
If the defense continues its stellar play, this shouldn't be too difficult.
Mississippi, which expects to have star defensive end Greg Hardy (sprained left ankle) back this week, forced five turnovers Saturday and stopped Southeastern Louisiana on all 14 third-down attempts.
"Defensively you have to prove it every day," free safety Kendrick Lewis said. "What we did tonight doesn't mean anything at South Carolina."
The Gamecocks (2-1, 0-1) are coming off their best offensive game of the season, but they haven't faced a defense as talented as Mississippi's.
South Carolina compiled 516 total yards in Saturday's 38-16 win over Florida Atlantic. The Gamecocks led 17-16 at half, but scored on three straight possessions in the second half to break open the game.
South Carolina's running game finally got on track, racking up 287 yards against the Owls after rushing for 222 in the first two games combined.
The discovery of a running game meant quarterback Stephen Garcia didn't have to match the 53 passes and 313 yards he had in a 41-37 loss to then-No. 21 Georgia on Sept. 12.
"We run the ball like that, we're going to be pretty tough to beat," said Garcia, who completed 20 of 27 passes for 222 yards, throwing for one touchdown and running for another.
It likely won't be that easy to move the ball on the ground against a Mississippi team that limited Southeastern Louisiana to 86 rushing yards on 30 attempts.
"Things are going to get a lot tougher," running back Brian Maddox said.
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With the school's highest ranking in nearly 40 years, Ole Miss opens SEC play with a trip to South Carolina. Jevan Snead, voted preseason first-team All-SEC by Steve Spurrier, is off to a so-so start with 5 TDs and 2 INTs. The Rebels are trying to win an SEC opener for the first time since 2003.