Preview: Ole Miss vs. Vanderbilt

Let me begin by saying that my prediction of Ole Miss vs. Boise St. was pretty much spot on. Ugly first half, Ole Miss pulls away late, scores a touchdown to make it look worse than it was, 34-17 final score. Everything I said would happen did, and I was only one point off on the Rebel score and four points off on the Boise St. one. So I guess you can pretty much take the following preview to the bank.

Photo by Chris Evans

Photo by Chris Evans

The Ole Miss/Vandy rivalry is one that doesn’t get much press, and outside of a thriller to open the season last year and an ultra-close late season matchup two years ago, hasn’t produced a ton of worthwhile games. But it is an interesting rivalry of late as Vandy has largely had Ole Miss’ number in recent years. Ole Miss fans aren’t exactly thrilled that what was once a very lopsided series has become extremely competitive.

Former Vanderbilt coach James Franklin spent several years doing what many thought could not be done. He turned the Commodores into a competitor, a team that could break the top-25 and get to decent bowl games. He put the laughingstock of the SEC on the map, but many knew that it wouldn’t last forever. The inevitable happened this past offseason and Franklin took off, along with his recruits, to rebuild the Penn State program, leaving a mess behind in Nashville.

Franklin’s replacement, former Stanford assistant coach Derek Mason, has potential and the capability to win, but it’s not likely to happen this season. After opening the year with an embarrassing home loss to a Temple team that went 2-10 last year, many Vanderbilt faithful are afraid they are looking down the barrel of a disastrous season. Their playmakers from last season are gone. The quarterback position is up in the air. Leadership on the field is lacking. Not an ideal combination for the Commodores.

Ole Miss is headed to Nashville on the heels of a decent showing against a middling, by their standards, Boise St. team. While the Rebels won big, there was nothing pretty about the first half, and Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace looked like the same old Bo everybody thought would finally turn the corner this year. The Rebels might not have won as convincingly as they or Coach Freeze hoped, but it was still a good win, pretty much the opposite of the way Vanderbilt started the season.

The Rebels are picked to win big in this one. Ole Miss hasn’t beaten Vanderbilt by more than 16 since 1998, but is still favored by 20 points. That says a lot right there. Ole Miss has the talent on both sides of the ball, the experience on the field and on the sideline, and has a lot more swagger heading into the game. On top of all that, the game is being held at LP Field instead of Vanderbilt Stadium. This will allow Ole Miss fans to buy more tickets than usual, and in a very historically Rebel-friendly Nashville, means Ole Miss will have close to home field advantage. All signs point to an easy Rebel win.

Vanderbilt will find a way to stay competitive, but much like last week, Ole Miss will pull away in the end. I expect to see Evan Engram get his groove back and one of the Ole Miss running backs to get the ground game going, as it was largely absent last week. Bo Wallace should rebound from his iffy game one performance and find his plethora of talented targets often. On the defensive side, the Rebs will welcome back LB Denzel Nkemdiche from a one game suspension, LB Serderius Bryant from his early targeting ejection against the Broncos, and DT Isaac Gross from an injury that kept him out of the first game. These three will be welcomed sights for Ole Miss fans who want to see their highly touted defense at full strength. Ole Miss starts its SEC slate 1-0.

Ole Miss 38 – Vanderbilt 20

Warner Russell covers Ole Miss Football for MemphiSport. Read his non-sports stuff over on The Wise Guise. Follow him on Twitter @uncle_warny.

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