Who would have thought a Week 12 matchup between Ole Miss and Vanderbilt could be so intriguing? With both teams “on the bubble” so to speak, in terms of getting to a bowl game, a win on Saturday could make a huge difference. Ole Miss is sitting at 5-5 and could clinch a bowl berth with a win, while 4-6 Vanderbilt needs to win its last two against the Rebels and Tennessee.
It has been a tumultuous season for Ole Miss. The Rebels came into the year with hopes of contending for the SEC West behind the strong arm of Chad Kelly. After a 3-2 start in which the Rebels had big leads against Florida State and Alabama, many thought they were still a top 10 team. Then came a three-game losing streak to Arkansas, LSU and Auburn — as well as an injury to Kelly. But a road win over eighth-ranked Texas A&M last week seemed to reenergize the fan base... especially due to the play of the Rebels' new quarterback.
Vanderbilt has five SEC losses and each of them have been by nine points or fewer. Auburn and Florida, both top 25 teams, got all they wanted from the Commodores. And Vanderbilt also beat Georgia. The Bulldogs are down right now, but Georgia is still one of the SEC East’s top programs. The Commodores can play with just about anybody in the SEC besides Alabama. The question is, who can they actually beat besides the ‘Dawgs? A head-scratching loss to Missouri last week begs the question.
This permanent cross-division matchup is one of the SEC’s oldest rivalries. Saturday will mark the 91st all-time meeting between the Rebels and Commodores. It’s usually a toss-up, as well. In the last 12 meetings, the series is split 6-6. Vanderbilt dominated during the James Franklin years but the tables have since turned, as Ole Miss has won three in a row. But only one of those Rebels wins was a blowout. This is typically a close contest.
Ole Miss at Vanderbilt
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 19 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: SEC Network
Spread: Ole Miss -9.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Ole Miss QB Shea Patterson
We all like to occasionally get caught up in the moment. But this is a no-brainer, right? Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason said earlier this week that Patterson reminds him of Johnny Manziel in the way he’s able to extend plays. And Mason isn’t the only one to make that comparison this week. Patterson, a former five-star high school quarterback, was stellar in his college debut against Texas A&M last week. He threw for 338 yards and ran for another 64, scoring two touchdowns. Even more impressive, though, is the composure he showed as a true freshman by leading the Rebels to a 23-point fourth quarter comeback win against the No. 8 team in the country. How do you game plan for this guy? That’s the challenge for Vanderbilt this week. It doesn’t help that the Commodores rank 11th in the SEC in pass defense.
2. Vanderbilt RB Ralph Webb vs. Ole Miss’ Run Defense
Webb has been a diamond in the rough for Vanderbilt ever since he arrived in Nashville. He currently is fifth in the SEC in rushing with 935 yards and seven touchdowns. The junior is on pace for back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Conversely, Ole Miss ranks dead last in the SEC in run defense. The Rebels give up around 229 yards per game on the ground and has been gouged for more than 300 yards on three separate occasions this season. That unit also has given up a conference-high 70 rushes of over 10 yards. This could be an area for Vanderbilt to take advantage of in this one.
3. The Over/Under
This game has a stunning total of 50.5. That seems exceptionally high considering Vanderbilt’s consistent inability to put up a lot of points. The Commodores average 20 points per game but that’s a little inflated because of non-conference competition. Against the SEC, they average just 13 points per contest. Assuming they hit their average against the Rebels, is Vegas banking on Ole Miss blowing this one open? Even if Vanderbilt scored 17, Ole Miss would have to put up 34 points to send this one over the total. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense. The Commodores are playing at home against a quarterback making his first road start. Vanderbilt’s defense isn’t as good as it was last year but it’s plenty capable of keeping the Ole Miss offense in check.
Vanderbilt has been on the road in four of its last five games. The Commodores certainly will be ready to step back on their home field in this one. Besides last week’s fourth quarter against the Aggies, Ole Miss has not looked good away from Oxford this season. Vanderbilt should have success running the ball in this game, which will keep the Rebels’ talented young quarterback off the field. And even when Patterson is on the field, I think Vanderbilt’s defense will be able to rattle him. Vanderbilt knows that after a sloppy performance at Mizzou last week, its bowl hopes are hinging on this game. The Commodores will be ready to play. Although I think this will be a close game — and the total will be way under 50.5 — in the end, the better team gets out of Nashville with a close win.