football

The Ole Miss - Vanderbilt Match-ups

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The match-up:
This game will be the 83rd meeting
between Ole Miss and Vanderbilt dating back to 1894. The Rebels
lead the series 46-34-2 and have won 12 of the last 15 meetings
since 1992. The Rebels hold a 22-3 advantage in games played in
Oxford and have won four straight, including the 17-10 victory
in 2006. Ole Miss leads 46-16-2 in SEC games. The
Commodores last win in Oxford came in 1999 when they won 37-34
in overtime. Vanderbilt won the first 19 games in the series,
with Ole Miss winning 46 of the last 63 games.
At Stake:
For the Rebels to go bowling, it's an imperative to be 3-1 headed into a road trip to Florida next week.  While
Vanderbilt is off to a 3-0 start, and is perhaps the surprise of
the SEC, the schedule only gets tougher for Ole Miss, with three
out of the next four games on the road, as the Rebels must trip
to Alabama and Arkansas in October after hosting South Carolina
on Oct. 4.
Keys to the Game:
1) Stop Vanderbilt quarterback Chris Nickson.  Nickson is
no Jay Cutler when it comes to throwing the football, but he can
lull defenses to sleep with his running ability and then hit
open receivers.  2) Defense must show up.  Vanderbilt
runs one of the most diverse offenses in the conference and is
hard to defend.  The defensive line needs to make a
difference by apply pressure and containing Nickson.  3)
Offense needs some big plays.  They've been there all
season - they just haven't been executed.  From missing two
long throws against Samford last week and overthrowing Mike
Wallace in the end zone at Wake Forest, the Rebel offense needs
to execute the big play this weekend.
Ole Miss rushing versus the
Vanderbilt ground defense:  Ole Miss checks in at
No. 43 among the 119 Division I teams in rushing offense,
gaining 173 yards per game.  While that's an impressive
number in a balanced offense, the Rebel staff wasn't pleased
with the effort at Wake Forest and has concentrated the last two
weeks on improving the running game.  The issue is a group
of talented, but inexperienced backs, and run blocking along the
offense line.  The effort saw an improvement from 107 yards
at Wake Forest to 196 yards against Samford.  Vanderbilt
and SEC competition figures to offer a bigger challenge.
Vanderbilt comes in at No. 38 in rushing defensive, giving up 98
yards per game.  Ironically, Commodore head coach Bobby
Johnson had his defensive line pegged to be the biggest
concern headed into the season, but a solid linebacker corps has
helped the cause. One player to watch is defensive
end Broderick Stewart, who had 10.5 career sacks headed into the
season.  Just as Ole Miss may be challenged running the
football, Vanderbilt is likely facing the best offensive line
they've seen all year.  Ole Miss shelved the Wild Rebel
formation for most of the Samford game, but look for it to be
more popular this weekend to keep Vanderbilt spread out and
off-balance.
Advantage: Ole Miss
Ole Miss passing versus the
Vanderbilt secondary:  The running game remains
a work in progress and the same can be said about the passing game. 
Actually, the only thing that hasn't worked in the Ole Miss
passing game is the deep pass, and if quarterback Jevan Snead
gets his timing and mechanics down to make that threat work, it
could be the difference maker for Ole Miss in this game. 
The Rebels are  No. 53 at 234 yards per game through the
air - and throw in
four or five missed long passes - and that yardage would likely
average around 300 yards per game. Vanderbilt is at No. 97 in
passing defense, giving up 258 yards per game through the air.
The Commodore secondary was to be the strength of the defense
with all four starters returning, led by a pair of stars -
cornerback D.J. Moore and strong safety Reshard Langford
For whatever reason, the Commodore stats are unimpressive with
Rice throwing for almost 300 yards last week and both South
Carolina and Miami of Ohio both throwing for almost 250 in those
games.  A key to watch will be pass protection, with Ole
Miss pass blocking being exceptional to date and Vanderbilt
leading the conference in sacks with ten.  Still,
Vanderbilt likely hasn't seen the fleet group of receivers
they'll see on Saturday and certainly not a quarterback who has
the total package as Snead does.
Advantage: Ole Miss
Vanderbilt rushing
versus the Ole Miss ground defense:  Vanderbilt's
bread and butter in winning its first three games has been the
running game.  The Commodores come into the game ranked No.
17 among the 119 Division IA teams at 225 yards per game. 
Ole Miss comes in with a very respectable ranking at No. 51 in
rushing defense, giving up 114 yards per game. On the plus side
for the Rebels, the team will have the dynamic duo of Peria Jerry and Greg Hardy for the first time this season.  That
gives the defensive line added depth which should help in
defending the run.  But key in stopping the run may be more
at linebacker than along the defensive line.  Of big
concern is the fact that the Rebels struggled in defending the
run out of the spread against Memphis when they gave up 188
yards.  On the plus side is the defensive improved
substantially against Wake Forest a week later.  However,
look for Vanderbilt to bring better talent and a more diverse
offensive scheme that could give the Rebels some problems.
Edge: Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt passing versus the Ole
Miss secondary:
 Vanderbilt comes in next to last - No. 118
among Division I teams in passing - at 84 yards per game. 
Ole Miss' acknowledged weak spot and potential achilles heel is
the secondary where the Rebels are giving up 214 yards per game
through the air, good for a No. 77 ranking. The big news is that
Earl Bennett is finally gone as he always seemed to have a field
day against Ole Miss and the Commodores have nowhere near the
talent at wide receiver as most SEC teams.  That should make the
Rebels' job in the secondary easier as long as they don't get
lulled to sleep and begin to defend the run.  Nickson isn't
likely to throw for 200 or more yards against Ole Miss, but he
will use the pass just enough to make the Commodore running game
effective.  The wild card for Ole Miss could be Hardy -
both in terms of pressure and contain.  While the Rebel
staff brought Jerry along slowing at Wake Forest before
increasing his role the following week against Samford, don't be
surprised to see Hardy unleash himself quickly - he missed most
of spring practice in 2007 while playing basketball for Andy
Kennedy - and was one of the most impressive defensive players
in the spring game despite limited practice.
Edge: Even
Special Teams: Vanderbilt
placekicker Bryant Hahnfeldt struggled last season after hitting
on just 13 of 20 field goal attempts.  Brett Upson is not
sensational at punter, but kicked for a 39 average and a more
impressive 32-yard net.  Ole Miss has had breakdowns this
season in kickoff coverage, which needs to improve.  The
staff praised punter Rob Park for being more consistent against Samford and
Josh Shene has been perfect all year.  Justin
Sparks kick offs have improved over a year ago.  The Rebels
did see Marshay Green unleashed on a punt return for a touchdown
last week, but could use improved consistency on punt and kick
returns overall.
Edge: Even
Weather forecast: 
Scattered thunderstorms. Highs in the upper 70s and lows in
the low 60s.
Broadcast information: TV:
TV: There is no live TV for this game. The CSS
replay of the game will be Sunday at 1 p.m. CT. RADIO: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete
Cordelli, color analyst; Stan Sandroni, sideline reporter). XM
Satellite Radio channel 141. WEB: OleMissSports.com will provide
live audio, live stats and an in-game blog for the game. The
official Rebel athletics website will also provide a full game
recap, photo gallery and postgame video coverage.
 
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