Vanderbilt: The Matchups

Vanderbilt comes to Oxford for a Saturday morning kickoff. Expect a competitive game. Neither the Commodores nor Ole Miss have played up to expectations yet.

Ole Miss normally wins this game and has taken 13 of the last 17 in the series, including last season 23-7 on the road. Two years ago, however, the Commodores came to Oxford and left with a 23-17 win.

Vandy is 0-2, with a 23-21 loss to Northwestern and a 27-3 setback to LSU. Both games were played in Nashville, Tenn.

Ole Miss has stumbled but managed a 1-1 record, with a loss to Jacksonville State in double overtime 49-48 and a not-so-convincing win at Tulane 27-13.

Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt said this week Rebel fans deserve better performances than the two they've seen.

"We owe our fans four quarters," he said. "We owe the fans big time. Anybody can play two quarters, but as I said, that doesn't count. Our fans deserve better than what we showed in the opener."

Nutt likes what he has seen from his players this week in practice. He has said since Saturday night in New Orleans that building off a victory is better than building off a loss.

Larry Smith

"The energy was much better (this week)," Nutt said. "That's what you like to see. That's the way to go about things; the only way to do it."

While the Rebels have been building off a win, Vandy hasn't had one to build upon this season. New head coach Robbie Caldwell, taking over for Bobby Johnson who retired this summer, said his Commodores are ready for a road game.

"We're excited about playing Ole Miss," he said. "It's our first time on the road so we are excited there, and it's another SEC game. (Ole Miss) has a tremendous defensive front, and that concerns me because of our offensive line immaturity. Hopefully we'll grow up a lot quicker and make more progress."

Ole Miss offense in brief: The Rebels continue to not click on all offensive cylinders. They scored 34 in regulation against Jacksonville State and 27 against Tulane. Except for one series, the offense was all Jeremiah Masoli's in New Orleans. Nathan Stanley got in for only three snaps. Masoli was a difference maker in game two, as his scrambling ability and accuracy on his passes were impressive. His escapability allowed the Rebels some big plays, especially two long completions to Markeith Summers, one for a touchdown and another that set up a field goal. Josh Tatum started at right guard after Rishaw Johnson was dismissed from the team. Now Tatum is out for this game with an injury. Starting in his place is redshirt freshman Michael Brown. The Rebels have had a hard time running the football. Against the Green Wave just 92 yards on 37 attempts. There could be more Wild Rebel this weekend than we've seen to date.

Ole Miss defense in brief: The Rebels' third-quarter defensive woes from game one continued in game two. Ole Miss had only given up three points to Tulane at halftime, but the Wave began to move the ball in the second half. Just like against JSU in game one, opposing receivers were open and the pass rush by the Rebels was nil. It made for a big second half for Tulane, although they only scored 10 points. Nutt said his defenders stepped it up this week in workouts. "They have been humbled a little bit. They have given us more effort this week. They know we are leaning on them and depending on them. They are showing a lot of pride right now because they want to play better.

Jerrell Powe

"They know they have done well for two or three quarters each game, but the last time I looked, we can't count a halftime score or the score at the end of three quarters." Backup freshman linebacker Mike Marry will be gone for this game, attending his grandmother's funeral. Also out is backup freshman defensive end Cameron Whigham who is injured.

Ole Miss wins if…the Rebels can finally put it all together. They may win anyway. But there hasn't been a complete effort from the Rebels so far this season, and in recent years it has taken that against Vanderbilt. Masoli looked more comfortable last week, and the offense responded. The offensive line has to allow for better run production. Defensively the Rebs need to step it up, especially with the pass rush and in the secondary. However, Vanderbilt has had trouble scoring this season. Says Caldwell of the Rebel defense, "They did a much better job against Tulane, a team that has a very similar offense to us." The crowd could also help the Rebels, especially if the game is close and most of the fans stay until the end.

Vanderbilt wins if…the Rebels turn it over multiple times like they did two years ago in the loss to the Commodores in Oxford. Six total turnovers for the home team that night. Nutt talked in his weekly press conference this past Monday about winning the turnover battle, taking care of the football, and how his team had done that for the most part against Tulane with just one miscue. In the season opener, the Rebels lost the turnover battle three to none and thus the game. If the turnovers are even or in Ole Miss' favor, look for a UM win. Vanderbilt has played 10 freshmen in its first two games and has 11 new starters. There is a lot of youth and inexperience among the Commodores. That's often tough to overcome in the SEC.

Vanderbilt offensive player to watch: Sophomore running back Warren Norman led the Commodore ground gainers against LSU when he picked up 68 yards on eight carries. He scampered 51 yards on one rush in the third quarter as the Commodores were still in the game at that point, trailing just 10-3 at the end of three periods.

Vanderbilt defensive player to watch: Junior safety Sean Richardson recorded 10 tackles, including nine solo stops, against LSU last Saturday to lead the Commodore defenders. He shares the lead in tackles this season (18) with junior linebacker Chris Marve, also one to be considered as a defender to watch on Saturday.

Noteworthy: Ole Miss is just 2-15 in its last 17 Southeastern Conference openers. Its last win to open league play was against Vandy, a 24-21 victory in Nashville, which was also the season opener of 2003. The other one was also against the Commodores, a 45-38 win in Oxford in 2002…Vanderbilt won the first 19 games in this series; however Ole Miss now leads 47-35-2…Saturday's 11:21 a.m. kickoff is set to be televised on the SEC Network with Dave Neal, Andre Ware, and Cara Capuano calling the action…Vanderbilt has only played Tennessee in football more than it has Ole Miss. The Rebels have only played Mississippi State and Louisiana State more than Vanderbilt.

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