Ole Miss-Vandy another close one? Likely

Ole Miss and Vanderbilt usually play close games in football. Saturday's 11:30 a.m. JP-TV matchup from Dudley Field/Vanderbilt Stadium is likely to be yet another one.

Ole Miss-Vandy. Expect it to be close. It normally is. Expect the Rebels to win. They normally do.

Vanderbilt and Ole Miss play every year since the Commodores are the Rebels' permanent foe from the SEC East. Everybody in the West has an East permanent and everybody in the East a West permanent; thus the Ole Miss-Vandy marriage.

It all appears to be building to a frenzy among Vandy fans up in Nashville. They are desperately trying to sell the place out, and come 11:30 a.m. Saturday it could be close to full. They're playing for their first bowl game and also winning season up there since 1982, back when George MacIntyre, father of Mike MacIntyre, was the head Commodore.

Quarterback Jay Cutler will obviously be a handful. He's smart, athletic, accurate, and he's been around the league a while, which is maybe the most important aspect of all for the Commodores. A veteran, comfortable, cool, calm, collected signal-caller is sometimes all a team needs to get over the hump. Cutler's performances in the first two games of the season have proven that.

But I don't believe he's faced a defense like the one the Rebels will throw at him Saturday. If Ole Miss can build on its game one defensive performance at Memphis, then stopping Vandy is highly probable.

The Commodores are giving up a lot of yards on defense. But against Arkansas they stood tall when it was needed the most. Vandy stopped the Hogs on four plays from inside the 5-yard line in the first quarter, and in the third period stopped Arkansas on fourth and 2 at the Commodore 23.

Vanderbilt is always confident when playing Ole Miss. This year they will be even more confident after beating Wake Forest and Arkansas on the road. But the approach to this one by the Rebels isn't the same as it's been in the recent past. I look for another all-out effort from Ole Miss and a close win, much like the one in Memphis on Labor Day.

Can we take another one like that? Always, if the Rebels win.

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It was a schedule doubleheader Thursday as the 2006 football slate was released along with the 2005-06 men's basketball lineup.

A series with Missouri completed the football schedule for '06. From now on Ole Miss will try to always play seven home games a season since the NCAA has gone to 12 games each year.

The first game with Missouri is a road affair in Columbia, but the '07 contest is in Oxford. Ole Miss will get to show off the Grove and Oxford to the Big 12 school, hopefully sending them back home with their second loss in a row to the Rebels.

Wake Forest here in '06 (the return trip to Winston-Salem, N.C. is not until 2008) gives Ole Miss two non-conference football foes from BCS conferences in one season for the first time in a long time. I took a quick glance at the media guide and 1985 appears to be the last time – when Arkansas was in the old Southwest Conference and Notre Dame was, and still is, a football independent. All that was pre-BCS anyway.

Bowl Championship Series is the latest name of the so-called playoff child of Roy Kramer. Before BCS there was the Alliance and the Coalition and whatever else it was called back through the 1990s.

We've kinda gotten used to BCS since it's been around a few years now. In my opinion it's good to see Ole Miss matching up with some of those BCS teams from other conferences.

Fans have and will form their own opinions about scheduling. Don‘t make it too hard, some say. Don't fill it with patsies, others say. Have a good mix, yet another group proclaims.

The 2006 non-conference slate of Missouri, Wake Forest, Memphis, and Northwestern (La.) State looks like a solid mix to me.

Along with the announcement earlier this year of a series with Georgia Tech in 2010 and 2011, the Rebel athletic hierarchy is responding to the desires of many fans by adding these type opponents. They are giving Ole Miss an opportunity for more television exposure with BCS conference opposition. They are realizing that with 12 games a season (four of them non-conference) and with the price tag of bringing in a Division I-A Oxford only game rising all the time, this is the best route to go. And they're right.

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The Ole Miss women had already released their basketball schedule a few weeks ago. It is tough with the usual 14-game SEC schedule along with non-conference home games against the likes of Rutgers, Texas Tech, Rice, and UAB, as well as road trips to Louisiana Tech, Clemson, and Memphis.

Talk about loaded. The Lady Rebel schedule certainly is.

The men meanwhile finally got their schedule completed. It's home heavy, although the official schedule starts at the Jim Thorpe Classic in Albuquerque, N.M., Nov. 18-20.

Ole Miss plays Southern Utah in the regular season opener in The Pit, then faces host New Mexico the following day, with a tourney-ending game against South Carolina State on day three. The Rebels beat South Carolina State in the season-opening tournament in Milwaukee last November.

Ole Miss last played in a tournament at New Mexico in 1996-97, which was the first SEC West title season for the Rebels. Maybe they can recapture a little of the magic of that year early in this one with a trip to The Pit for three games.

Memphis, Saint Louis, Western Carolina, and Arkansas State are among the Oxford opponents in 2005-06 as is instate foe Alcorn State. Southeastern Louisiana, which comes to Oxford, won its conference the last two seasons and was 24-9 a year ago.

The Rebels' only other non-conference road game besides the tournament is at Illinois-Chicago on Dec. 10. The windy city has become fertile recruiting ground for Ole Miss basketball with three current Rebels from there along with assistant coach Tracy Dildy.

The conference season starts Jan. 7 at Alabama and ends March 4 at LSU.

The SEC men's tournament this season is in Nashville, Tenn., site of the Rebels' run to the finals in 2001. Like the New Mexico Tournament, maybe that's another preseason omen that this might be the year the Rebels get back into postseason play for the first time since March 2002 when Ole Miss lost to UCLA in Pittsburgh.

We won't have to wait much longer. Hoops season will be here before you know it.

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Fall baseball is already here - starts Monday. The Rebels will have four weeks of practice and intrasquad games.

With baseball interest at Ole Miss at an alltime high and with so many newcomers, especially pitchers, I'll be out there more than in past falls to update you, beginning on Monday.

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