Limit mistakes at linebacker
Jonathan Cornell is doubtful for the Vanderbilt game, so a community effort at linebacker has to be successful in stopping the run and defending the short passing game of the Commodores. Tony Fein will get the majority of the snaps in the middle, with Jamie Phillips the top candidate to grab the start in Cornell's absence. Experience will be limited, but the group gelling quickly will be paramount.
Key player: Ashley Palmer
The transfer becomes the most seasoned linebacker with Cornell on the shelf and has the capability to be productive in pass coverage. Known for his hitting ability, Palmer needs a good all-around game and to avoid miscues that result in big plays for Vanderbilt.
Control Earl Bennett
The All-America candidate will get his yards even being a bit gimpy, but Ole Miss needs to stop the big play and make Bennett work for yards after the catch. He has torched his two previous opponents for 270 yards, and Ole Miss can't count on multiple turnovers keeping them within striking distance like last season. The Rebels can bend but breaking in regards to Bennett can't occur.
Key player: Dustin Mouzon
The Rebels' top corner will get the unenviable task of supplying man coverage to Bennett on occasion. His ability to limit the wideout by himself will dictate how much John Thompson will be able to blitz and bring pressure from different angles. Doubling Bennett constantly will take away from other elements of the defense, but that will occur unless Mouzon has the best game of his career.
Get off the field
Memphis and Missouri's offenses could have set up camp with the number of plays both teams ran against Ole Miss in consecutive weeks. The increased workload tires out the Rebels pass rush and secondary while taking valuable minutes away from the Ole Miss offense. Three and outs will flip field position and provide opportunities to jump out ahead for the Rebels. Defensive play on third downs is extremely important because automatic passing downs will free up the ends and let the linebackers play instead of having to react to the play calls.
Key player: Jamarca Sanford
The safety will play a large number of snaps in the box and will have to be all over the field on first down. With the linebacking situation up in the air, Sanford will need to relay the defensive gameplan and make tackles near the line of scrimmage.
Avoid an offensive letdown
What was the concern may now be a pro for Ole Miss. Seth Adams has produced back-to-back solid efforts and can't afford to regress during a game that the Rebels are more than capable of winning on the road. The passing attack was impressive during the second half, and it will need to keep rolling when an outcome is in reach.
Key player: Seth Adams
BenJarvus Green-Ellis has a ton of momentum and will face a Vandy front seven that has allowed more than 180 yards per game. The running game should excel, so Adams is the one that the pressure will be on once more. Mike Wallace and Shay Hodge join Marshay Green as viable options at receiver, and Adams will need to spread it around and put up points during the first quarter. The quick start would quiet what will be a confident Commodore crowd and put doubt in the Vanderbilt mindset. Ole Miss has proven it can come back, but it must now get a lead and go for the throat.
Keys to Victory: Vandy Game
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