Head-to-Head: Vanderbilt vs. Ole Miss

Vanderbilt and Ole Miss each hope to become bowl eligible on Saturday with a victory over the other. VandyMania.com's D.T. Yates compares the Rebels and Commodores in several key team areas. We also predict the final score of the game.

Vanderbilt Passing Offense
Ole Miss Passing Defense
Edge: Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt signal caller Jordan Rodgers is currently sixth in the SEC averaging 209.8 passing yards per game. Rodgers was 18 for 29 for 220 yards with two scores against Kentucky last week and he has continued to improve. The senior quarterback is 124 for 209 for 1,678 passing yards and seven touchdowns this season. Commodore receiver Jordan Matthews is second in the SEC, with 61 receptions with 850 receiving yards. Matthews has been outstanding for the 'Dores and is expected to continue to get better through his career, with a very high ceiling. Redshirt sophomore receiver Chris Boyd has also been a constant target for Rodgers and has a catch in 17 consecutive games. Boyd has been excellent at finding holes in opposing secondaries with huge big play potential averaging 17.8 yards per catch.

Ole Miss free safety Cody Prewitt is tied for first on the team with, 60 tackles--including 2½ for a loss--and two interceptions. Prewitt posted a career-high 13 tackles against Alabama and against Texas A&M he forced two fumbles, recovered a fumble, and intercepted a pass. Junior cornerback Charles Sawyer has started every game for the Rebels and is fourth on the team with 45 tackles--including 4½ for a loss-- an interception, and four pass break ups. Sawyer leads the team with 22 consecutive starts. Opponents are averaging 239.6 passing yards per game against the Rebels.

Vanderbilt Rushing Offense
Ole Miss Rushing Defense
Edge: Even
Vanderbilt's rushing offense is led by senior tailback Zac Stacy who has followed up a stellar 2011 season with a record setting 2012 season; Stacy is currently the SEC's leading active career rusher with 2,754 yards. Junior running back Wesley Tate has scored a rushing touchdown in each of the last three games for the Commodores. Speedy true freshman Brian Kimbrow leads Vanderbilt with four rushes of 30 yards with runs of 74, 49, 39, and 33 yards.

Rebel linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche is tied for first on the team with 60 tackles--including a team-high 9 tackles for a loss--two sacks, two interceptions, and four forced fumbles. Junior linebacker Mike Marry is the defensive captain for the Rebels and is third on the team with 51 tackles, including 4½ for a loss, and 1½ sacks. Sophomore defensive end C.J. Johnson leads the Rebels with 3½ sacks, and is fifth on the team with 44 tackles; the sophomore recovered a fumble for a touchdown against Auburn. The Commodores rank 52nd in the country averaging 172.89 rushing yards per game.

Ole Miss Rushing Offense
Vanderbilt Rushing Defense
Edge: Ole Miss
Junior running back Jeff Scott leads the Rebels and is seventh in the SEC, averaging 79.1 rushing yards per game. Scott has rushed for 633 yards on 126 carries, including six touchdowns while adding 15 receptions with a touchdown catch. Ole Miss running back Bo Wallace is a threat with his legs with 265 yards rushing and five rushing scores averaging 29.4 rushing yards per game. Athlete Randall Mackey is a quarterback converted to a running back-wide receiver and is third on the team with 225 rushing yards and three touchdowns. The senior is a threat to pass, completing 3 for 5 attempts with a 25-yard touchdown pass against Auburn. Mackey has also caught 20 receptions for 274 receiving yards.

Middle linebacker Chase Garnham leads the 'Dores with 54 tackles, and shares a three-way tie for first place with eight tackles for a loss and a team-high five sacks. Outside linebackers Karl Butler and Archibald Barnes combine for 83 tackles, including 10 for a loss, and two sacks. Defensive end Walker May leads the defensive line with 25 tackles, including five for a loss, and leads the team with five quarterback hurries. Senior Johnell Thomas is one of nine Commodore defenders to start all nine games this season for the 'Dores.

Ole Miss Passing Offense
Vanderbilt Passing Defense
Edge: Vanderbilt

Sophomore quarterback and Pulaski, Tenn., native Bo Wallace has completed 152 of 230 pass attempts for 1,836 yards and 11 touchdowns. Wallace can be a dangerous threat through the air and on the ground, ranking fifth in the league in total offense (233.4 ypg). Rebel sophomore receiver Donte Moncrief is tied for fourth in the SEC with five touchdown catches on 39 receptions and 540 yards receiving. Moncrief did not record a reception for the first time all season last week against Georgia. Sophomore Vince Sanders and junior Ja-Mes Logan are tied for second on the team with 24 receptions. Sanders scored the first touchdown of his career in the 30-27 victory over Arkansas. Senior tight end Jamal Mosley adds 11 catches for 119 receiving yards but is second on the team with two touchdowns.

Junior safeties Kenny Ladler and Javon Marshall lead the team at No. 1 and No. 2 in tackles. Free safety Kenny Ladler has started in eight of nine games for the 'Dores with a sack, an interception, and a forced fumble. Marshall has also started all nine games this season for the 'Dores. Last season, Trey Wilson returned an interception 52 yards for a score against Ole Miss. Wilson returned both of his interceptions this season for scores and adds 25 tackles, with six passes defended. At the other cornerback spot, Andre Hal adds 33 tackles and leads the team with eight passes deflected.

Special Teams
Edge: Ole Miss

Senior punter Jim Broadway is 20th in the NCAA, averaging 43 yards per punt with nine punts of 50 yards or more. Broadway has 11 punts inside opponent's 20-yard line with a long punt of 61 yards this season. Senior place kicker Bryson Rose is 11 for 16 from field goal range and a perfect 32 for 32 in extra points. Rose kicked three field goals, including a career-best from 53 yards and a game winning 31-yard field goal against Arkansas. Freshman Jaylen Walton ranks second in the SEC averaging 26.1 yards per kick return and returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown against Texas. Junior Korvic Neat has a season long punt return of 19 yards, while averaging 7 yards per punt return.

Richard Kent ranks third in the SEC, and ninth in the nation, averaging 45.1 yards per punt. Kent has 12 punts of 50 yards or more this season with 33 percent of his punts landing inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Carey Spear earned Special Teams Player of the Week hitting two field goals including a career long from 48 yards. Spear has hit 13 of 16 field goal attempts and has not missed a kick inside 43 yards. True freshman Brian Kimbrow has returned kicks for the 'Dores with a long return of 43 yards, averaging 21.5 yards per return. Wide receiver Jonathan Krause averages 10 yards per punt return. The junior receiver returned a punt 40 yards for a score against UMass. Krause has been able to get the 'Dores extra yards due to multiple catcher interference penalties on opposing punt teams.

Edge: Even

Both teams just need one more win to become bowl eligible; for the Rebels, the road only gets tougher with matchups at No. 9 LSU and against No. 22 Mississippi State. Somewhere in the back of the Ole Miss players' and coaches' heads, they must be thinking that this is their best shot at bowl eligibility. The Rebels that have been there longer may also remember that the 'Dores have taken four of the last fives games in the series.

The Rebels lead the conference, holding opponents to a 30.8% fourth-down conversion rate. The Rebels are hard to stop when they get into the red zone, scoring in 28 of 30 red zone trips; they tied for fourth in the country and second in the conference behind Alabama. Ole Miss is the only team in the conference without a turnover in the red zone this season. The Rebels have a record of 3-2 at home this season.

The Commodores put together an impressive 40-0 routing on the road against a young Kentucky team last week, though everything points to the Rebels posing a larger challenge. Most impressive in the victory was the 'Dores ability to create short yardage third down situations. The Commodores were 8 for 10 in third-down conversions in the first half. Vanderbilt through the season had converted 34 percent of third-down conversion attempts.

Edge: Even
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze has done a tremendous job in his first year as head coach of a Rebel team that had lost 16 consecutive games dating back to 2010--and all of 2011--without an SEC win. Ole Miss has already surpassed last season's total number of wins, points, touchdowns, and yards under Freeze. Under Freeze, the Rebels are playing much more disciplined football, ranking the second lowest in penalty yards per game (34.7). Ole Miss is also dead even in turnover ratio with 20 turnovers and 20 takeaways.

Freeze and Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin spoke about the importance limiting explosive plays on defense in their Monday press conferences.

"We really felt like that game turned on about four plays." Freeze continued. "That really took its toll on us and drained us emotionally. Georgia had 76 plays, eight of the 76 accounted for 278 yards."

Franklin is on the brink of becoming the first coach in Vanderbilt history to lead the 'Dores to bowls in consecutive seasons.

PREDICTION: Vanderbilt 27, Ole Miss 24.

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