When Vanderbilt upset the Rebels 26-19 in Oxford last year, the Commodore secondary intercepted Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead four times, and returned one for a touchdown. South Carolina proved last week that if Snead can be stopped, so can the Ole Miss secondary. The secondary, with Brent Trice filling in for injured safety Ryan Hamilton, and with Jamie Graham back from an injury, must stop Snead, but they will need help from an effective defensive line. Greg Billinger, who stepped up against Rice, will need to continue his strong performance to stop the Ole Miss air assault.
In Vanderbilt's two wins this year, they have put up 81 points; in their two losses they have put up 12. Quarterback Larry Smith seemed to have a pretty good day last week, throwing for over 200 yards, including a 53 yard pass to Udom Umoh. Smith must continue to throw well, and the receivers, particularly Alex Washington, Umoh, Turner Wimberly, and Collin Ashley, must stop up with the absence of John Cole this weekend. Also, Jared Hawkins, who saw his first action of the year against Rice, and Warren Norman will have to step up and have a big game on the ground for the Commodores. Against Mississippi State, the Commodores could not move the ball, and thus their defense was on the field for eighteen more minutes than the offense. If Vanderbilt can control the time of possession, and keep their defense fresh, the Dores can try to pull out a close victory. But, if the defense gets tired and has to stay on the field early and often, the Commodores will have a tough time closing out the deal.
Vanderbilt is clearly missing D.J. Moore on punt returns. Though Warren Norman has filled in pretty well on kickoffs, Alex Washington must get better on his punt returns, where he is only averaging four yards per return, thus not helping an offense that already appears to be struggling. However, these poor return yardage is not all Washington's fault. Last week, Washington had several great returns called back due to penalties. The blocking must be better, and Washington must have a chance to really return the punts so that the offense can get better field position and put up more points.
Ole Miss leads the all time series 46-35-2, including a 27-15-2 mark in Nashville. Vanderbilt Head Coach is 3-4 against Ole Miss, and is 2-1 against Ole Miss Head Coach Houston Nutt.
First Meeting: Vanderbilt 40 Ole Miss 0 (1894)
Last Meeting: Vanderbilt 23 Ole Miss 17 (2008 in Oxford)
Last Meeting in Nashville: Vanderbilt 31 Ole Miss 17 (2007)