Mathematically, Ole Miss could have become bowl eligible last week at Georgia. Realistically, Georgia’s speed and talent at several positions was going to make that difficult.
While the Rebels got off to a good start and a 10-0 lead, Georgia ultimately figure out it could win the game at the line of scrimmage, and that’s where it dominated.
From across the board talent, Vanderbilt isn’t Georgia. The Commodores have been pretty successful on defense, though, particularly against the pass.
Run the numbers on defense, and the Commodores are in the top 19 nationally in total defense (19), scoring defense (14) and pass defense efficiency (7).
They’ve been susceptible to the run, giving up 164.2 yards a game. That stat alone would have been a reason for confidence a couple of weeks ago, but the Rebels haven’t run consistently since the Auburn game almost a month ago.
Part of that has been opponents successfully scheming against the zone read, some of it with Georgia was about superior talent and speed.
If the Rebels can revive the run game — and that’s been the point of emphasis for Hugh Freeze this week — they’ll move the ball, and they’ll hit some plays in the passing game. I wouldn’t expect Donte Moncrief to be shut out two weeks in a row.
Bu they’re going to need early success in the run game to gain some confidence but to also help what is likely to be a sellout crowd to play to their advantage.
Before the sweat had dried at Georgia Freeze was calling on Ole Miss fans to turn out for this game. Ticket sales suggest they’ve answered the call. With a 6 p.m. start, Vaught-Hemingway could be rocking with a home atmosphere that could make a difference.
The Rebels have been pretty good at home this season, particularly in their last two games, a split with Texas A&M — the game that got away — and Auburn.
If they can bring Saturday night the energy and execution they showed for most of the A&M game, this one won’t get away, and Ole Miss will be bowl-eligible for the first time since 2009.
The number of players missing practice time this week is a concern. Yes, most of those are expected back, including cornerback Senquez Golson, who missed the Georgia game with a concussion.
But so many players missing practice time can take a team out of rhythm. It also means that while some of these guys are playing, they’re playing at less than full strength.
There’s enough going right in other areas for Ole Miss to get the win.
Prediction: Ole Miss 32, Vanderbilt 26