Vanderbilt at Ole Miss, Nov. 10
Many people look back at the season-ending loss to BYU and cite that game as setting a negative tone from which Ole Miss would not recover in 2011.
No doubt it was huge, a quality opponent at home, the game in your grasp only to let it slip away.
But if there was one game that sucked the life out of the Rebels, it was Vanderbilt.
There's a stigma that goes along with losing to Vanderbilt. Second-year coach James Franklin may change that. The Commodores finished 6-7 last season after a Liberty Bowl to Cincinnati. Losses to Tennessee, Florida, Arkansas and Georgia were by six points or fewer.
But Franklin had not changed that when the Commodores hosted Ole Miss on Sept. 17, and Vanderbilt didn't just win, it dominated. The final score was 30-7, but that was a 30-0 game with about 2 minutes left when Zack Stoudt – who was intercepted five times – and Donte Moncrief connected on a long touchdown.
Vanderbilt is the Rebels' permanent Eastern Division opponent and has taken control of the series of late winning five of the last seven meetings.
I've often heard the opinion among Ole Miss fans that the Rebels would be better off playing Vanderbilt later in the season, the theory being that the Commodores' lack of depth would appear by then and their spirits broken.
Last year Vanderbilt defeated Kentucky 38-8 in Week 10, lost an emotional 27-21 game to Tennessee in Week 11, then defeated Wake Forest 41-7 in the regular season finale.
The Commodores return nine starters on offense, including quarterback Jordan Rodgers, the younger brother of Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers, who started the final six games as the offense began to come together.
Also back is tailback Zac Stacy, who rushed for 1,193 yards and 14 touchdowns a year ago. He had 169 yards and a touchdown on a Statue of Liberty run against Ole Miss.
Seven starters are back on defense, but there are some big names from seasons past who are no longer there: All-SEC linebacker Chris Marve, All-America DB Casey Hayward and safety Sean Richardson among them.
Vanderbilt was solid in the secondary last season, and defensive backs coach Wesley McGriff joined Hugh Freeze's Ole Miss staff in the off-season.
In tweaking the defensive scheme a bit this season, Franklin has added a “rover” position, a hybrid safety-linebacker much like Ole Miss will use.
Vanderbilt attracted 8,500 fans for its spring game, the largest crowd in almost 20 years.