No. 21 Mississippi Rebels (2-1, 1-1 ATS) at Vanderbilt Commodores (2-2, 1-1-1 ATS) Vanderbilt Stadium Nashville, T.N. Saturday October 3rd, 7:00PM Eastern
By Jay Horne of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Mississippi -9.5/Vanderbilt +9.5
The Mississippi Rebels reached their highest ranking in nearly 40 years last week as the number 4 team in the nation as they headed into a hostile environment prime time on the Thursday night stage. However, the Rebels fell victim to the upset bug that has swept through the top 5 teams throughout the season and plummeted to the 21st spot in the polls. The Rebels are now looking to rebound to prove they are among the best in the SEC and will take the road and take on Bobby Johnson’s Vanderbilt Commodores this Saturday night.
Vanderbilt was a team that broke out in the SEC last season jumping out to a strong 5-1 start with some big time upsets. The Commodores faded during the latter part of the season, but still managed to grab their first bowl victory in 53 years. However, Vanderbilt has not had the season they expected following last year’s success.
The Commodores have lost both opening battles to SEC opponents this year dropping to LSU and Mississippi State out of the SEC West. Vanderbilt will now try to avoid dropping to 0-3 against the SEC and more definitive the SEC West teams when they host the Rebels this Saturday night.
The Commodores have won 3 of the last 4 meetings over Mississippi including a 23-17 victory last year in Oxford. The Commodores look to continue that trend and slow down one of the better offenses in the conference. Jevan Snead had a little bit of a Heisman buzz surrounding him heading into this season, but all that noise was ended last week.
Snead threw just 7 completions in 21 attempts for 107 yards of passing last week against South Carolina in one of the worse performances of his career. Snead has yet to have the success seen in 2008 and is throwing surprisingly under the 50% mark on the year. If the Rebels are to get back to their elite status, Snead must get hot.
The Rebels offensive production has been down as a unit, but they still have a lot of playmakers to keep on your radar. WR Shay Hodge is a proven factor that finds a way to make plays and leads the team with 147 receiving yards. Dexter McCluster is an all-purpose threat that is used sort of like Percy Harvin was last year at Florida.
McCluster gets a lot of carries on end around plays and will line up in the receiver position as well. The more touches McCluster has the bigger chance the Rebels have at capturing the win. Also, running back Brandon Bolden is an elusive threat as well. Bolden like some of the other playmakers has not posted any huge numbers this year given the low production, but the talent is hard to ignore. If the Commodores defense does not come ready to play, these guys can score points quickly if not respected.
The Commodores defense will be key to their success. The Rebels also have a good defense, but if Vanderbilt can stop the Ole Miss offense then perhaps that can push for a low scoring upset like South Carolina accomplished last week. So far this season the Commodores rank 5th in the SEC allowing just 266 yards per game and more importantly first in the SEC in pass defense allowing only 106 yards per game through the air. It will be hard for Snead to be held to another 100 yard day through the air, but if Vanderbilt can hold the Rebels quarterback to that average then they will have every chance at the win.
The Commodores offense has failed to produce any big numbers this season. Vanderbilt ranks next to last in passing offense at just 166 yards per game. QB Larry Smith has struggled throwing 3 picks to just 1 touchdown this season and completing less than 50%. Those numbers are nothing unexpected as the quarterbacks also struggled in 2008. As result, the Commodores have kept the ball on the ground and have been affective as well.
Freshman Warren Norman leads the team with 250 yards and 3 touchdowns while an equally dangerous freshman by the name of Zac Stacy has had equal success. Stacy has rushed for 236 yards on the ground and will see playing time. If the young guys can manufacture some yards on the ground it will really help in keeping Mississippi’s offense off the field which would help their chances at the win. However, the offense will still have to find a way to score more points than they are averaging this season at an SEC worse 22 points per game.
Jay’s Pick – Rebels bounce back strong here. Take Mississippi -9.5