Vanderbilt Commodores (3-3, 0-3 SEC) at Ole Miss Rebels (2-3, 0-2 SEC)
When: 3:30 PM ET/2:30 PM CT, Saturday, October 14, 2017
Where: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oxford, MS
TV Coverage: SEC Network
Online stream: WatchESPN
All-time series: Ole Miss leads, 50-39-2
Last meeting: Vanderbilt won, 38-17
Odds (via oddsshark.com): Ole Miss -3; over/under 56
The Vanderbilt Commodores and Ole Miss Rebels both enter Saturday’s game in Oxford on a three-game losing streak.
The good news? Somebody has to win. The bad news? Somebody will be on a four-game losing streak after this one.
Granted, Vanderbilt’s three-game losing streak has come against the likes of Alabama, Florida, and Georgia — three games you probably expected the Commodores to lose. Then again, they’ve lost those three games by a combined score of 142-38. That’s ... not good. Ole Miss has lost its last two — to Alabama and Auburn -- by a combined score of 110-27. But they also lost to a Cal team that’s currently ranked #95 in S&P+.
The short version is that neither team has looked particularly good over the last few weeks, though Vanderbilt at least showed some upside — particularly on the defensive side of the ball — earlier in the season. Something’s got to give here.
Which is the real Vanderbilt?
Vanderbilt started the season 3-0, surrendering just 13 points — total — and winning by an average of 23.7 PPG. Then, the schedule bit back in a big way.
Was the Vanderbilt we saw over the first three weeks of the season the real Vanderbilt, and they’ll start playing like it once they play teams that aren’t ranked in the top 5 again? Or did Alabama and Georgia expose weaknesses that everybody else will take advantage of?
Skeptics will point out that the 3-0 start came against the likes of Middle Tennessee, Alabama A&M, and Kansas State. Then again, in terms of team quality, Ole Miss is probably closer to Middle Tennessee than they are to Alabama or Georgia.
As for Ole Miss, well, they took way too long to put away UT-Martin and lost to a Cal team that’s not particularly good.
Who can take advantage of the other’s weakness?
Vanderbilt’s defense has gotten hammered on the ground over the last three weeks: the Commodores currently rank 115th in defensive rushing success rate. The pass defense, though, has been fairly solid all year, as the Commodores’ defense is 8th nationally in passing success rate.
The Ole Miss defense has been average in terms of success rate — 53rd in rushing success rate, 63rd in passing success rate. But the Rebels have been burned by big plays.
What gives here? On paper, this matchup favors Vanderbilt; neither offense can really run the ball, and both seem to have largely abandoned the run in recent weeks (though that could also be explained by facing big deficits.) But of the two teams, Ole Miss seems to have the pass defense that’s more likely to get shredded.
Is this Ole Miss’ best chance for an SEC win?
Ole Miss doesn’t seem to have anything left to play for this season: the Rebels are under a self-imposed bowl ban due to the ongoing NCAA investigation, and after a 2-3 start interim head coach Matt Luke probably has close to zero chance of landing the job on a permanent basis.
An 0-8 SEC record is a real possibility: while the Rebels have home games remaining against LSU, Arkansas, and Texas A&M, S&P+ has them as an underdog in all three, and road trips to Kentucky and Mississippi State could be difficult. A home game against Vanderbilt might be the Rebels’ best chance at getting a conference win. (As for Vanderbilt, a home game against Missouri in November is probably their best shot if they don’t win this one.)