Vanderbilt (5-4) at Ole Miss (5-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Nov. 10, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (60,580) -- Oxford, Mississippi. Television: ESPN U. Home Record: Vanderbilt 3-2, Ole Miss 3-2. Away Record: Vanderbilt 2-2, Ole Miss 2-2. Neutral Record: Vanderbilt 0-0, Ole Miss 0-0. Conference Record: Vanderbilt 3-3, Ole Miss 2-3. Series Record: Ole Miss leads, 47-36-2.
GAME NOTES: A pair of SEC teams with identical records will each attempt to become bowl eligible on Saturday night when the Vanderbilt Commodores pay a visit to the Ole Miss Rebels.
Vanderbilt fell victim to a brutal early-season schedule, losing four of its first six games. Three of those losses came against South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, which rank No. 12, No. 5, and No. 7 in the nation, respectively. Since that rough start however, the Commodores have gotten back on track with three straight wins, including a 40-0 thrashing of Kentucky on the road last week, their first shutout over an SEC foe since 1968. They haven't had a four- game win streak since they started the 2008 season at 5-0.
Ole Miss has been a pleasant surprise under first-year head coach Hugh Freeze as it has more than doubled its total win total from the 2011 season. The Rebels have won two SEC games, which is a huge step forward considering they had lost 16 straight conference games before beating Auburn on Oct. 13. They came out strong on the road against nationally-ranked Georgia last week, even holding a 10-0 lead in the second quarter, but they eventually lost, 37-10.
Ole Miss leads the all-time series with Vanderbilt, 47-36-2, and has won 22 of the previous 26 matchups in Oxford. However, the Commodores have defeated the Rebels four times in of the past five seasons.
The Vanderbilt offense (25.4 ppg, 385.1 ypg) has kicked things into high gear recently, scoring a combined 89 points over the last two weeks.
In last week's blowout, Zac Stacy was limited to just 11 carries but he cashed in with 69 yards and a touchdown. With 752 yards and six touchdowns, he is currently falling short of his outstanding season in 2011 (school-record 1,193 yards, 14 TDs), but the senior is already the program's all-time leading rusher with 2,754 career yards.
Jordan Rodgers (.593 completion percentage, 1,678 yards, seven TDs, three INTs) has been steady-if-unspectacular this season, throwing for at least 200 yards in six of eight games while never crossing 237 yards. Four of his seven touchdown passes have come in the past two games.
Other than Arkansas' Cobi Hamilton, no receiver in the SEC has been more active than Jordan Matthews, who ranks second in the league in both catches (61) and yards (850). Chris Boyd (35 receptions, 622 yards, two TDs) has become more involved in recent weeks with 16 catches and two scores during the Commodores' three-game win streak.
In a conference full of outstanding defenses, Vanderbilt has made a name for itself by allowing just 17.1 ppg and 316.2 ypg, but while stout, the unit hasn't done much in the turnover department with just four interceptions and four fumble recoveries.
Chase Garnham is the team's leader in both sacks (five) and tackles for loss (eight). Kenny Ladler is one of the better safeties in the conference with 57 tackles and an interception.
The Ole Miss offense (29.9 ppg, 408.2 ypg) has been much better than expected, but it under-performed last week against a fast and physical Georgia squad, churning out a meager 234 yards.
Bo Wallace has shown flashes of brilliance in his sophomore campaign, completing 66.1 percent of his passes for 1,836 yards and 11 touchdowns while rushing for another 265 yards and five scores. He's been prone to turnovers however, as his 10 interceptions are tied for most in the SEC.
Jeff Scott rushed for just 21 yards on 13 carries a week ago, but he's typically a reliable performer out of the backfield with 633 rushing yards and six touchdowns to along with 15 receptions.
Wallace has had good chemistry with Donte Moncrief (39 receptions, 540 yards, five TDs), but the offense's main weakness is a lack of depth at the receiver position, with converted quarterback Randall Mackey (20 receptions, 274 yards) being the next-best option.
Last week's performance was not the finest hour for the Rebels defense (27.8 ppg), as they allowed UGA's Aaron Murray to throw for nearly 400 yards and four touchdowns.
Cody Prewitt led the unit with 11 tackles and a fumble recovery, tying him for the team lead in tackles on the season with 60. Denzel Nkemdiche also has 60 tackles and he has also recorded nine tackles for loss, two tacks, two interceptions and four forced fumbles.
Both of these teams have played well considering the down seasons they put together a year ago, and while neither deserves to be mentioned among the SEC's elite, they are showing positive signs of perhaps reaching that plateau someday soon. Vandy comes in with the hotter hand, but in front of its home fans, expect Ole Miss to find a way to win narrowly.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ole Miss 21, Vanderbilt 20
11/07 10:36:46 ET