The Vanderbilt Hustler
By almost any measure, Vanderbilt’s football team is much improved from last season. The defense is much improved with Derek Mason’s playcalling – especially in the red zone, where they are ranked seventh in the nation – and the offense finally has a pulse. But the one area in which the team has not improved is wins and losses.
A 14-12 loss to Western Kentucky was frustrating with just nine points in five trips inside the 10 yard line, but they did hold a high-powered offense that averaged 44.4 points and 535 yards per game last year to 14 points on 247 yards.
Vanderbilt wasn’t expected to take down No. 10 Georgia at home, but they nearly closed the gap to three points before Commodore quarterback Johnny McCrary threw his third end zone interception of the season, which was returned for a touchdown.
It wasn’t until last week’s 47-7 victory over Austin Peay that Vanderbilt saw the fruits of its labor. But in a season in which bowl eligibility seems like a pipe dream, team and player improvement is more important than wins and losses.
The Commodores don’t stand much of a chance on the road against the No. 3 team in the nation – they are 25-point underdogs – but there is still a lot to be learned from the game.
How will the young team play on the road after three games in Nashville? Can Trent Sherfield continue his success from last week? Will Vanderbilt ever force a turnover? Is there any way to stop Robert Nkemdiche?
Prediction: Ole Miss 34 Vanderbilt 17
The Daily Mississippian
What’s not to like about the Ole Miss Rebels right now?
The Rebels went back-to-back and beat Alabama consecutively for the first time in program history. The Rebels proved to themselves that they’re one of the best teams in country last Saturday, so they should handle Vanderbilt with ease, right?
Not so fast, my friends.
All the signs point to an Ole Miss blowout, especially with the Rebels having dismantled Vanderbilt in Nashville last year 41-3, but Vanderbilt is a much improved team compared to the debacle that happened last season.
Vanderbilt kept it a competitive game in the first half against Georgia two weeks ago, but the Bulldogs flexed their muscles in the second half and won 31-14. The defense showed signs of improvement, and the offense finally found a quarterback.
Sophomore Johnny McCrary comes into the matchup in Oxford off the best game of his career in Vanderbilt’s 47-7 blowout against Austin Peay, going 28-33 passing for 368 yards and two scores. Even with great numbers last week, McCrary has more interceptions (five) than touchdown passes (four) on the season. That could spell doom for the sophomore against the Rebel defense.
Even with injuries on the offensive line and defensive secondary for the Rebels, the talent gap heavily favors the Rebels. The depth of Ole Miss is second-to-none this season, and it’ll show Saturday night at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. I expect big games from both Chad Kelly and Jaylen Walton.
The defense may struggle at times against McCrary early on, but it won’t be close in the second half.
Prediction: Ole Miss 66, Vanderbilt 21