After coming off an incredibly controversial 35-28 loss against Auburn, Lane Kiffin and the Rebels will take on a depleted Vanderbilt team on Saturday.
Vanderbilt is not only coming off a bye week, but the Commodores did not play in week four against Missouri because of COVID-19 issues and not having enough healthy scholarship players to field a team.
To get more insight into how the Vanderbilt football team has handled its COVID-19 outbreaks, The Daily Mississippian spoke with Vanderbilt Hustler sports editor Simon Gibbs.
What have your thoughts been on the Vanderbilt season thus far?
“Everyone figured Vanderbilt was going to struggle, and after losing some huge talent on offense, it was clear there would be a lot of new faces on the team. We also hired new offensive and defensive coordinators this past offseason, so struggling was expected. Frankly, I did not expect them to be this bad,” Gibbs said.
“Also, in games like the South Carolina game, Vanderbilt was dealing with low numbers (of healthy players) due to COVID-19, so that coupled with the initial challenges this team had has led to what we have seen.”
Thus far, the Commodores have lost both games they have played this season, while the Rebels have a record of 1-4.
What are the numbers on the team looking like? Has the team been practicing?
“As for numbers, it’s hard to know what they look like right now. When the game got canceled, they were down to 47 to 50 scholarship players,” Gibbs said.
The SEC requires 53 scholarship players to dress in order to play a game, which is why Vanderbilt was unable to play against Missouri on Oct. 17. That game is now tentatively rescheduled for Dec. 12.
Gibbs said that the Commodores now have enough healthy players able to dress and play this weekend. “As for practice, they resumed practice about two days after the postponement because once you get everyone contact traced, tested and then put in quarantine, you’re ready to come back,” Gibbs said.
“The team released a depth chart, and it had some pretty key absences from prior weeks. Our starting punter is not listed on the depth chart so I would assume he is in isolation. Similarly, our second and third-string quarterbacks are both not listed on our depth chart.”
What matchup concerns do you have for Vanderbilt against Ole Miss?
“Our secondary is incredibly vulnerable. It is really bad now as they are shorthanded, and have been struggling with that all season,” Gibbs said. “So with that, both Corral or Plumlee are both dangerous. I know Corral has thrown a ton of interceptions over the past couple of games, but if he can find his footing it will be trouble for Vanderbilt.”
“With Vanderbilt, when it comes to allowing points, when it rains it pours. Against South Carolina, they let up 10 points in the first half, and then in rapid succession, South Carolina scored a couple of touchdowns and the game got away from Vandy very quickly. So, if the passing game for Ole Miss looks anything like it did in every game except for Arkansas, I think Ole Miss could blow this game open really quickly.”
Lastly, do you have a score prediction or any other predictions for Saturday’s game?
“Being realistic, I don’t think this will be a close one,” Gibbs said. “For a score, I am going with 35-10, Ole Miss. My one other prediction is one that I can guarantee knowing this program, which is not at full strength but from this new depth chart looks close enough to it. There will be way more key players missing from competition come Saturday.”