I'm happy with what Bob Loblaw was able to churn out for me on relatively short notice. Give his blog a visit or two. There's a picture of a cat wearing a monocle. No joke.
You can find his responses to my questions after the jump.
1. We were all overlooking Mississippi State until they beat y'all. What gives? How did Mississippi State manage to hold the Commodores to 157 total yards?
Three reasons. One, State has always had big guys plugging up their defensive line. They might not be the fastest guys in the league laterally, but for between the tackles defense, they're pretty good, just ask LSU. Two, Vanderbilt's passing game is really struggling right now. Quarterback Larry Smith is certainly capable of delivering a catcahble ball, but the receivers have been running poor routes and their hands appear to be made of marble. Marble is elegant stone and befits a Commodore, but it's not quite helpful when it comes to catching footballs. Three, State dominated time of possession for the aforementioned reasons. Stacking eight in the box slows the run game, and when you can't stretch the field with the pass, you're in for a lot of three-and-outs.
Those two, along with upperclassman Kennard Reeves, are just fast. They're also pretty short so finding them behind the O-line after the snap can be problematic for a defense. Stacy appears to have a bit of a foot or ankle injury heading into this week's game, but they all are hard hitting, quick backs with good footwork, and they are especially good in space. All three are also serviceable receivers in the flat, and I think even led the team in reception yards in a couple games this year. Vanderbilt's not exactly known for having great halfbacks, and happens to be really fortunate to have the corps it does this year.
3. Who is the best player on your team that no one is talking about?
No one really talks about Vanderbilt anyway, but I'd have to say that the best player whose name doesn't come up too often on the Commodores right now is probably linebacker Patrick Benoist. He's second on the team in tackles and doesn't seem to ever get beat on the run. He's also pretty capable in pass coverage as the only linebacker with an interception for the Dores so far this year.
4. Vanderbilt has a tendency to get fired up for their game against Ole Miss every year. Why do you think that is, considering it's not exactly a rivalry?
Actually, technically, Ole Miss is Vanderbilt's designated West division rival, which is why the two play each other every year. Other than that, I have no idea. Vanderbilt's always been a bit of a weird team, losing games it should probably win and winning games it should probably lose, at least historically. They're kind of like Houston Nutt that way.
5. What's your prediction? How does the game play out?
I'll be honest, I don't quite know what to expect out of this one. Vanderbilt managed to open up its passing game a bit last week, but it was against Rice which really shouldn't count. However, if Smith can find a receiver who can actually run a good route and catch, I think they've got a guy they can exploit a bit in Marshay Green on the Rebel secondary. Green seems like he's been a liability for Ole Miss all season, which might not be fair, but that's just what I've seen. I'm not quite as confident that the Dores will be able to run the ball with a lot of effectiveness against your defense, though, so if there's no passing game, Vandy's in for a long night.
On the Rebel side of things, offensively I'm not sure the team's figured out who they are yet. I haven't yet seen Snead or McCluster, really, come out of his shell. Snead hasn't looked like the guy who shredded Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl last year yet this season, although we seem to be finding out that Tech never really had a defense to begin with. Vanderbilt's pretty banged up on defense right now, but they still play hard and hit hard, and are one of the better coached units in the league in my opinion.
The final score is nearly impossible for me to get a good read on, so given both teams' struggles to score points, I'll say Ole Miss 17, Vanderbilt 12.