This game is a really difficult one one which to get a good read.
I'm not really that enthused about writing this prediction, and that's not a reflection on my feelings on the game. I just think that there's an unreasonable amount of speculation for week five. We shoud know things about these teams by now, but we really don't.
That said, my opinion and prediction follows after the jump. Matchup-style.
Ole Miss Passing vs. Vandy secondary and pass rushers
As much as I hate to do this, I don't say any way to avoid this outcome. At this point in the season, our passing game is all hype. We're eighth in the conference in passing offense with only 175 yards per game through the air. Vanderbilt is first in the conference in pass defense, allowing only 106.2 passing yards per game.
Jevan Snead is completing fewer than 50% of his passes. Shay Hodge has a grand total of 147 yards through three games. People (Whiskey Wednesday included) are ragging on Bradley Sowell a lot, but I have maybe been more disappointed with John Jerry. Obviously, Jerry's strength has always been run blocking, but he has to be servicable in pass protection. Jerry whiffs on defensive ends regularly this season, and he has to get that under control.
On the other side, Vandy doesn't showcase an elite pass rusher, but perhaps Junior DE Theron Kadri can fill that role for them this season. Kadri has three sacks. While the Commodores may not sport a big-name DE, they do have senior CB Myron Lewis, who already has two picks and ten passes defended on the year. We need to do our best to avoid Lewis, because our offense simply can't handle turning the ball over.
While my homeristic tendencies may tell me that we'll kill Vandy through the air, I'm just not ready to say that based on what I have seen on the field.
Ole Miss Running vs. Vandy front seven
On the other hand, I am very ready to say this. Vanderbilt sits at eleventh in the conference in rushing defense, and I don't think that standing is going to improve this week. While our offensive line can't seem to pull together in pass blocking, they can run block very well, and I anticipate that we will ride that as far as we can.
I'm just going to put it this way. Vandy gave up 160 yards rushing to Rice. Rice. Brandon Bolden blah blah blah.
Edge: Ole Miss
Vandy Passing vs. Ole Miss secondary and pass rushers
To say that Vanderbilt has struggled throwing the football this season is to say that Courtney Love is trashy. Vanderbilt ranks eleventh in the SEC in passing offense, mustering a lowly 165 yards passing per game. Granted, that's barely less than we're passing for, but I wanted to use the Courtney Love reference somewhere.
Larry Smith, the Commodores' starting QB, is completing 48 percent of his passes. Through four games, he has thrown one touchdown and three interceptions. He's just... not good.
Ole Miss' pass defense may not look so great statistically, ranking at ninth in the SEC, but I can tell you, our team is so much better at it this year than last. Cassius Vaughn may be the least heralded player on our roster. He makes significantly athletic plays, and people don't even talk about him. Anyway, all this to say, our pass defense should be able to make big things happen against Vanderbilt.
If Vandy does make something happen in the passing game, it will probably be because of John Cole, a redshirt freshman who leads the team in receptions and yards. Cole has a Dexterly stlyed game, but he's no McCluster.
Edge: Ole Miss
Vandy Running vs. Ole Miss front seven
Vanderbilt has some capable backs this season, and Ole Miss has performed worse than many expected at stopping the run. While the Rebels are as high as 4th in the conference in run defense, there have been several plays where poor tackling and being out of position have led to big gains from opposing halfbacks.
If we're going to bring down freshman sensation Warren Norman at Vanderbilt, Jonathan Cornell is going to have to up his game. Trahan and Walker haven't really done anything this year either. That whole unit needs to improve.
Norman is averaging 6.9 yards per carry, and backup Senior Jared Hawkins is averaging 5.5. The Rebels have to load the box and dare Vanderbilt to pass. If we don't, I think we will see some gaping holes with speedy backs running for 5 or 6 yards a pop.
So, my matchups give the slight edge to Ole Miss, and I think that's probably accurate. I would guess that our defense continues to play lights out and our offense performs a little bit better than the norm for the season.
Rebels by 10.