Look..... Ole Miss is going to beat Vanderbilt Saturday. It’s going to happen. This isn’t a WAOM moment. Vanderbilt is quite bad, ranking 115th in scoring defense and 49th in scoring offense. I don’t think it’s going to be a bloodbath, but it will likely be a comfortable win for the Rebels (unless insanity happens and... oh God. I- I can’t let myself go down that hole. Not now. Not again).
So, with that being said, what can a game like this one show us this year? The Rebels have faced 3.5 bad opponents so far this season and 1.5 good teams. Over the course of that time, we’ve pretty much learned that Ole Miss is, in fact, good and not, in fact, bad. Sure, we also know that the defense is salty and the running game is capable. The unit still isn’t that battle tested yet though, and that won’t change Saturday.
But I do think there are some things the team can show Saturday to help Ole Miss fans feel more comfortable going into a stretch of talented opponents (even if many are playing like butt).
Complete passes to slot receivers
Through five games this season, the leading wide receiver not named Jonathan Mingo or Malik Heath has 118 yards receiving. In fact, other than those two all wide receivers on the team combine for 269 yards. That’s just 53.8 yards per game. That’s..... not enough.
For this offense to really work, it needs to see receivers separating underneath. While the dominant run game does take some of that need away, it’s still imperative that opposing defenses can’t run a “keep the passing game in front of you” style. Shifty receivers underneath help make that a recipe for disaster, but Ole Miss hasn’t been able to develop that key piece yet.
Score in the second half
This offense scored three points in the second half against Kentucky. It scored zero against Tulsa and seven against Troy. Whatever is going on needs to be fixed. At the moment, it seems like a combination of a lot of factors, including a lot of inconsistency, a conservative offense late, and key drops. Whatever the flavor of the week is, we’re approaching a time when an offense that can’t score after halftime will get obliterated. Vanderbilt isn’t a good defense. This team should score pretty frequently against it. If it doesn’t, that’s major cause for concern.
Hold Vanderbilt under 20 points
The Ole Miss defense has proven it’s for real. The Rebels are 26th in pass efficiency defense, 41st in 3rd down defense, and 27th in yards per carry allowed. Suffice it to say, they’re good.
Vanderbilt, as mentioned above, is pretty bad on offense. They recently switched to freshman quarterback AJ Swann, who actually looks like a solid quarterback. The Rebels can’t allow him to make any noise though, as they take away his options and pressure him quickly.
If Vanderbilt goes for over 20, that’s probably a pretty bad sign.