July 15, 2024

Vanderbilt vs Ole Miss preview and prediction

Ole Miss roars into Nashville on the back of its newest star, freshman quarterback Shea Patterson. Can Patterson lead his Rebels to another season-altering victory, or will Zach Cunningham and the Vanderbilt defense take one more step toward bowl eligibility with a win?

Photo obtained via creativecommons.org. No changes made.

This Saturday, the Ole Miss Rebels (5-5, 2-4 SEC) will travel to Nashville in an attempt to upend the Vanderbilt Commodores (4-6, 2-5 SEC).

The ‘Dores trudge into this matchup following a nine-point loss to a 3-7 Missouri team, while Ole Miss streaks into Vanderbilt Stadium full of confidence after a possibly season-saving win over then-No. 23 Texas A&M.

Rebels head coach Hugh Freeze was forced to remove freshman Shea Patterson’s redshirt after starter Chad Kelly fell victim to an ACL injury, and it paid off in spades for Ole Miss.

Patterson lit up the scoreboard for the Rebels, slowly but surely sucking the life out of the Aggies’ defense.

He went 25-for-42 for 338 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, adding 64 more yards on 15 touches on the ground, and he was lucky that the Rebels jumped on both of his two fumbles.

Meanwhile, even in a loss to Missouri last week, Ralph Webb posted another strong showing for the Commodores’ offense. He ranks fourth in the conference with 935 rushing yards through 2016.

Another story, however, lies on the defensive side for Vanderbilt, as head coach Derek Mason’s stingy defense held Mizzou to just 188 total yards of offense.

Furthermore, it kept the Tigers at a standstill all night on third down, allowing no conversions for Missouri quarterback Drew Lock and his offense.

Linebacker Zach Cunningham leads the Vanderbilt defense into this matchup, as his 104 total tackles sit atop the SEC in 2016 rankings.

He and the Commodore secondary will face a mighty foe in the Rebel receiving corps, however. Tight end Evan Engram’s 824 total receiving yards top the charts in the conference.

Damore’ea Stringfellow has proven another valuable weapon in Hugh Freeze’s arsenal, while C.J. Duncan and Kalija Lipscomb serve as a couple big playmakers for Commodore quarterback Kyle Shurmur.

 

Obviously, each boasts its own array of playmakers on both side of the football, as Webb, Patterson and their respective teammates look for another season-changing win.

What this game could come down to, then, is special teams, and that’s where Tommy Openshaw gives the Commodores an edge.

Yes, Ole Miss kicker Gary Wunderlich went three-for-three against Texas A&M, including the game-winner. Yes, he holds a 95-percent success rate in field goals through 2016.

But, what Wunderlich holds in game-saving magic, Openshaw makes up for in accuracy.

Openshaw has made 100 percent of his field goals through 2016, and his longest came on a 52-harder earlier this season.

This game is a big one for both teams, as the Rebels look to clinch bowl eligibility and save what many thought would be a program-changing season not so long ago.

On the Commodores’ side, Mason is still searching for his first winning season in Nashville, and he’ll need wins over both the Rebels and in-state rival Tennessee to snag that and bowl eligibility for a fan base thirsting for the success it saw under James Franklin.

The Commodores kick off against the Rebels at 8:00 ET on Saturday, and the game will be shown live on the SEC Network. Live stream will be available via WatchESPN.

Prediction

Ole Miss comes into this game flying high after beating Texas A&M, only to come crashing down in Nashville. The Rebels’ defense gives up big yardage to Webb, and Vanderbilt’s defense chokes a confident Rebel offensive attack into submission. Despite Patterson’s best efforts, Vanderbilt secures another big win, and Tommy Openshaw proves the hero in a 23-20 victory.

Edited by David Bradford

Featured image courtesy of commons.wikimedia

Sports editor Jake Nichols has been part of the TNJN staff in two different capacities. His freshman and sophomore years, Jake worked as a staff writer before moving on to write for Rocky Top Insider, and he also worked with VFL Films and the SEC Network for a semester his junior year. When asked the summer before his senior year to return to TNJN as the sports editor, Jake jumped at the chance to end his time in Knoxville working with the organization he first began with as a freshman. Jake is excited to help lead younger writers, much like former editors Cody McClure and Jordan Dajani aided him. Jake also does freelance sports coverage and photography for The Mountain Press in Sevierville, Tenn., and in his spare time, he can be found with family, his girlfriend or driving his Jeep, most likely with his Canon in tow. Be sure and follow Jake on Twitter and Instagram at @jnichols_2121, and keep up with TNJN Sports on Twitter as well!