The Ole Miss Rebels host the Vanderbilt Commodores in a battle of five-win teams, with the winner becoming bowl eligible The game in Oxford, MS will be carried by ESPNU at 6 p,m. central time.
When was the last year the Vanderbilt at Ole Miss game was as important as 2012?
Normally, this is an early-season matchup of teams permanently matched as cross-divisional rivals in the SEC, so the chances for this game to actually decide bowl placement have been few.
2008 was a banner year in the series, as both teams went bowling, Ole Miss to the Cotton and Vandy to the Music City, even though Vanderbilt won the head-to-head game 23-17 in September.
The last time Ole Miss played Vanderbilt in November was 1995, and Ole Miss needed the 21-10 win to get to six wins in the days of NCAA probation, but Vanderbilt was a two-win team at the time.
Maybe 1956 was the defining game in the series, as it was the last time both teams were ranked, as No. 7 Ole Miss defeated No. 13 Vanderbilt 16-0 on Mississippi soil.
Needless to say; this is a really important game, as both James Franklin and Hugh Freeze try to build programs in the always harsh environment that is the Southeastern Conference.
This is really the key to any game, but Vanderbilt’s defense is built to shut teams down. It currently ranks fourth in the SEC in scoring defense, only allowing 17.1 points per game.
Luckily for Ole Miss, Vanderbilt does not capitalize on turnovers, only recovering four fumbles and four interceptions through nine games.
Vanderbilt excels at keeping offenses off the field, giving up an average of 16.7 first downs to opposing teams. Ole Miss hopes to continue its brand of offense that averages 21.8 first downs per game.
Ole Miss may give Vanderbilt’s defense a chance to improve its turnover margin, as the Rebels are somewhat loose with the football, giving up 11 interceptions and losing nine fumbles.
Starting QB Bo Wallace has 10 interceptions on the year but has improved recently, only losing two passes to the defense in the last three SEC games.
He will have to continue this trend to ensure Ole Miss has a chance to go bowling for the first time since the 2009 season.
In the SEC, there are not many teams that Ole Miss would feel confident in running the ball with success, but Vanderbilt is one of those teams. With Vandy giving up 164.3 yards per game, Ole Miss must take advantage of this to open up the passing routes, as the Commodore's have a solid defensive secondary.
Ole Miss averages nearly 150 yards a game rushing and will try to improve on this with steady doses of scat-back Jeff Scott and converted QB Randall Mackey.
Senior Vanderbilt running back Zac Stacy is again leading the Commodores in rushing with 752 yards in the 2012 season. He is the key for this Vanderbilt offense with a per-yard rushing average of over five yards per carry.
Quarterback Jordan Rodgers has quietly put up some yards (1,678), but with only seven touchdowns, is not enough of a threat to beat Ole Miss alone. Wide receivers Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd have been giving Rodgers a lot of help accounting for 75 percent of his passing yards.
The Ole Miss football program has done a great job rallying around each other, creating that family environment that promotes the right priorities.
This attitude correction by head coach Hugh Freeze is possibly the only real difference between a team that won two games last year and one that has won five in 2012 with three left to play.
As social media is so prevalent in college life these days, we have seen the creation of the Twitter hashtag #WIN6 being shared by Ole Miss players and fans, and it's a great way to focus everyone on the next game.
The Rebels are still very thin on talent and depth and can’t afford to think about a Florida bowl destination or a seven or eight-win season until they #WIN6.