Ole Miss enters SEC play this weekend against a hapless Vanderbilt team. If the Rebel secondary is ever going to step up this year, this should be the game. Vanderbilt is ranked 101 in passing offense nationally and 106 in total offense. On paper, it appears that this is just what the Ole Miss defense needs to get on track.
The team stats seem to indicate that the Rebels match up well against Vanderbilt, but as this season has shown, you can't go by what should happen. Ole Miss should have dominated against Jacksonville State and Tulane, but they didn't.
Now is the time for the Rebel defense to man up. The Ole Miss defense has four captains and these leaders need to step up and ensure that every defensive player performs up to their capabilities. This hasn't happened so far this season.
The defensive front seven have to get more pressure on the quarterback and shut down the run. So far this season, they have not done so, and have allowed the young secondary to get burned over and over again. This game, although not glamorous, is very important to the Rebels. A loss against Vanderbilt would be hard for the Rebels to recover from, especially looking at the rest of the schedule for 2010.
Vanderbilt's stats from their first two games show a team that has struggled offensively. Here is how the Commodores and Rebels match up in the national ranking:
Vandy Ole Miss
Rushing Offense: 84 57
Passing Offense: 101 32
Total Offense: 106 43
Sacs Allowed: 108 28
Rushing Defense: 103 33
Passing Defense: 36 81
Total Defense: 79 58
The one stat that really stands out in the Ole Miss column is the pass defense being ranked 81st in the country. This is something that will definitely be exploited in the SEC if adjustments aren't made soon - as in this week. Defensively, the Rebels must find the answer against Vanderbilt because the competition does not get any easier in the upcoming weeks.
Pressure must be put on the struggling Vanderbilt offense. The Rebel defensive line has to get to the quarterback and not let him have all day to pass. And, most importantly, the defense has to play four entire quarters. It does no good to shut down the opposing offense for two quarters only to allow them back into the game in the second half.
Offensively, the Rebel's stats look great. The question on offense, as with the defense, is whether or not they will play all four quarters. In the two previous games, the offense has scored only three points in the second half of regulation play. This is not good enough. It wasn't good enough against Jacksonville State, and it certainly will not be good enough against SEC teams.
The offense has looked impressive at times despite doing nothing in the third and fourth quarters. Jeremiah Masoli has done his part. Masoli is ranked 10th in the country in pass efficiency.Nutt stated this week that Masoli will start for the Rebels. Houston Nutt also insinuated that he plans to make Masoli his number one quarterback and stop sharing time between Masoli and Stanley.
The offensive line has been a bit better than many expected. And the running game has been adequate and shows promise. Markeith Summers, and the receiving corps have looked good. Summers is ranked 25th nationally in receiving yards per game. Hopefully Nutt will let the offense play instead of turning conservative again in the second half, as he did against Tulane and Jacksonville State.
Just looking at the stats, one would not expect the Rebels to be 1-1 going into the Vanderbilt game. Something simply has not clicked for the Rebels this year. Now is the time for Ole Miss to put it all together if they are to have any chance of going bowling or not being embarrassed by the "big boys.".
Will the defense finally start to click? Will the Rebels finally play ball for the entire game? Has Houston Nutt figured out how to keep his players fired up and motivated? Houston Nutt better hope so because a loss against Vandy could not only doom the Rebel's season, but it could also put him on the hot seat. The only thing that I can say for sure is that all of these questions will be answered Saturday in Oxford.
Bohdi Sanders ~ www.TheWisdomWarrior.com