The Most Underrated SEC Game of the Week: Vanderbilt vs. Ole Miss
One of the best matchup weekends for the SEC is coming up this Saturday.
LSU and Auburn will duel it out for a game that could decide the SEC West. Florida and Tennessee gather for their annual meeting that is sure to be a good game.
Then, you have Alabama travelling to Fayetteville to take on an Arkansas squad who is looking to prove themselves. On top of all that, Georgia travels out to Arizona to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils.
Finally, you have Vanderbilt vs. Ole Miss.
Yeah, I said it.
Last year the Rebels traveled to Nashville and the result of the Vanderbilt game led a downward spiral that left the Rebel fans without an SEC win for the first time since 1982.
Vanderbilt comes in to Oxford at 3-0 after beating Miami (OH), previously ranked South Carolina, and Rice. Could this be the year Vanderbilt finally gets their first winning season and make their first bowl game since 1982?
They've proven to be a sleeper pick thus far, at least to get out of the cellar of the SEC East. Whatever secret powers those new look jerseys have for Vanderbilt, they sure have worked the first fourth of the season.
They are led on offense by the dual-threat Chris Nickson, who is 24 of 45 for 252 yards passing with two TDs and 0 INTs. On the ground, Nickson has already racked up 268 yards on 49 carries and five TDs. Nickson leads the team in both categories.
For Ole Miss, they come in to their first conference game of the year after losing eight straight conference games last year. Thus far, they have looked plenty different from the team of a year ago.
The Rebs come in with a record of 2-1 after defeating Memphis and Samford and being narrowly defeated by the nationally ranked Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
Jevan Snead comes in leading a decent Rebel offense that's scored a little over 34 points a game this season, a number Ole Miss's offense only reached once last year over Northwestern State. Jevan Snead is 43 of 77 for 660 yards passing with six TDs and three INTs. Two of those INTs came last Saturday vs. Samford where Snead and receivers were confused on assignments.
The Rebels rushing attack tends to be a three-man workhorse thus far as junior Cordera Eason and freshmen Brandon Bolden and Enrique Davis have shared the load to combine for 333 yards on 73 carries (4.5 YPC).
Dexter McCluster has also put in 71 yards on the ground out of the "Wild-Rebel" set.
On defense, both squads have had their improvements and setbacks.
For Ole Miss, the defense is in desperate need for help as All-SEC defensive end Greg Hardy is set to make his season debut after sustaining a foot injury in preseason practice.
Hardy led the SEC in sacks and ranked sixth nationally as a sophomore last season, only playing partially thoughout the season.
For Vanderbilt, their defense lived up to the hype against South Carolina, as the Gamecocks outgained Vanderbilt 325-225 but could only boast 17 points.
Keys to the Game for Each Team
Contain Chris Nickson
With Chris Nickson, Ole Miss is faced with a hard weapon to stop. Here, you have a guy who can throw the ball decently, but can move well on his feet, and with the spread offense Vanderbilt has put in, it will be a challenge for the Ole Miss defense to keep up.
Defensive Coordinator, Tyrone Nix will have to have a QB spy on Nickson at almost all times to contain him. With Greg Hardy making his comeback and Peria Jerry seeming 100 percent, the defensive line now arguably becomes the No. 2 defensive line in the SEC, second to LSU, if not as good.
Ole Miss hasn't exactly ran over teams on the ground although they average over 115 yards a game. Everyone knows Houston Nutt has brought in plenty of talent at RB to at least help the passing game out.
Ole Miss needs for a true leader to step up as a runner, whether it be Cordera Eason, Brandon Bolden, or Enrique Davis. The three headed monster has worked thus far fairly well, but you have to expect a leader will step in and get the majority of the carries.
Put Pressure on Jevan Snead
As proved in the Wake Forest game, if you give Jevan Snead time to throw the ball, he will pick you apart. Sometimes, he'll pick you apart even if you blitz. If Vanderbilt is to beat Ole Miss, they must be able to put enough pressure on Jevan Snead to get him rattled, which will take a lot.
Vanderbilt has to be able to pass early and often against Ole Miss. The weakest position for Ole Miss is without a doubt, cornerback, and Nickson has to be able to hook up with his players downfield.
With Greg Hardy now coming back for the Ole Miss game, one of the best pass rushers in the nation, it will now become a challenge for Vanderbilt, but it is imperative for Vandy to be able to pass for over 250 yards as Ole Miss has their full defensive line back to protect the run.
Derek Stephens is the Ole Miss Community Leader for BleacherReport.com
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