The Vanderbilt Commodores will try to keep their bowl hopes alive this week when they host long-time rival, the Ole Miss Rebels. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 EST on Saturday, November 17, at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville. Fans can watch the game on the SEC Network.
Oddsmakers list the Commodores as 2.5-point favorites at home. The over/under for the game is set at 66 points. Click here to see a full list of this week’s college football betting odds.
As usual, Vanderbilt has endured a tough season in the SEC. However, they head into their last two games with a chance to play their way into a bowl game, something they’ve done just once since Derek Mason took over as head coach in 2014. The ‘Dores were close to securing what would have been a massive road win against Missouri last week. However, they let a 28-19 2nd half lead slip through their fingers.
As it stands, Vandy is 4-6 on the season and will need to win their final two games to secure a bowl spot. The silver lining is that the Commodores will be at home for both games against a pair of teams that are a combined 3-9 in SEC play this year. Of course, Vanderbilt is in a similar boat, going just 1-5 in league play this season. But the Commodores should at least be on a level playing field with the teams left on their schedule.
As for Ole Miss, they knew before the season that they wouldn’t be eligible for a bowl game because of NCAA sanctions. However, Matt Luke and the Rebels have still managed to turn in a solid season. Ole Miss has dropped three games in a row to Auburn, South Carolina, and Texas A&M, making them 5-5 on the season and 1-5 in SEC play. But they’ve done well for themselves considering the motivation to reach a bowl game has been missing all season.
Of course, the Rebels should be able to get fired up for Saturday’s rivalry game against Vanderbilt. Surprisingly, this is the second-longest continuous rivalry in the country. Despite now being in two different divisions inside the SEC, these two schools have met every year since 1970. Ole Miss has gotten the better of Vanderbilt lately, winning four of the last five meetings. However, the Rebels lost 38-17 in their last trip to Nashville in 2016.
Admittedly, Ole Miss is a team that’s spiraling out of control and may not be that motivated to play this game. But I think the rivalry aspect of this game will get the Rebels excited to play. If that desire is there, I think Ole Miss matches up well against Vanderbilt, so I’ll lean toward them to get the win on the road.
There have been times this season when Vanderbilt has played well enough on defense to keep them in games. However, there have only been a few times when they’ve been able to sustain that for four quarters, and it hasn’t always been enough to win. As we saw last week against Missouri, the Commodores are fully capable of staying competitive with other SEC teams. Unfortunately for them, they’re not always able to finish the job. I think that could be the case against with Ole Miss.
The Rebels can be an outstanding offensive team when they get going. Teams with elite defenses like Alabama, LSU, and Auburn have been able to stop them. But against every other team on their schedule, the Ole Miss offense has been able to move the ball and put points on the board. There’s no doubt that Vanderbilt is lacking the athletes on defense to keep the Rebels contained for four quarters.
Jordan Ta’amu remains one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country. He’s capable of running wild with his legs, but he’s also efficient throwing the ball. On the season, Ta’amu has just five interceptions to 17 touchdowns while facing quality SEC defenses nearly every week. He also has some serious playmakers around him, with running back Scottie Phillips poised to surpass the 1,000-yard mark and A.J. Brown already passing that milestone as a receiver.
To be fair, the Rebels are unreliable defensively, and that’s being kind. Even if you take their loss to Alabama out of the equation, Ole Miss is yielding 39 points per game in SEC play. The caveat is that Vandy doesn’t have the same caliber of athletes on offense as the rest of the SEC. The Commodores have a great quarterback in Kyle Shurmur. But there have been plenty of times this season when the players around Shurmur have held him back. If this game turns into a shootout, I’m not sure Vandy can keep up with the Ole Miss offense for four quarters.
Ultimately, my skepticism of Vanderbilt has gotten the best of me. I’m still not sure if they have the depth and athleticism to match up against a decent SEC team like Ole Miss, even if the Rebels have flaws of their own. With Ole Miss under no pressure whatsoever, I think they let Ta’amu air it out and knock off the Commodores in a high-scoring affair.