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Ole Miss vs. Vandy College Football Key Release with Analysis
3* Key Release Ole Miss -1.5
Forgive us for breaking one of our own cardinal rules of not asking a bad team to win for us. Forgive us for asking that team to not only win but win on the road. Forgive us for backing a team that the public also likes to the tune of 85%. Forgive us for using Houston Nutt and Ole Miss as our first Key Release of the year. Hopefully, we don't regret it, but we think we can make a strong case for the Rebels.
What can we learn about both teams thus far in 2011? Both look to be improved on the defensive side of the ball, while the jury is still out concerning both offenses. Both teams played respectably against "good" teams, with Ole Miss having the lead on BYU before BYU recovered a fumble in the End Zone for the win and Vandy coming from behind to beat UCONN, who is likely down a notch or two this year. Both teams also beat teams they were supposed to beat, with Vandy beating Elon and Ole Miss beating Southern Illinois. Both did so by wide margins.
We'll call it a wash as far as grading these teams based on their first two games, but note that Vandy is 2-0 while Ole Miss is 1-1. So, in order to further handicap this one, we need to do two things. One, evaluate the current talent as best we can and two, take a look back to last season to see what we can learn.
It should be safe to say that the Ole Miss talent, player for player, is always going to be better than Vanderbilt's. Both of these teams are at the bottom of the recruiting totem pole as far as the SEC is concerned, but let's face it, Vandy faces obstacles that very few programs do. Specifically, their high academic standards. Not that smart kids can't play football, but hey, the talent pool is already small due to the best players going to the well known schools.
To further hammer home this point, one need only look at the wins and losses of the program over any given time frame. Vanderbilt has had six 2 win seasons over the last 10 years! When they weren't busy winning 2 games, they were out winning 4 and 5 games, with one 7 win overachieving year in 2008. If you look at the Ole Miss record over the same time span, the last 10 years, you'll find a couple of 7 win seasons and a couple of 9 win seasons and even a 10 win season. In fact, during the same time span, Ole Miss won 27 more games than Vanderbilt. Better talent, plain and simple. That will never change.
What stands out to us when we look back at Vandy in 2010 was their inability to score points. They averaged just 17 points per game. That's not a stat that's limited to just last year. The year before they averaged 16 points per game and in general rarely average more than 19 or 20. Ole Miss on the other hand, found the end zone. They scored 55 on Fresno, 42 on Kentucky, 31 on Auburn, 36 on LSU and 23 on a good Miss State defense. (Vandy managed just a field goal on LSU and 20 on Kentucky in a losing effort)
You're likely saying yeah, but, Vanderbilt BEAT Ole Miss last year 28-14! Yes they did. Not only that, but Vanderbilt has beaten Ole Miss 4 out of the last 6 times and Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt is 1-2 against them since he took over. All reasons that we feel favor Ole Miss here. Revenge is sweet in college ball, but let's face it, when you're Ole Miss, coming off a 4-8 season, with revenge games against Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn and so on, you kind of have to pick your spots. Which games can you realistically expect to win?
The game is HUGE for Ole Miss and not just because of the realistic chance for a little revenge. It's huge because a loss here would make Ole Miss 1-2 with all of the heavyweights of the SEC still to come. A loss here would likely deflate this team and put their backs squarely against the wall as far as improving upon their 4 wins a year ago and making it to a bowl game. Yeah, this is a must win (aren't they all)
Ole Miss likely has trouble with Vandy because the games come early in the year. A team like Vandy is never going to be very deep. As the season goes on, and the injuries mount, so do the losses. Just the same, we feel Ole Miss is the better team.
The Ole Miss offensive line was tagged by many as a line that could lead Ole Miss to become one of the better rushing teams in the SEC. We'll see. But they'll also be responsible for protecting 2 QB's as both Randall Mackey and Zack Stoudt have seen action.
With both defenses apparently improved, the bottom line for us here is that we feel Ole Miss is the more likely of these two teams to be able to put enough points on the board to win. Other than 28 against these Rebels and 52 against Eastern Michigan, Vandy didn't top the 21 point mark all year. Ole Miss scored more than 21 on 9 different occasions.
New coach for Vandy (James Franklin) who brings plenty of much needed enthusiasm to the program but there has to be growing pains. You can't win games with enthusiasm alone.
We look for Ole Miss to get their revenge here, and, at least temporarily, give some hope to their season as they'll be 2-1 heading into games with Georgia and Fresno. 3* Ole Miss -1.5
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