Ole Miss Preview: ‘Dores are healthy, what does that mean for Saturday?

After a 55-3 shellacking against mighty Alabama, Vandy enjoyed the brief respite of a bye week before they resume their top 10 gauntlet this weekend with #9 Ole Miss coming to FirstBank Stadium for a 3:00 kickoff Saturday.  The Rebels aren’t quite at the Crimson Tide’s level, as the gamblers will confirm (the 20-point line is only half of what Bama was favored).  Nevertheless, this is a game the Commodores will need most everything to go right to have a chance for a victory.

Ole Miss is undefeated at 5-0 and coming off their first real test of the season – a 22-19 home win over (then) #7 Kentucky – a game they were frankly fortunate to win.  The Wildcats helped the Rebels out by missing two extra points and a 39-yard field goal.  Kentucky still appeared poised to pull out the road victory when quarterback Will Levis passed for what would have been the go-ahead touchdown in the final minute, but it was negated by an illegal motion penalty.  Levis would fumble on the next play, and the Rebels would escape.  

The Rebel offense is a run-heavy attack that ranks 5th in the nation and leads the SEC averaging 262 rushing yards per game.  Their primary back is Quinshon Judkins, who leads all freshmen nationally in rushing yards with 535 and averages an SEC-best 6.3 yards per carry.  His 15 carries for 106 yards and a touchdown against Kentucky earned him SEC Co-Freshman of the Week honors.  Behind him is junior running back Zach Evans who has 389 rushing yards for the season and averages 5.7 yards per carry.

ESPN.com

Lane Kiffin, the ever-polarizing Ole Miss coach, has settled on Jaxson Dart as his quarterback to run the offense.  Dart – who played last year as a freshman with the USC Trojans before transferring to Ole Miss – has passed for 910 yards in five games, with a 59.5 completion percentage, 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.  He is also dangerous with his feet as the Rebels’ third leading rusher, running for 241 yards at 6.5 yards per rush.  The Ole Miss receiving corps is led by Malik Heath with 19 receptions, 320 yards, and 3 touchdowns, followed by Jonathan Mingo with 13 receptions, 260 yards, 1 touchdown, and Michael Trigg with 16 receptions, 128 yards, and 3 touchdowns.  

Alabama held Vanderbilt to 129 total yards and 9 first downs.  It won’t get much easier against a formidable Ole Miss defense that is only giving up 11.8 points per game, good for 7th in the nation.  Linebacker Troy Brown leads the defense with 38 tackles, a unit that has 16 quarterback sacks, 4 interceptions, and 5 fumble recoveries through five games.  

If you’re looking for bright spots for the Commodores in this matchup, I can only offer a few.  Of this brutal Bama, Ole Miss, Georgia trifecta, this is the only home game, and definitely the most winnable (relatively speaking).  With the extra week to heal, the Commodores will have much-needed reinforcements returning to the lineup including WR Quincy Skinner, OL Ben Cox, OL Xavier Castillo, DT Myles Cecil and CB Jaylen Mahoney.  Hopefully with two weeks of preparation, Coach Clark Lea and his staff will be able to come up with the scheme to keep this game competitive and give the home fans something to cheer for…

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