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Better Know an SEC Opponent: The Ole Miss Rebels

Ole Miss and Vanderbilt played in an all-timer last season. This year, they'll try to run it back at LP Field. Can Bo Wallace show up for all four quarters against a Vandy team that needs a spark after dropping their opener to lowly Temple?

Bo Wallace's mom brought orange slices to Ole Miss's Monday practice to make up for this picture.
Bo Wallace's mom brought orange slices to Ole Miss's Monday practice to make up for this picture.
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The School: The University of Mississippi

Record: 1-0 (0-0 in the SEC, 8-5 in 2013).

Ranking: Ole Miss is ranked 28th in the Real Time RPI and are currently tied for seventh place in Warren Nolan's rankings. Last week's opponent, Temple, is tied for first (along with Boston College, Texas San-Antonio, and three other teams) so take that ranking with a grain of salt.

Mascot: The Somethings. Rebels? Black Bears? All I know that their sidelines continue to be Admiral Ackbar-less, and that bums me out.

Location: Oxford, MS.

Conference: The ESS-EEE-CEE. On Saturday, one of my UW-grad friends (Matt, who you may remember from our Arkansas preview) texted me from the Wisconsin/LSU game in Texas sometime in the fourth quarter. As the Badgers watched their lead slip away due to a complete inability to throw the ball, he wrote "at least they [LSU fans] haven't started a S-E-C chant yet."

Minutes later:

"God dammit who chants for a conference this is ridiculous"

All-time vs. Vanderbilt: 48-38-2, in a rivalry that dates all the way back to 1894. Vandy actually won the first 19 games of this series, so that should give you an idea of how things went from 1953-2004.

In the Last 10 Years vs. Vanderbilt: 4-6. That includes three Bobby Johnson wins and Robbie Caldwell's only SEC victory. Weird things happen when these two teams meet. Such as...

The Last Time We Saw These Guys: Jordan Matthews did this (click to play. Maybe. Our gif language is finicky, but that's probably for the better if you aren't a fan of vomit):


and then bounced back to convert a fourth-and-18 that realistically should have ended Vandy's night right then and there. The 'Dores capped that drive when Ole Miss went hard on Vandy's inability to incorporate a tight end into the offense and left Steven Scheu all alone on the left side of the field. Austyn Carta-Samuels hit him for a go-ahead touchdown with 1:30 left in the game, but the Rebels recovered. Jeff Scott rumbled 75 yards just two plays later to put Mississippi back in control and make an entire stadium curse Bob Shoop's name at once.

Vandy had a chance to avenge their defense, but Matthews's power star wore off at the worst possible time. The receiver couldn't make his 11th reception of the game, and Carta-Samuels's pass deflected from his hands and into Ole Miss's possession to effectively end this one. As disappointing as that may have been, it still made for what is probably the most exciting Commodore game of the past decade. Between that and the general niceness of Mississippi fans, it was one of the better crushing defeats in recent history.

Most Potent Offensive ThreatBo Wallace. Dr. Bo isn't paramount to Ole Miss's success, but he can make the Rebels' path to victory much easier if his Dr. Jekyll persona comes to play at LP Field. The 'Dores sacked Wallace four times last season and took advantage of his inability to adjust to the Vandy D before halftime, but couldn't get to him in the second half and eventually allowed the junior to lead his team back to victory. A similar plot broke out in Mississippi's 2014 debut against Boise State. Wallace looked like garbage in the first half - three interceptions, 148 passing yards, seven OM points - before springing to life and leading his team to a 35-13 win. Even if Vandy can stop the Doc early, they'll have to continue to bring dynamic pressure to keep Wallace from evolving into his effective passing form mid-game.

Just look at that headline picture. Do you really want to lose to THAT?

Most Potent Defensive Threat: Serderius Bryant. While the Nkemdiche brothers tend to earn all the hype in Mississippi's front seven, Bryant has taken on a workhorse role at inside linebacker. The undersized tackler (5'9") brings a stout presence to the middle of the field and is able to bring pressure on blitz packages and get into the offensive backfield with quickness. He led the team in sacks, tackles for loss, and forced fumbles last season, and he could have a big day against the 'Dores if Vandy's veteran offensive line plays like they did against Temple last week.

Cody Prewitt, who ended last year's matchup with a game-sealing interception, could also have a big impact against a Commodore team that lacks a stable passing option at quarterback. Also, he can do this:

Matchup to Watch: Ole Miss's pass rush vs. whomever is playing quarterback for the Commodores. The Rebels got a ferocious push up front last week against Boise State, notching three sacks and adding seven more tackles for loss in a game where their defense held things down until Wallace dropped into gear. If doesn't matter if it's Stephen Rivers, Johnny McCrary, or Patton Robinette taking snaps on Saturday because they'll all be facing stout pressure in the pocket. Can Vandy's young(-ish) QBs step up in the pocket and make plays despite taking some big hits? Or will Ole Miss's defensive pressure force the 'Dores into even more mistakes (which, in retrospect, may not be physically possible) in week two?

Interesting Fact: Ole Miss is both a sea-grant and a space-grant university. It is neither located in the ocean nor in orbit. This distresses me greatly.

Bonus Fact: Robbie Caldwell once beat Ole Miss. I know that we mentioned this above, but Good Lord. That year's Commodore team was the Washington Generals of BCS football.

If Ole Miss wins, we: finish the flask of Old Grand-Dad we smuggled into the stadium and sigh discontentedly. A loss is bad, especially after what happened last week, but not totally unexpected. Let's look on the bright side - it's $10 beer night at LP Field!