Vanderbilt and Ole Miss both got off to rocky starts in their season openers last week. Once the clock flipped over to the second half, that's where the similarities between the two teams ended.
Mississippi quarterback Bo Wallace found his stroke and delivered a definitive 35-13 win over Boise State. Meanwhile, Commodore coach Derek Mason struggled to find his answer behind center and sputtered to a 37-7 upset loss. When it comes to momentum, every newton is behind the Rebels at this point.
Fortunately for Vanderbilt, every week presents a new opportunity to go 1-0 (I forget who said that. Maybe Woody Widenhofer?). Mason will have the opportunity to show a newfound cache of doubters that his first week flop won't define his time on the sidelines in Nashville. However, the 'Dores will have to figure out just who will get the start at quarterback first. The team's depth chart used the rare double "-or-" distinction when it came to the Vandy's passers this week.
That depth chart contained some good news as well. Mason will have the services of 2013 starter Jerron Seymour to bolster the team's rushing attack, and the pinball runner will team with Ralph Webb to take some of the pressure off of the passing game. Seymour will also add a valuable blocking presence who can chip Mississippi's blitzing linebackers and give Stephen Rivers, Patton Robinette, or Johnny McCrary more time to establish themselves in the pocket. That, and the hopeful progress of a veteran offensive line that played poorly in week one, should give Vanderbilt a bit more offensive capital.
The #17 Rebels will be a much stiffer challenge than Temple was, and they'll travel in droves to LP Field to make this a neutral-site game despite taking place in Vandy's backyard. They held Boise State to just one touchdown while forcing four interceptions thanks in part to a dangerous pass rush and above-average secondary. Commodore fans will remember Cody Prewitt for his game-clinching interception at the end of last year's matchup with the Rebs, but let's not forget that he can also do this:
With that in mind, let's get to the picks.
Christian D'Andrea: Vanderbilt will be better against Ole Miss, if only because it seems like they couldn't possibly be worse than they were last week. The 'Dores committed seven turnovers last week and the team's defense seemed to grow more indifferent with every one. Rain and putrid play drove Vandy fans from their own stadium and allowed a small group of Temple fanatics to command the SEC Network's audio channels throughout the fourth quarter. LP Field could be swallowed into a sinkhole on Saturday and everyone who watched the Temple game would shrug and say "well, at least we didn't lose this one. Wait, do the rules say we lost this one?"
Maybe that's an exaggeration, but things certainly felt that way sometime after midnight last Friday morning. Mason and his staff have a lot to answer for after that defeat, but there's no denying that they have the talent and athleticism on the roster to turn things around in week two. While Vanderbilt's lack of experience shone through against the Owls, it was also clear that this team has the players to be successful against SEC opponents.
Enter Ralph Webb and the hopefully-healthy Jerron Seymour. Mason didn't turn to Webb often (14 carries), but the redshirt freshman was effective in his limited time against Temple. Seymour, who is battling a knee injury, emerged as a dynamic ground threat last season. If those two can gain efficient yardage against Ole Miss on Saturday then it will prevent the Rebels from swarming Vandy's QBs with blitzes and open up this team's offense.
That won't be easy if the Commodore offensive line doesn't return to form in week two. Mississippi has a ferocious front seven that set up a base camp in Boise State's backfield in their season opener. Stephen Rivers looked like he could lead this offense when given space last Thursday, but Mississippi will do their best to ensure that he has none, and they have the personnel to pull that off. This game will revolve around whether or not Vandy can stop that rush up front. Based on what we saw against Temple, that's going to be a challenge.
If the war in the trenches is as lopsided as it appears to b then it won't matter who plays quarterback for Vanderbilt. The 'Dores are set to rebound from a poor week one performance, but catching up to Ole Miss after looking like an FCS program on Thursday could be too big a swing for Mason and his staff to pull off.
The Pick: Ole Miss 27, Vanderbilt 14. Vandy will stick around in this one early, but a collection of costly three-and-out drives will gas out the defense and give the Rebels enough space to pull away in the second half. Let's home I'm wrong and that Vanderbilt's quarterbacks can sustain drives this week.
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: Ohio (+13) over KENTUCKY. Not a great week for upsets in the SEC this week. As much as I'd like to pick Arkansas State over Tennessee, their dismantling of Utah State made me think better of it. The Bobcats are coming off of a seven-win regular season and outbattled a potentially-not-awful Kent State team last weekend. That's extremely low praise, but it's still a safer bet than running with Lamar (at A&M), Eastern Michigan (at Florida), or San Jose State (at Auburn).
You will lose that money [if bet on Vandy].
Take the Rebs.
Well, after the last game can you blame them?
-- Vanderbilt alumni when I told them the spread was 20 points on this game
At the risk of sounding like a certain portly purveyor of ``graphic novels'' (lol, they're comic books, you dweebs), our game was, without a doubt, the worst game ever. Worst. Game. Ever. I say that with no hint of sarcasm, hyperbole or reservation. Oh, we've played worse, far worse. However, the metric that we should always use is how good the team should play as opposed to how well they do play.
The fact of the matter is that this Vanderbilt team is supposed to be, and on paper is, the most talented team I've ever seen Vanderbilt have. It might very well be the best team, talent wise, that Vanderbilt has ever had, someone who was around before electricity would have to comment on that. Despite all this talent, we played like hot garbage. We've been saying it all week, but the fact is the team looked woefully under-prepared. Maybe we had the first trap game ever in the history of Vanderbilt, maybe we just had terrible coaching. It doesn't matter now. All that matters is what the coaching staff did to fix it.
This game is much more about how the team responds than it is about winning. The offense especially needs to show that it is capable of... moving the ball. The team needs to show that (a) that Temple game is not who they are and (b) they're not going to let a bad loss get them down. That's what I want to see tomorrow.
I do want to say that I feel like we've been entirely too hard on the defense. The defense had moments where it really looked like it was doing well. The 3-4 may very well be a great thing for Vanderbilt in the future. However, a new system, coupled with SEVEN TURNOVERS, and you just can't ask much of your defense. It isn't fair to blame them for all the points Temple scored. You leave a defense out for as long as we did, even without the turnovers, and this is going to happen.
Ole Miss has in the recent past has always been a hard fought game, but I just can't see it being anything but a win for them. I remember back in 2006, there was a similar (~20 point) spread when we played Michigan at the Big House. That's the level of confidence that people have in the team right now. Mississippi is not what Michigan was then, and we're playing at home (kinda). Still, for the first time, I have to advise y'all to not take Vanderbilt. I often laugh at the pathetically high spreads we get because it's easy money. Not this time.
The Pick: Mississippi 31, Vanderbilt 10. A garbage time score by Ole Miss causes degenerates everywhere to curse us. Vanderbilt picks up even more ill-will from non-fans (as if that were possible). Vanderbilt finally gets its first touchdown on offense. It will be from a single big-play run (50 yards or more), which will be early and give us a brief glimmer of hope. Only to be crushed again. In other words, Vanderbilt football.
SEC Upset of the Week Look at this shit schedule. Look at it. So I'm stuck with either taking the MACtion pick and the 13 points of Ohio over Kentucky (like CDA did). Or, I can notice that some Tennessee fan, took the time out of his day to not only read AoG, but tweet us because CDA picked Utah State over Tennessee. For a fanbase that continuously claims they don't care about us because ``we're irrelevant,'' they sure do spend a lot of time talking about us and hating us. Still, it gives me a warm feeling inside that whoever it was felt the need to trash talk a small blog with maybe 100 readers. Therefore, in the interest of fostering amity, I will take Arkansas State and 17 points over Tennessee.
Andrew VU '04:
I didn't get my picks in on time as I was
barely holding on as the gun raked the back of my teeth busy teaching. Regardless, if you've read my post from yesterday, you can probably guess what I would have said.
The Pick: Mississippi 44, Vanderbilt 3. If this is the process, I'm not trusting it. By the midpoint of the third quarter, I'm expecting to see a roster of mini Ditkas.
SEC Upset of the Week: You're joking, right? Umm... I'll say East Carolina stays closer to South Carolina than West Carolina would to North Carolina.