Five keys to an Ole Miss win over Vanderbilt

Oct. 27—No. 12 Ole Miss (6-1, 3-1 SEC) hosts Vanderbilt (2-6, 0-4 SEC), hoping to win its fifth in a row against the Commodores. The Rebels are 54-40-2 all-time against Vanderbilt, including 26-6 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Here are five keys for Ole Miss to come away with a win against the Commodores.

Take advantage of the matchup

Vanderbilt's defense gives up more than 34 points per game and is particularly susceptible in the running game, ranking last in the SEC in rushing yards per game allowed. The Commodores are second-to-last in pass defense in the league as well, but history shows the Rebels want to establish the run above all else. That will open up the deep-strike opportunities Jaxson Dart has been so successful with in 2023.

Contain the deep ball

Will Sheppard is by far Vanderbilt's most productive receiver, leading the team with 574 yards and eight touchdowns. But freshman London Humphreys is the team's most potent deep threat, averaging 25 yards per catch. Four of his 14 catches have gone for touchdowns. The Commodores are 28th nationally at 13.46 yards per completion. The Rebels rank seventh in the SEC in yards per completion allowed (11.99).

Don't get greedy down the field

Dart has protected the ball well this season, but he has had a few deep throws get away from him. Vanderbilt's pass defense isn't great, but the Commodores do create turnovers in the passing game, as they are tied for the SEC lead with nine interceptions. If Dart and his receivers take what Vanderbilt is likely to give them, they shouldn't have any problem marching the ball down the field. Take the deep shots when they present themselves, but don't force the issue.

Pressure the quarterback

Vanderbilt quarterbacks have a combined 19 touchdown passes, which is second-most in the SEC. Things haven't been perfect for the Commodores on either side of the ball, but their offense can make things happen in the passing game. Ole Miss has been among the top teams in the country in sacks per game (3.57, tied for fourth) and is great at disrupting the passer. Keeping Ken Seals off-balance in the pocket and weary of surrounding rushers will go a long way toward slowing Vanderbilt down. If the Commodores' passing game is thrown off, they don't have much of a running game to fall back on.

Don't get caught looking ahead

The next two weeks are filled with high-profile games for the Rebels, with a home test against Texas A&M and a trip to two-time defending national champion Georgia looming. Those two games could be deciding factors in Ole Miss' eventual postseason fate. But Vanderbilt — who led Ole Miss 20-17 last season at halftime — isn't a team to be overlooked. If the Rebels play the way they usually do, there shouldn't be any bumps in the road this weekend.