A season ago, the Ole Miss Rebels ran all over the Vanderbilt Commodores in Oxford, as then-freshman starting quarterback John Ryes-Plumlee and the home team's running game as unstoppable. Fast forward one year, and it is the exact opposite for the Rebels.
Plumlee is still there, but no longer the starter, replaced by Matt Corral, who but for injury might well have been the starter a season ago as well.
There's also a new head coach, as Lane Kiffin was hired to replace Matt Luke after the 2019 season. Kiffin, who is known as a pass-happy coach, brought his wide-open passing attack with him to town, and the Rebels have been airborne for the majority of this season.
While the Rebels can and will run the football, the biggest challenge come Saturday for the Commodores defense will fall on their defense to slow down Kiffin and Corral in this high powered offense. The defense is indeed the strength of this Vanderbilt squad, but no opponent this season has been able to stop this Ole Miss offense from gaining yards and scoring points. Teams like Alabama have had to outscore the Rebels to defeat them. That means the Commodores offense might need to score 35 to 40 points for them to have a chance at a win.
Asking the Commodore offense to score that many points might seem a challenging task indeed, but considering how poorly the Land Shark defense has played to this point in the season, it's not out of the question.
Ole Miss enters this contest allowing 44.6 points per game. While that figure was inflated by the 63 points Alabama's other-worldly offense plastered them with, the Rebels best defensive performance so far was in allowing 33 points in their 33-21 loss at Arkansas.
Of course, there is the case of the bad call from officials last week that likely cost the Rebels their second win of the season, though they still would have given up at least 28 points had the call have gone their way.
Saying this Ole Miss defense is not very good might be an understatement, and while the same should be said about the Vanderbilt offense, this seems like a game where the Commodores might be able to gain some footing on that side of the football.
The million-dollar question is, can the Commodores offense muster enough to take advantage of this defensive unit and make a game of this one. We'll find out tomorrow afternoon.