The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Three Matchups to Watch: Vanderbilt vs. Ole Miss

After losing their last home game of the season, Vanderbilt will look for its first SEC win since 2019 this Saturday at Ole Miss.
Vanderbilt Athletics
Patrick Smith rushes against Missouri in Vanderbilt’s loss on Oct. 31, 2021. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

Following a 34-17 loss to Kentucky in their final home game of the season, the Vanderbilt Commodores (2-8, 0-6) will face No. 10 Ole Miss (8-2, 4-2) this Saturday evening. 

After starting the season at 2-3, the Commodores have lost to five consecutive SEC opponents. Ole Miss enters the matchup coming off of a big 29-19 home win over No. 11 Texas A&M. The Vanderbilt defense will  battle the high-flying Ole Miss offense, which ranks third in total offense in the nation. 

After an encouraging start to the Clark Lea era, the wheels have shifted gears for the program in the past month. In order to get back on track on Saturday, here are three matchups that need to fall in the favor of the Commodores. 

Quarterback Matt Corral vs. Defensive Coordinator Jesse Minter

As Matt Corral goes, the entire Ole Miss offense goes. As the season has progressed, Corral has become a major player in the Heisman race. The junior quarterback has amassed 2,774 passing yards, 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions while leading a top-20 passing offense in the country. Corral has displayed a wide variety of abilities under center, including excellent efficiency as a pocket passer, the ability to make throws off-platform and a huge arm to make plays downfield. Aside from his success behind the line of scrimmage, Corral has proven his ability as an elite rushing threat from the quarterback position this season, totaling 523 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. Given the quarterback’s great dual-threat ability, it makes sense that Corral is being looked at as a potential top-10 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. 

However, as seen in both of Ole Miss’ losses this season, stopping Corral is not an impossible task. In the matchups with Alabama and Auburn, Corral averaged 251 passing yards, but managed to throw for just one touchdown and one interception while fumbling once across the two matchups. A common theme causing Corral’s struggles seems to be putting the quarterback under pressure. Corral was sacked a combined seven times and hurried nine more in those two losses. In addition, Corral struggled with identifying various types of coverages in those games, which is a weakness that has been identified in his NFL scouting reports. While Corral is certainly an elite talent at the collegiate level, there is a path for Jesse Minter and his defense to put Corral in uncomfortable situations. With a sharp defensive scheme, the Commodores can slow down the Heisman contender. 

Ole Miss Running Backs vs. Vanderbilt Front Seven

In their statement victory over No. 11 Texas A&M last week, the Rebels amassed 265 rushing yards from their top three running backs Jerrion Ealy, Henry Parrish Jr. and Snoop Conner. The rushing attack accumulated the most yards Texas A&M has given up this season. While the Ole Miss rushing attack has struggled with injuries this season, they make up an extremely formidable group when balanced and healthy. On the other side of the line, the Rebels will face a Vanderbilt front seven that has struggled to contain the run in recent weeks. Led by Christopher Rodriguez Jr., Kentucky ran for 236 yards on the ground in their rout over the Commodores last week. In order for the Commodores to keep Ole Miss one-dimensional, they need to slow the Rebels’ rushing attack behind a strong performance from their front seven.The defense will need to keep extra defenders out of the box and focus on slowing down the passing attack led by Matt Corral.

Vanderbilt Offensive Line vs. Ole Miss Defensive Line

Coming into their matchup with Ole Miss, the Texas A&M Aggies rushed for at least 215 yards in their previous three games. However, on Saturday, the Aggies totaled just 141 yards against a Rebels run defense that seems to be coming into their own as the season progresses. While the run defense has been strong, the Rebels’ pass rush has not been particularly impressive, averaging just over one sack in their last three games. While Vanderbilt quarterback Ken Seals has been mistake-prone this season, many of these turnovers come from situations where Seals is under immense pressure. If kept in a clean pocket, which the Commodores’ offensive line can certainly do against a mediocre Ole Miss pass rush, Seals has shown the ability to make accurate throws. Due to Seals’ struggles this season, the rushing attack for the Commodores has had to carry the load at times. If Vanderbilt’s offensive line cannot create any traction in the run game, the Commodores offense will certainly sputter and not be able to move the ball down the field effectively. In order for Vanderbilt to pull off this upset, they need a strong performance from their offensive line in the trenches. 

The Commodores and Rebels face off this Saturday at 6:30 p.m. CST at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. 

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About the Contributor
Anish Mago
Anish Mago, Former Deputy Sports Editor
Anish Mago ('24) is from West Windsor, N.J., and is studying economics and political science in the College of Arts and Science. He previously served as a staff writer for the Sports section. When not writing for The Hustler, Anish enjoys playing basketball and rooting for all Philly sports. He can be reached at .
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