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Four Downs: Vanderbilt

In this week’s edition of Four Downs, The Daily Mississippian football beat writers Bennett Hipp and Matt Sigler, sports editor David Collier and managing editor Austin Miller answer four questions regarding the week’s matchup.

 
1. What does Ole Miss have to do to get the running game going again?
 
Bennett Hipp (@bennetthipp): Players and coaches have said that rejuvenating the running game begins up front with the offensive line, so winning the battle in the trenches is a must against the Commodores on Saturday. The Rebels have talked about making adjustments in both the running game and the read-option game, so this game will tell whether those adjustments were effective.  
 
Matt Sigler (@SigNewton_2): Ole Miss will have to have their offensive line stay on blocks longer than they have been. Running backs and coaches have noted that the holes are there, but the blocks just need to be held longer. 
 
David Collier (@DavidLCollier): For the running game to get going again, it has to start with the offensive line. If they open holes for Jeff Scott like they were earlier in the year, it completely changes how dynamic the Ole Miss offense can be.
 
Austin Miller (@austinkmiller): The Rebels have to win the battle up front. There were no running lanes against Georgia, as the offensive line was manhandled by the Bulldogs’ front seven. Success in the read-option game opens up not only the running game, but the passing game as well. 
 
2. How impressed have you been with Vanderbilt this season? 
 
Hipp: Vanderbilt lost a ton after its 2011 season, so to be back on the brink of bowl eligibility is pretty impressive. The Commodores are a pretty mediocre team, but they’ve been in every game minus a blowout on the road at Georgia. James Franklin has Vanderbilt believing and coming into Oxford with some momentum. 
 
Sigler: I think Vanderbilt has been a little better than expected in my book. I am most impressed by running back Zac Stacy. The guy has talent and will be tough to stop in the running game.
 
Collier: James Franklin has his players playing with emotion week in and week out like we saw last year, so it’s no big surprise to me. With that being said, Vanderbilt is certainly on a roll and always has a ton of confidence against the Rebels. 
 
Miller: The Commodores won the games they were supposed to win to this point, but were also blown out by Georgia. However, any time you can win 40-0 on the road in the Southeastern Conference, regardless of the opponent or circumstance, it’s impressive.
 
3. How will Ole Miss hold up physically after having several guys get beat up last weekend? 
 
Hipp: That’s the big unknown. Vanderbilt isn’t going to out-athlete Ole Miss, but the Commodores play hard, and Ole Miss will have to match that intensity while nursing injuries. It looks like most (of) Ole Miss’ injured players will be available, outside of Wesley Pendleton and Aaron Garbutt, but staying healthy during the game (especially on defense) will be important. 
 
Sigler: I think they will. Depth has been an issue that has been addressed multiple times this season, but by the looks of things, only two or three people will be missing in Saturday’s game.
 
Collier: I think this is what is going to decide the game. If the Rebels’ injured guys can step up and make their normal impact, I see Ole Miss walking out bowl eligible. However, if those injuries slow them down, I don’t think they can overcome the lack of depth.
 
Miller: Ole Miss has to be healthy in the secondary. The lack of depth at the position showed itself with the big plays given up against Georgia. It will be interesting to see how this plays out on Saturday. 
 
4. What’s the key to get the Rebels bowl eligible on Saturday?
 
Hipp: Both teams are evenly matched, and Vegas has the Rebels favored by three, which means it’d basically be a toss-up game on a neutral field. In a close game like this one should be, the Rebels must hold on to the football and win the turnover battle. Vanderbilt is negative 5 on the year in turnover margin, while Ole Miss is neutral at 0. Avoiding turnovers will be a must in a game that could shift on one play. 
 
Sigler: For Ole Miss to win this game, I think they will have to have some guys step up on the defensive side of the ball if injuries become an issue. 
 
Collier: Win the third-down battle. If Ole Miss can keep their offense on the field and their defense on the sideline, they will win the game.
 
Miller: Offensive balance. Turnovers are, of course, key with two even-matched teams and both playing for bowl eligibility, but Ole Miss is a different team when both the running and passing game are working.