Ole Miss freshman QB John Rhys Plumlee has given the Rebels a jolt with his running ability since coming on in relief against Cal.

Keys To Victory

Stay in Pinkney’s Pocket

Vanderbilt tight end Jared Pinkney averaged 13.2 yards per catch through the first three games but had just one catch for 1 yard against Northern Illinois.

Expect the Commodores to look for Pinkney (6-5, 260) specifically. After the Northern Illinois game his scant production was a big talking point.

Slow Down Vaughn

After making rapid improvement in what was dreadful run defense for the last three years, the Rebels looked more average in Tuscaloosa as Alabama running backs Najee Harris and Brian Robinson pushed piles and drug tacklers.

Mostly contained by Georgia and Purdue, Vaughn has posted 130-plus rushing yards the last two weeks.

The Rebels need to play well against a Vanderbilt offensive line that is slowing regaining health.

Run The Football

Even with Scottie Phillips having an average of 3.9 yards per carry the Rebels rushed for 279 yards against Alabama. Jerrion Ealy had 68 yards, Jarod “Snoop” Conner 62, and both averaged 6.2 yards per carry. That’s before you even got to the quarterback, who was the Rebels’ leading rusher for a second-straight week, first Corral against Cal and then, by a wider margin, Plumlee against Alabama.

Vanderbilt has not been bad against the run in the way that Ole Miss fans have seen bad, but the Commodores are giving up are giving up 160.8 yards a game.

The Rebels need to run the ball, control the clock, and get an SEC win.

What To Watch

When Vanderbilt has the ball

Some who have watched Vanderbilt football for decades believe Vaughn is the best offensive player to pass through the program.

He may be hitting his stride after sub-100-yard games the first two weeks.

He’ll be a first weapon of choice.

The Commodores have playmakers at wide receiver in Pinkney and Kalija Lipscomb.

Quarterback Riley Neal completed 75 percent of 28 pass attempts against Northern Illinois. He’ll try to find favorable matchups for those guys against an Ole Miss secondary prone to give up space to receivers.

When Ole Miss has the ball

Whether it’s Corral or Plumlee remains to be seen, but the quarterback run will be a big part of the plan against a Vanderbilt defense that has had a couple of key starters out with injury.

Wide receiver Jonathan Mingo made steady progress and at Alabama showed the physicality in his game that many expected when he signed as a four-star recruit.

Ole Miss used different offensive line combinations against Alabama, a trend that will likely continue.

Crucial Matchup

Ole Miss front seven vs. Vanderbilt QB Riley Neal

A graduate transfer from Ball State, Neal is 6-foot-6, so he has an easier time seeing available passing lanes and has the arm strength to make the sideline throws.

Ole Miss’ coverage difficulties have been well documented, and having one of the starting safeties, Jonathan Haynes, hobbled this week won’t help the cause.

Neal is not a big run threat and should provide a stationary target if Ole Miss rushers can free themselves.

Parrish Alford

Twitter: @parrishalford

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