Mississippi will spend yet another Saturday trying not to become an opponent’s first Southeastern Conference victim.
For the third straight week, the 12th-ranked Rebels face a team still desperate for its first SEC win. This time it’s Vanderbilt (2-6, 0-4 SEC), which visits Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday night.
The first two such games haven’t been easy for Ole Miss (6-1, 3-1), which beat Arkansas and Auburn by a touchdown apiece.
But Rebels coach Lane Kiffin can point to two other games to get his players’ attention if necessary. First there was Virginia’s 31-27 stunner over then-No. 10 North Carolina last weekend. Then there was the last time the Rebels and Commodores met. Vandy’s 20-10 second-quarter lead evaporated under a 42-point Ole Miss rampage in what turned into a 52-28 Rebels win.
“We pointed out some big upsets that just happened, especially the really big one over in the ACC,” Kiffin said. “And these guys were beating us at halftime last year.
“So we’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot of things to work on. It’s a lot more about us than who we’re playing.”
Vandy is coming off a bye week following a 37-20 loss to No. 1 Georgia. Commodores coach Clark Lea said he was encouraged by how his team has responded.
“We’re pushing and leaning into this, and I think we’re moving further along,” Lea said. “Just like every week, I feel like in this league we have our work cut out for us this weekend. But that’s a challenge we look forward to and that we’re excited for.
“It’s fun to go play a game on the road and to see if we can pull our best performance out against a really talented team.”
Senior quarterback Ken Seals will start a fourth straight game for Vanderbilt after a sore elbow sidelined AJ Swann. Lea credited Seals for his leadership and earning the respect of his teammates by keeping a positive attitude.
“We’ve been pleased with how he’s come in and injected life into that group and hope to see him continue,” Lea said.
One benefit for Vanderbilt coming off an open date is getting some Commodores healthier, especially in the secondary. That’s big for a defense that is tied for the SEC lead with nine interceptions this season.
Lea said CJ Taylor is doubtful and hasn’t been able to practice, though he has a custom brace. Safety Savion Riley is back, and safety De’Rickey Wright is questionable after a setback Tuesday that Lea hoped was minor.
Ole Miss tight end Caden Prieskorn has played on through the loss of his father. Just the way he feels Jerry Prieskorn would have wanted it. Jerry Prieskorn passed away on Oct. 10 at age 52.
“It was definitely difficult just having a lot of stuff on my mind,” Caden said. “But he always told me just keep doing what you’re doing. He was always proud of me, so he’s like, never worry about me. Just always worry about what you’ve got going on.
“That kind of stuck with me. He just wants to see me do well. I’m just going to keep playing for him.”
Caden, a Memphis transfer, caught two passes for a season-high 63 yards against Auburn. He missed the first three games with an injury.
Kiffin has been outspoken about sometimes poor fan support for Ole Miss games early in his tenure. “This year for whatever reason has felt a lot better in the conference games. And it’s an advantage,” he said.
This is the 21st time Vandy has been the Rebels’ homecoming opponent. Ole Miss has an 18-2 record in those matchups.