GAMEDAY PREVIEW: Ole Miss at Vanderbilt

OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM Bo Wallace
OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM
Bo Wallace
OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM

Aug 29, 2013

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Wednesday Blog: Kiffin, Coaches Confident In Nkemdiche

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Year two of the journey begins, as the Ole Miss Rebels open their 2013 season on the road against the Vanderbilt Commodores with a kickoff set for 8:15 p.m. CT from Nashville.

"We're excited about getting another season started," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "Opening the season with a conference game like Vanderbilt, in Nashville, is something that's certainly grabbed the attention of our staff and our kids.

"As I'm certain it has their kids and their staff. To open the college season on opening night on national TV is somewhat of a responsibility our staff and our kids have to this great university to represent it well."

Inheriting a team that won just two games in 2011 and had lost 14 straight Southeastern Conference games, Freeze led Ole Miss to seven wins in 2012 and the team's first bowl game since 2009, then landed a consensus top-10 recruiting class on National Signing Day.

Vanderbilt went 9-4 last season to tie for the most victories in a season in school history and went to its second straight bowl game for the first time in school history. Entering the 2013 season, the Commodores carry a seven-game winning streak, which is tied for the fourth-longest active winning streak in the nation.

"I do think at the situation we're in with year two, we have to be very careful to continue to focus on the only thing that we can control," Freeze said. "That's how we can prepare today. We start it all over next week. It's a long season. There are a lot of games.  I do believe we're talented enough to beat some teams. It is a big game."

On the offensive side of the ball, the Rebels return eight starters from last year's team, which ranked top five in the SEC in scoring (31.5), total offense (423.8) and passing (249.9).

The defense returns all 11 starters from last year's team, including sophomore linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, a Freshman All-America selection after he led the Rebels with 82 tackles, 13.0 TFLs, four forced fumbles and three interceptions.

Three freshmen -- tight end Evan Engram, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche and wide receiver Laquon Treadwell -- are slated to start in their first collegiate game, and four more freshmen are listed on the team's two-deep depth chart.

"When you look at the game, you see a mature experienced team versus a young inexperienced team," Freeze said. "How our young kids handle something good that happens to Vandy. They're going to do something well. It's going to cause us to settle in and do our deal, or it's going to cause some young kids to get rattled.

"Hopefully we've done a decent job at preparing them and that won't be the case. I do think that's one of the keys to the game, how our young kids handle it when good things happen to Vandy."

This marks the 87th meeting between the two teams dating back to 1894. Ole Miss leads the 47-38-2 and has won 13 of the last 20 meetings since 1992, while Vanderbilt won 27-26 in Oxford last season.

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