This game was circled on my calendar back in July when we opened the discussion on crucial SEC contests and potential upsets. It could be the overzealous love for wanting to see a little guy do good, but I liked the Ole Miss Rebels then, and I still like 'em now.
Mississippi flows north to south on the college football betting map to open proceedings at the Vanderbilt Commodores tonight. ESPN has the broadcast once the battle between North Carolina and South Carolina wraps up, the Rebels currently 3 point favorites after opening offshore at -1.Early summer spreads sent this game out with Ole Miss laying 4.
The college football odds also list a 53.5 point total, down one from the early send-out.
I'm a firm believer in the Rebels beating the consensus 8 win mark on the college football futures odds. Vanderbilt is sporting a similar win total for 2013, making it the top conference matchup in Week 1. And while no team likes to come out of the gate with an important clash against a conference foe to start their season, both coaches at least have the luxury of a lot of experience coming back this season.
Hugh Freeze, in fact, has 10 starters returning on the defensive side of the ball. One new face will be Robert Nkemdiche, rated by many as the top recruit in the most recent class and a huge reason why Ole Miss enjoyed one of the top-ranked recruiting classes in the nation. He'll get the start at defensive end while his brother Denzel, a redshirt freshman, starts at linebacker.
Find out why this game made our list of 'Best NCAAF Betting Total Plays' for the week.
The Rebels also have their quarterback (Bo Wallace), top running back (Jeff Scott) and top receiver (Donte Moncrief) returning to the fold. Wallace threw for nearly 3,000 yards in 2012, 66 of his 235 completions going to Moncrief for 979 yards and 10 scores. Scott rushed for almost 850 yards and six TDs, and he'll be spelled from time to time by Jaylen Walton with i'Tavius Mathers questionable Thursday due to an ankle injury.
James Franklin has seven returning starters on offense and six on defense. A key loss was QB Jordan Rodgers, leaving the direction of the offense up to Austyn Carta-Samuels. The 'Dores are also having to replace top RB Zac Stacy; Wesley Tate and Brian Kimbrow figure to split the load in Thursday's opener. Vandy is breaking in a lot of new receivers after the departure of Jordan Matthews, who led the team with 94 receptions, and the indefinite suspension of No. 2 wideout Chris Boyd who caught the game-winning touchdown pass in the Commodores' 27-26 win at Ole Miss last November.
Wallace threw for a season-high 403 yards in that loss, and I'm looking for another big effort from him and the Rebels tonight. Ole Miss minus the field goal is where I'm placing my College Football picks on what should be a warm evening in Music City.
My pick: Mississippi -3