Leading up to this weekend’s lone SEC showdown, Saturday Down South’s Ethan Levine breaks down the battle between the Ole Miss Rebels and the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Ole Miss Rebels/Vanderbilt Commodores
Week 2 at LP Field (4:30 p.m. ET; ESPN)

THE SKINNY: Both teams enter this game from completely different ends of the spectrum. Ole Miss started slow but ended on a high note in a 35-13 win over Boise State on a national stage in Week 1. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, started slow and ended slower in a 37-7 home loss to Temple, which won just two games last season. Derek Mason seemed unsure of his team in his SEC head coaching debut, playing three different quarterbacks without scoring a single point on offense (Vandy’s lone touchdown came on special teams). The Rebels’ defense laid a slew of punishing hits on the Broncos, and the offense was able to overcome three Bo Wallace first half interceptions and seven false starts to score 28 fourth quarter points against Boise.

KEY PLAYER: Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche will play a major factor in Saturday’s game. The Commodores do not have a proven quarterback, and Nkemdiche’s ability to get a push up the middle could determine the success of the Rebels’ pass rush, and could mean the demise of the Vanderbilt offense for a second straight week. Vandy boasts a talented running back in freshman Ralph Webb, who averaged five yards per carry against Temple in a losing effort. Webb’s impact was reduced as the ‘Dores fell further and further behind, but it is like they’ll go right back to him early in Saturday’s contest. If Nkemdiche can control the Vanderbilt rushing attack from his defensive tackle position, it would eliminate the Commodores’ greatest threat as a team.

WHAT TO WATCH: How does Derek Mason manage his quarterbacks this weekend? The Commodores’ head coach said on his weekly radio show Monday he would not announce his starting quarterback before Saturday, a bit of gamesmanship from a first-time head coach. The Rebels will have to prepare for all three Vandy signal callers – Patton Robinette, Stephen Rivers and Johnny McCrary – leaving Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze with even more to worry about in advance of Saturday’s game. However, none of VU’s three quarterbacks looked all that impressive against Temple, so it will be interesting to see who Mason goes with, how long he sticks with that guy, and how that guy looks under center compared to last week. If there’s no noticeable improvement, Vanderbilt won’t stand a chance in this game.

FINAL SAY: Ole Miss is the better team, but as Hugh Freeze noted in Wednesday’s SEC coaches’ teleconference, Vanderbilt always plays the Rebels tougher than most other opponents. Vandy has won six of the last nine meetings between these two teams, and were 67 seconds from making it seven of nine before Ole Miss stole last year’s game on a Jeff Scott 75-yard touchdown. The Commodores have new coach and a depleted roster since that game, but will still be confident entering LP Field on Saturday. Bo Wallace is turnover-prone, which could keep the Commodores in the game, but if the senior looks sharp the Rebels should manage to come away with a victory this weekend.