Lane Kiffin thinks there are plenty of recent college football cautionary tales to help No. 10 Mississippi avoid looking past Vanderbilt.
Sure, the Rebels (8-2, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) enter Saturday’s game against the Commodores back in the Top 10 while eyeing a New Year’s Six bowl and a shot at reaching double-digit wins.
That’s not where Kiffin wants his players’ minds when Vanderbilt (2-8, 0-6) visits.
“All you have to do is look around the country,” Kiffin said. “Texas-Kansas. Florida went to South Carolina. These big-number favorites (losing). And it’s an SEC game. We’ve had issues with all three phases at some point in the year. So there’s no looking ahead.”
Still, Ole Miss is a 36.5-point favorite over the Commodores, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
The Rebels are coming off a 29-19 win over No. 16 Texas A&M and trying to maintain the same focus.
“We’ve got to to have respect for every team,” Ole Miss defensive end Sam Williams said. “We’re going to play probably harder than when we played Texas A&M, becuase it’s the next game. Texas A&M is done for and now it’s on to the next.
“We don’t look at the record. We look at them, they’re an opportunity. And everybody that comes into Vaught, they’ve got to get it. They’ve got to.”
Vandy has two more chances to snap a 19-game SEC skid, both on the road — at Ole Miss and Tennessee. Coach Clark Lea expresses no reservations about his team’s fight.
“They’re going to bind together and we’re going to take our swing and I’ve got no doubt that we’ll give it our best effort,” Lea said.
Kiffin isn’t optimistic that quarterback Matt Corral will be back playing in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium for his senior season. The Heisman Trophy candidate is projected as a first-round NFL draft pick.
“I’m making a pretty safe assumption the quarterback won’t be back,” Kiffin said. Corral himself hasn’t announced his plans.
Kiffin gave a call-out to Rebels fans this week.
“To me, it should be a challenge to our fans that Texas A&M didn’t use a silent count, which is pretty unheard of in this conference, to go on the road and use a verbal count,” Kiffin said. “It should be a challenge to our fans to cheer louder.
“Senior day and probably the quarterback’s last day. Hopefully they show up.”
The Commodores rank 15th nationally with 12 interceptions this season and need only one more to match Vanderbilt’s highest total for the last eight seasons. Vanderbilt had 13 in 2016. Wide receiver Chris Pierce Jr. had the latest interception, extending Vanderbilt’s streak with at least one pick to seven straight games. He picked off a Hail Mary at the end of the first half against Kentucky.
Vanderbilt has lost a captain in defensive lineman Daevion Davis for the final two games. Davis had an apparent leg injury in the loss to Kentucky, and Lea said Davis was having season-ending surgery. “He’s been a heartbeat and one of the main arteries of the team since the beginning,” Lea said. Quarterback Ken Seals was listed as day to day after returning from a hand injury for the Kentucky game.
The Rebels won’t have safety Jake Springer for the first half. He was flagged for targeting in the third quarter against Texas A&M, and his teammates feel it’s a big loss.
“I would say he is the life of the defense,” said defensive back Ashanti Cistrunk, who had a late interception against the Aggies. “When he is on the field, its like everybody is ready to go. He’s a monster.
“It was a big change when he came out.”
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