- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Rebels are a win away from making a major statement in the SEC.
With a win over of Vanderbilt on Saturday, Ole Miss will be bowl eligible for the first time since 2009, and if its going to get that required sixth win, it'll need utility man Randall Mackey to have a big day inside Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium.
Before the season, Ole Miss' coaches thought Mackey might be the Rebels' top offensive weapon. He can run, throw and catch, so the Rebels' staff has lined him up all over the place. He has 558 total yards of offense this season, but the Rebels will really need him to be electric on Saturday.
The Commodores have one of the more underrated defenses around. Vandy is fifth in the SEC in total defense and is third nationally in pass defense, giving up just 151. 9 yards per game through the air. But the Commodores haven't been very sound stopping the run. Vandy is allowing 164 yards on the ground a game.
Mackey has the ability to hurt the Commodores in all three of those areas, especially the rushing department. He's only averaging 10 rushing yards in SEC games, but he'll do much more than that against the Commodores.
He's been used as the Rebels' Wildcat quarterback at times, and his role there could put a lot of pressure on this defense. He's so elusive and fast that if he wants to keep the ball, he can gash the Commodores on keeper plays. And he's likely to bring a lot of attention when he rolls out, which should open up things downfield for him.
He won't throw the ball a ton, but getting him the ball a handful of times will certainly keep Vandy's defense on its heels. This is a tough defense to frustrate. That's why getting Mackey the ball in the run game will be important. He's slippery enough to make some big plays for the Rebels, and he'll help take some of the pressure off of starting running back Jeff Scott.
Having a multi-purpose weapon like Mackey is exactly what Ole Miss needs against Vandy's defense. He'll do most of his damage in the run game, but he'll also provide the Rebels with some quality plays in the passing game, where he can really do damage when wide receiver Donte Moncrief absorbs most of the attention from the defense.
Ole Miss needs Mackey to step up in a big way if it's going to get its sixth win, and he will.
2dDavid Ching and Edward Aschoff
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