Who: #24 Ole Miss Rebels (3-1) at Auburn Tigers (3-1)
When: 6:00 p.m. CT (ESPNU)
Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, AL
All-Time Series Record: Auburn leads 27-10-0
Most Recent Meeting: Ole Miss 41, Auburn 20 (2012)
Auburn’s football team is finally back in action on the Plains, a place where they don’t have to encounter seven year-old girls flipping them off or insane amounts of rain pouring on top of their heads.
There’s no place like home.
Ole Miss knows that feeling, as the 24th-ranked Rebels’ trip to Auburn this Saturday is their fourth road game in their five games. The Colonel Black Rebel Bears (I’m not sure what they are anymore, to be quite honest) sport impressive wins over Vanderbilt and Texas, but an embarrassing 25-0 loss to the top-ranked Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa has spoiled some of the feel-good in the Grove. With a win over Auburn, that would surely change a bit, for the better.
Basically, this is a must-win for both teams. If Auburn loses, they’ll be 3-2 with Georgia, Alabama and trips to Texas A&M, Tennessee and Arkansas still on the docket. If Ole Miss loses, they’ll be 3-2 and, though they don’t leave the state of Mississippi again after this game, they still have contests with Texas A&M, LSU, Arkansas and Mississippi State (in Starkville) left on the schedule. Only one of these teams will escape from Jordan-Hare with a 4-1 (2-1 SEC) record.
Key for Auburn: Hold strong in the red zone defensively. This has actually been one of the strengths of Auburn’s defense this season. Auburn’s opponents have reached the red zone 18 times this season but have only scored 9 touchdowns while being held without any points six times (Washington State once, Arkansas State twice, Mississippi State once and LSU twice). Ole Miss showed signs of red zone weakness against Alabama (granted, Alabama’s defense is better than Auburn’s right now, but the Rebs still struggled). Ole Miss scored no points all game, despite being deep in Crimson Tide territory numerous times throughout the game. If Auburn’s offense runs the ball the way it should in this game, and the defense continues to bend and give up yards, this will be yet another game decided by how the Tigers’ D plays when their backs are to the wall.
Key for Ole Miss: Stop the run, even if it means selling out on it. Alabama is a better team than Auburn in most places, but offensive line is not one of them, yet the Rebels struggled against Bama’s offensive line (with a back-up center, no less). The Rebels wore down against the last-ranked rushing attack in the SEC, allowing the Tide to roll up 218 yards on the ground in the second half ALONE. T.J. Yeldon racked up 121 yards and Kenyan Drake added 99 (painfully short of a 100-yard game). That kind of defensive performance will be unacceptable against an Auburn rushing attack that’s 3rd in the SEC and imposed its will on LSU in Baton Rouge. Tre Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne, Corey Grant and Nick Marshall are all dynamic running threats. The Rebels will have to go all in on the running attack to avoid the upset.
Auburn players to watch: Reese Dismukes and the offensive line. The offensive line for Auburn has played very well this season, paving huge holes for running backs and protecting Nick Marshall pretty well. Last week, against Alabama, Ole Miss had a hard time dealing with Alabama’s back-up center (as mentioned above). If the back-up center on a disappointing offensive line at Alabama could bully Ole Miss’s D-line, how will they hold up against the experienced Reese Dismukes and a Tigers’ offensive line that’s night-and-day different from last season?
Ole Miss player to watch: Donte Moncrief. The Rebels’ dynamic wide receiver might be the best in the SEC, and if he’s not the best, he’s certainly in the top five. He has 17 catches for 233 yards and 2 TDs this season. He has snagged 16 TDs in his career. That’s some pretty good production. If Bo Wallace can get his mind right on the field after whatever that was against Alabama and “Feed Moncrief” against this Auburn secondary, this team will be able to move the ball very well.
Auburn vs. Ole Miss edges:
Quarterback: Nick Marshall vs. Bo Wallace. Right now, it’s impossible to decide. EVEN.
Running Back: A 3-headed monster vs. Jeff Scott, a slightly bigger Onterio McCalebb. AUBURN.
Wide Receiver: Sammie Coates is AU’s go-to-guy, but Rebels have some explosive talent. OLE MISS.
Tight End/H-Back: Uzomah. Fulse. Prosch. AUBURN.
Offensive Line: Auburn’s run game has been more explosive than Ole Miss’s so far. AUBURN.
Defensive Line: Both lines have a stand-out true freshman (M. Adams and R. Nkemdiche). EVEN.
Linebackers: Rebs have more talent and depth here. OLE MISS.
Cornerbacks: Auburn and Ole Miss both have notched 4 INTs. EVEN.
Safeties: Once again, these defenses look very similar. EVEN.
Kicker: Cody Parkey’s been automatic. Ole Miss’s kicker was never used against Alabama. AUBURN.
Punter: Steven Clark could be a lot more consistent, but when he’s good, he’s extraordinary. AUBURN.
Coaching: Gus Malzahn’s offense made a huge impact on CFB before Hugh Freeze began using it. AUBURN.
Interesting Facts: Auburn is 5-2 against Ole Miss all-time when the Rebels are ranked in the Top 25, including a 4-2 mark when the Tigers are not ranked. One of these occasions was, ironically, when the #24 Rebels faced a first-year head coach with a hurry-up, n0-huddle offense. Auburn beat Ole Miss 33-20 in 2009…. Auburn has beaten Ole Miss at Jordan-Hare Stadium four straight times. The last time the Rebels won on the Plains, Eli Manning was their quarterback in 2003…. All-time, Auburn is 13-2 against Ole Miss at home. Outside of 2003, the Rebels’ only other win on the Plains was in 1999…. The average score of Auburn-Ole Miss games played at Jordan-Hare is Auburn 25, Ole Miss 12. The Rebels have scored 5 offensive touchdowns combined in their last four trips to Jordan-Hare Stadium…. Of the 15 games these two teams have played at Auburn, 9 of them have been double-digit Auburn wins.
Prediction: Ole Miss will be ready to make a statement after having their will broken against Alabama. Expect them to have a lot more success on offense against a Tigers defense that has look pretty bad at times this season. However, the same could be said for Ole Miss’s defense, and Auburn should be able to run the ball effectively. I predict that Bo Wallace will throw for nearly 300 yards, but Tre Mason and Cameron Artis-Payne will both break the 100-yard barrier. It will be a shoot-out (which is nothing new to the SEC, given games like Alabama-Texas A&M and Georgia-LSU), but being at home at night, I predict that Auburn will get its first win over a ranked team of the Gus Malzahn era.
Auburn Tigers 41, #24 Ole Miss Rebels 36
#1 Alabama 52, Georgia State 0 (Bama will be in “mercy mode” in the second half.)
#6 Georgia 35, Tennessee 17 (Richt’s club has a little let-down after a big win, but they won’t lose this game.)
#10 LSU 27, Mississippi State 20 (MSU could steal one at home, but LSU won’t lose two straight to Bulldogs.)
#13 South Carolina 41, Kentucky 14 (Cats are better than last year. That’s about all that can be said.)
#18 Florida 38, Arkansas 14 (Gators have the nation’s best defense. If Murphy settles in at QB, watch out…)
Vanderbilt 31, Missouri 24 (Mizzou’s started the season well, but reality might set in in Nashville.)
Other Notable Games:
#12 UCLA 38, Utah 35 (This game just screams, “TRAP!”, but I think the Bruins survive.)
#3 Clemson 42, Syracuse 35 (This game just screams, “CLEMSON!”, but I think the Tigers survive.)
#2 Oregon 62, Colorado 7 (Ouch.)
#5 Stanford 23, #15 Washington 17 (These teams are very similar. Stanford wins due to home-field advantage.)
#8 Florida State 35, #25 Maryland 14 (The Terps have looked good so far, but FSU is a different animal.)
#16 Northwestern 42, #4 Ohio State 38 (This high-flying upset gives Urban Meyer his first loss at Ohio State.)
#14 Miami 31, Georgia Tech 26 (Is “The U” back? We don’t know, but this will put them at 5-0.)
#17 Baylor 42, West Virginia 14 (Baylor could be the Big 12′s best team. They’ll look like it against WVU.)
Notre Dame 33, #22 Arizona State 30 (The Irish will get a much-needed win over the Sun Devils in JerryWorld.)
#21 Oklahoma State 35, Kansas State 23 (The Pokes desperately need a good bounce-back performance at home.)
#7 Louisville 63, Temple 0 (I don’t need to explain this.)
Iowa 17, Michigan State 7 (With a win here, the Hawkeyes would be 5-1. Seriously. This is real.)
UPSET ALERT! TCU 27, #11 Oklahoma 23 (Why am I picking this upset? Because I have no reason to. This is college football. Weird stuff happens. Horned Frogs take down the Sooners and end their outside hopes of a BCS Championship.)