Auburn football opponent preview: Ole Miss Rebels

Lane Kiffin shared a editorial about a controversial former Auburn football head coach and a different controversial former Tigers coaching candidate Mandatory Credit: George Walker IV - USA TODAY Sports
Lane Kiffin shared a editorial about a controversial former Auburn football head coach and a different controversial former Tigers coaching candidate Mandatory Credit: George Walker IV - USA TODAY Sports /

Hello everyone. After a couple weeks of heavy travel, we are back to previewing the Auburn football schedule. In today’s preview, we look at one of the most prolific scoring teams in college football: the Ole Miss Rebels.

Lane Kiffin’s squad has been one of the fastest, most aggressive offenses in the conference ever since he arrived in 2020. We don’t expect anything different during a year in which the Western Division is basically up for grabs.

Lets talk about it.

Coaching staff

Lane Kiffin enters year four as the head man in Oxford with a sterling record of producing high flying offenses. After flirting with and possibly agreeing under the table to come to Auburn, Kiffin chose to remain in Oxford. Everywhere he’s gone, he’s had big numbers. His career really got going at USC as co-offensive coordinator alongside Steve Sarkisian, when they coached Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush to two Heisman Trophies, a national championship, and a year in which the Trojans averaged over 560 yards of offense.

Since leaving USC, he has bounced around between coordinator and head coaching jobs at the Raiders, USC, Tennessee, Alabama, FAU, and now Ole Miss. At each school, the offense showed marked improvement, but none more so than at Alabama.

In 2014, Blake Sims, former and future running back, broke several Alabama passing records in route to an SEC Championship and an appearance in the inaugural College Football Playoff. In 2015, Jacob Coker had an underrated season next to Heisman winner Derrick Henry as Alabama would win the national championship. And lastly in 2016, Jalen Hurts put together a year in which Alabama finally embraced spread all the time and had an all-time great QB dual with Deshaun Watson.

At FAU, he met up with Kendal Briles, the recently unemployed Baylor offensive coordinator whose father had built maybe the most unstoppable system in football history. It was here that Kiffin started using high tempo all the time. After arriving at Ole Miss, Kiffin stayed within the Briles tree for his OC hire by getting Jeff Lebby to leave Josh Heupel and UCF. It’s been off to the races since.

Ole Miss’s offensive coordinator was once the youngest FBS coordinator, by a wide margin. His name is Charlie Weis Jr. While Weis isn’t the primary playcaller, his pro style influence from his father has helped revolutionize Kiffin’s offense into a brilliant blend of tempo and NFL concepts.

Ole Miss’s shiny new defensive coordinator is none other than Pete Golding. Golding, of course, has manned the defensive coordinator position at Alabama ever since Jeremy Pruitt left for the Tennessee head coaching job. While Alabama’s defenses left a bit to be desired in that time frame, they still were one of the best run support units in the country. The hopes for Rebels fans are that he can shore up that particular hole.

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Ole Miss on offense

The Ole Miss offense is a brilliant blend of the Briles spread iso offense and Kiffin’s west coast spread. This spread theme has been a common theme in Oxford ever since our own Hugh Freeze was hired in 2012 to lead the Rebels. From Freeze’s RPO spread, to Phil Longo’s power air raid, to Rich Rodriguez’s spread option, and finally to Kiffin’s offense that he’s been cooking up for decades. Ole Miss is a breeding ground for high-powered attacks.

At QB, any one of Jaxson Dart, Spencer Sanders, or Walker Howard could win the job.

The incumbent Dart saw consistency issues with his arm keep Ole Miss from fully reaching their potential. But his running ability is what kept him in the job and made Ole Miss the conference’s leading rushing team.

Sanders, the Oklahoma State transfer who was once seen as an option for Auburn football, has also seen passing inconsistencies over his four years in Stillwater. Much like Dart, his legs are real threat and make him a tough matchup for any defense.

Finally, LSU transfer and former 5-star recruit Walker Howard is one of the best passers in the conference. In garbage time at LSU, he showed off a cannon with accuracy. Unlike Dart and Sanders, Howard is a pocket passer who isn’t gonna run much. I see him as the 2024 starter for this squad after sitting behind either Sanders or Dart.

This offense is gonna go as far as one player can take them: Quinshon Judkins. Let’s just say it how it is. Judkins is a Heisman candidate and arguably the best running back in all of college football. And he’s just a true sophomore. He should’ve been an Auburn Tiger, but poor recruiting efforts by the previous regime handcuffed Cadillac Williams from getting this guy on the Plains. Containing Judkins likely means a win. Letting him run loose likely means a nightmare of a game.

Ole Miss on defense

Let’s just be honest. Ole Miss has been poor defensively ever since the Landshark defenses of 2014 and 2015 left Oxford.

Ole Miss likely beats Alabama in 2016 had the defense been able to get any stops.

Ole Miss likely beats Alabama in 2020 had the defense been able to get any stops.

Ole Miss likely wins the West in 2021 had the defense been able to get any stops.

Ole Miss likely wins 10 games in 2022 had the defense been able to get any stops.

Seeing a trend? Good. I hope you were. The hope is that Pete Golding, he of the allowing freshman Bo Nix to essentially play a perfect game in 2019, will help fix the defensive woes. Rebels fans weren’t super keen on this hire, but it could’ve been worse. They could’ve hired Kevin Steele and seen a coup by the boosters to fire Kiffin.

If Ole Miss shows any sign of life defensively, this team has 10-win season written all over it.

Auburn football vs. Ole Miss Conclusion

Ole Miss is one of, in my mind, one of five teams who could win the Western Division. I think any one of Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, and even Auburn football could go to Atlanta. The division is that wide open.

This team is fun to watch, and will be as long as the Lane Train stays in town. Let’s just hope his losing record against Auburn football continues this season.

War Eagle.

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