Preview: Ole Miss vs. Auburn
The Ole Miss Rebels (7-1, 4-1 SEC) take on the Auburn Tigers (6-1, 3-1 SEC) Saturday at 6:00 pm (CT) in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in a contest that could potentially eliminate one of the SEC West teams from a chance at playing for the championship in Atlanta in December.
The match-up between the Rebels and the Tigers will be a classic high-scoring offense versus a the stingiest scoring defense in the nation. Auburn comes in averaging 39.3 points per game, while the Ole Miss Landshark defense is allowing a mere10.5 points per game.
Defense wins championships
The Rebels’ defense has been dominating this year, never giving up more than 20 points to an opponent this year. (For the true fan, that number should be 17, as Texas A&M called timeout at the end of the game two weeks ago to score a touchdown as the clock ran out.) The three touchdowns in College Station still only bring the season total to eight allowed by Ole Miss.
- Ole Miss is the only school in the country that hasn’t allowed an opponent to score more than 20 points.
- The Rebels lead the nation with 17 interceptions; Senior CB Senquez Golson is in the hunt to lead the nation with eight interceptions.
- The Rebels boast the nation’s longest streak of consecutive games forcing at least one turnover (31)
- Ole Miss ranks second nationally with 24 turnovers forced
- Ole Miss is tied for the first in turnover margin (+13).
- Ole Miss has outscored opponents 62-3 in the first quarter—the three points is the fewest allowed in the nation.
Auburn’s offense has been scoring at record pace, but its defense has been a little suspect. Although they held LSU to 7 points, the other three SEC opponents the Tigers have faced averaged more than 30 points per game. This is the weakness that Ole Miss will need to exploit.
Keys to the game for the Rebels
For the Rebels, the offensive game plan does not need to vary too much from their previous SEC contests. If the Rebels can produce a fairly even amount between the air and ground attack, it should keep the Auburn defense guessing and prove to be rewarding. The Rebel ground game has made strides over the season, and when it is working, it makes the play-action pass hard to defend.
Auburn has had a difficult time stopping well-balanced teams from scoring. Last week at South Carolina, they simply outlasted the Gamecocks in a scoring track meet with a 42-35 win.
If that is what Coach Malzhan is hoping for, it will be a long trip back to Auburn, Alabama.
Score Early; put Auburn in catch-up mode
It is important for the Rebels to come out strong and put points on the board early and often.
Putting quarterback Nick Marshall in catch-up mode will certainly give Senquez Golson a chance to add to his interception total, Shackleford to add to his sack total, and all the rest of defense to add to their already-gawdy numbers.
Keep Marshall in the Pocket
Keeping Marshall in the pocket will be an important part of the Ole Miss defensive scheme. Marshall has more rushing touchdowns than any Tiger running back and a less than 59% completion average. He clearly has the ability to extend plays, as he averages 93.7 yards per game, but the Rebel defense should be up to the task of containment.
The main Auburn running back, Cameron Artis-Payne, is on track for a 1000 yard season, ranking third in the SEC with 118.7 rushing yards per game, and getting almost 25 attempts per game.
Rebel Energy and the New Normal
If the energy in The Vaught is close to what it was for the win over Alabama a month ago, Rebel fans could help Ole Miss win a critical conference game.
If you think about it, it is amazing what Coach Freeze and his staff have done with this program over the last two and a half years. How refreshing will the Gatorade bath be for him at the end of this game, knowing that this team, if it continues to take it week-by-week, will be two conference wins away from a date with the SEC East champion and a trip to the final four? As Coach Freeze, Ross Bjork and the Ole Miss football team say, “This is the new normal!”