The Rebel RoundUp: Ole Miss looks to bounce back with win over Auburn on Homecoming
OXFORD, Miss. — Last week’s contest was quite surprising, as the Arkansas defense stunned the Ole Miss offense with six interceptions and one fumble recovery — but even after all that, the Rebels still had a chance to take the victory. While the offense struggled, The Landshark defense delivered a solid performance, creating a vision of how scary this team “could” be if they put it all together.
Defensive lineman Ryder Anderson had another impressive outing as he notched 13 tackles including two tackles for loss and a sack.
Jalen Jordan recorded double-digit tackles, and the linebacking duo of Jacquez Jones and MoMo Sanogo made their presence felt with impressive performances.
On the offensive end, running back Jerrion Ealy delivered another 100-yard outing on the ground, while Elijah Moore tallied double-digit receptions for over 100 yards. Moore has now tallied 10+ receptions in every game this season.
Rebels host Auburn in Homecoming clash
This Saturday the Rebels (1-3) come back to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium for a Homecoming contest against the Auburn Tigers (2-2). The Gus Malzahn-led Tigers come to Oxford after a 30-22 upset loss to South Carolina in Columbia last weekend.
The Auburn season is a bit up and down after the Tigers scored impressive wins over Kentucky and Arkansas, but then also suffered losses to Georgia and the aforementioned Gamecocks. A lot has been riding on the chemistry between new offensive coordinator Chad Morris (former Arkansas head coach) and sophomore quarterback Bo Nix. The Tigers did lose some talent to last year’s NFL draft; nevertheless, they always seem to be able to reload. Let’s dive in to what is in store this weekend!
Auburn at Ole Miss Game Info
- Matchup: Auburn (2-2) at Ole Miss (1-3)
- Location: Vaught Hemingway Stadium, Oxford, MS
- TV: SEC Network
- Auburn -3
- O/U: 71
Series History and Side Notes
Overall, Auburn has the upper hand in the series history, holding a 33-10 record over the Rebs. (Note: the 2012 Ole Miss victory was vacated). Auburn also has had a big string of vicotries with a current streak of four wins in a row and has enjoyed 16 wins over the Rebels since 2000. Last year’s contest was a 20-14 win for the Tigers at home. In that game, Ole Miss quarterback John Rhys Plumlee led the way, throwing for 86 yards and running for another 92, including a four-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
The good news for the Rebels is that this is a Homecoming game and Ole Miss possesses a 70-15-2 record in homecoming games–albeit Auburn isn’t the “typical” Homecoming foe. Nevertheless, Ole Miss is good for an 80% win record in Homecoming games.
As far as connections go, Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin served on the same staff as Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele during the 2014-2015 season when both were at Alabama under head coach Nick Saban. Kiffin was the OC while Steele was the LB coach. This isn’t the first time Auburn’s Gus Malzahn has had to prepare for a Kiffin-led team, dating back to Kiffin’s stint as head coach at Tennessee in the 2009-2010 season.
The Auburn Tigers return five starters on both sides of the ball, but they definitely lost some talent in the trenches. Nevertheless, with second year QB Nix possessing a wide receiver corps near the top of the SEC, combined with the success of true freshman running back Tank Bigsby, the offense should be in good hands. OC Morris’s offense has been very effective in the early downs, averaging 6.2 yards on 1st down and setting themselves up for success in keeping the chains moving.
On the defensive end, the linebackers seem to be the staple of the Tiger defense this season. Steele’s defense has experienced solid success in his Auburn tenure with stopping the run, as his defenses have held teams under their average rushing total 41 times since 2016 and in 25 of the last 32 games.
Last year Gus Malzahn made a decision to start a true freshman in Bo Nix. The decision paid dividends for the Tigers as Nix racked up SEC Freshman of the Year honors for 2019 by passing for over 2500 yards and throwing 16 touchdowns. His ground game was also impressive as he added seven scores with his legs.
The 2020 campaign for Nix has been up and down. He looked electric in the team’s opener against Kentucky and added another solid performance against Arkansas two weeks later. Last week, however, Nix threw for three interceptions against Kentucky. The backup QB is Grant Loy who started seven contests last year at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
Play No. 1: Bo Nix to Seth Williams to beat Oregon on Saturday (1/2) pic.twitter.com/6OKBFLCPZ1
— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) September 1, 2019
Auburn has been without starting running back Shaun Shivers since it opened up the season against Kentucky. However when Shivers went down the Tigers went to true freshman Tank Bigsby to fill his place.
Bigsby is tough to tackle. He has rushed for over 300 yards on the season while averaging 6.1 yards per carry. The youngster has been a key component for the Tigers’ offense. Ole Miss won’t just have to worry about Bigsby, though, as Shivers should be returning this week, while D.J. Williams could also see the field some too.
Williams has averaged 5.5 yards per carry this season serving as the backup, but he has played well enough to see some reps when Shivers comes back.
Tank Bigsby is so hard to bring down. Just stacks up yards after contact. pic.twitter.com/KgNkQ78BYv
— Chris Hummer (@chris_hummer) October 17, 2020
Wide Receivers/Tight End
The big three names to know are Anthony Schwartz, Eli Stove and Seth Williams. Williams, Nix’ favorite target, is the main receiver from last year and and lines up at the X position. The X lines up outside on the opposite side of the tight end. So far, Williams is averaging 18.1yards per catch this season.
Schwartz can be a big play waiting to happen and he lines up at the Z spot with some serious speed. The Z lines up on the outside on the tight end’s side of the field and most likely to the right of Nix.
Eli Stove is the Y, meaning he lines up in the slot on the same side as the Z. Stove is a redshirt senior who gives the receiving group plenty of experience.
The main tight ends to know are Luke Deal and J.J. Pegues. Of the two, Pegues — an Oxford born-and-raised true freshman — is the one who will be interesting to monitor. The Tigers also use him as a 300-pound wildcat QB. He has four rushes on the year and can be very tough to stop on 3rd/4th-and-short. You know he will want to show out in front of friends and family in Oxford.
The Tigers’ offensive line has given up just as many sacks as the Rebels front five this year. They’re a unit with a new line coach that Rebels will remember, Jack Bicknell Jr. , who was the offensive line coach at Ole Miss for three years under Matt Luke. Bicknell and the Tigers have had to replace four starters off of last year’s team, and the only returner with much starting experience is center Nick Brahams. The rest of the unit consists of: Alec Jackson, Tashawn Manning, Brandon Council, and Brodarious Hamm. Council is a graduate transfer from Akron.
The unquestioned leader of the Auburn defensive front is Big Kat Bryant. He is a team captain and the biggest presence sitting at the defensive end spot. He got banged up in the season opener and is still probably getting back to full strength, but he definitely needs to be accounted for.
The defensive tackle position has redshirt freshman Colby Wooden who has already amassed an impressive five tackles for loss this season. The rest of the group is made up of Tyrone Truesdell as another tackle and a buck linebacker/end role played by Derrick Hall. The D-Line was an area of question for an Auburn defense trying to replace last year’s stars in Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson.
Big Kat Bryant another break out star. @BigKat @FQAuburn @AuburnFootball #WDE
— FQSEC (@FifthQuarterSEC) August 2, 2020
Auburn has already lost a big leader in the line backing corps in K.J. Britt who suffered a thumb injury and had surgery before the Tigers played Arkansas. Until that point, he was leading the team with 23 tackles through two games. Britt was a first-team Associated Press All-SEC pick last season and a team captain, so his absence is definitely felt.
Gus Malzahn said he thinks Auburn will get linebacker K.J. Britt back before the end of the season. Team really misses his leadership.
— Josh Vitale (@JoshVitale) October 20, 2020
That leaves a pair of sophomores in Zakoby McClain and Owen Pappoe left to fill Britt’s shoes. So far the duo lead the team in tackles and have 51 solo tackles combined. Behind them is Christian Tutt, playing the hybrid star/linebacker position. He is one to watch as he may be matched up on Kenny Yeboah if they run man.
Auburn lost all its main starters from the defensive backs and safety positions last year, making it a potential weakness. But despite the lack of experience, the Auburn secondary has fared well this season as they currently sit 4th in the SEC in passing yards per game allowed.
Roger McCreary and Jaylin Sampson will lineup at the corner positions, while Jamien Sherwood and Smoke Monday lock down the safety positions. Monday and McCreary should be the ones to watch.
Auburn Special Teams
Junior Anders Carlson is the kicker for the Tigers, a role which he has owned since stepping on to campus three years ago. Over the course of his time, he has missed just one extra point attempt and has a career field goal percentage of 69.5%. This year, Carlson is 8-of-9 on field goal attempts, including the game-winner against Arkansas. Oddly enough, Auburn has yet to figure who their guy is at the punter position and is rolling with a combination of Aidan Marshall and Oscar Chapman.
The Tigers did block a punt that resulted in a touchdown against Arkansas. Their main return man should be cornerback Christian Tutt, while Tank Bigsby will be the biggest return man on kickoffs followed by Shawn Shivers.
0⃣ to 💯 real quickpic.twitter.com/JSidfFbOq5
— Auburn Football (@AuburnFootball) October 10, 2020
This game is going to be fun. Both teams are coming off losses that left a sour taste in their mouths, but expect each to come out energized. I look for Ole Miss to test the run a little bit more, early on, while also trying to really push that Auburn secondary.
The Tigers have the history of the series on their side, while Ole Miss rarely loses on Homecoming. Expect a close one in Oxford on Saturday as Matt Corral and the offense bounce back from last week.
TJ Oxley is the Director of Basketball Content and Senior Basketball Writer for The Rebel Walk. He has over five years of experience providing in-depth analysis of college basketball through multiple platforms. A former MBA graduate of Ole Miss, TJ started with The Rebel Walk in 2019.