Series record: 25-9-0 in favor of Auburn
2010 National Rankings:
Rush Offense: 4th /Rush Offense: 20th
Pass Offense: 85th/Pass Offense: 75th
Total Offense: 10th/Total Offense: 45th
Score Offense: 11th/Score Offense: 40th
Rush Defense: 16th/Rush Defense: 34th
Pass Defense: 101st/Pass Defense: 99th
Total Defense: 49th/Total Defense: 66th
Score Defense: 53rd/Score Defense: 101st
About Ole Miss...
The Ole Miss Rebels play host to the No. 1 ranked Auburn Tigers with the Rebels coming off a 38-24 loss to the Arkansas Razorbacks. The 3-4 start is unexpected with upset losses to Jacksonville State and Vanderbilt. The Rebels have split their games since losing to the Commodores.
The Rebels are in their third season under Coach Houston Nutt, who has led the team to back-to-back winning campaigns, including bowl victories to finish off each season. Ole Miss will be hard-pressed to finish the season bowl eligible with Auburn, LSU and Mississippi State remaining on the schedule. The Rebels have been explosive at times on offense, but a poor defense and inconsistency on offense have resulted in a 3-4 record.
Brandon Bolden runs for the Rebs.
Running back Brandon Bolden leads the Rebels in rushing with 559 yards, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. The junior has rushed for 100 yards on three occasions this year.
Oregon transfer Jeremiah Masoli has passed for 1,260 yards and 10 touchdowns this season along with 400 yards rushing. Masoli had his best game of the season last week against the Razorbacks, passing for 327 yards and rushing for 98 yards.
Markeith Summers, Melvin Harris and Ja-Mes Logan have more than 200 yards in receiving and Brandon Bolden has caught 19 passes for 187 yards. One of the reasons for the inconsistent performance by the Ole Miss offense is the fact Rebels had to replace four starters from their line.
The defense lost five of its top 11 tacklers from 2009 and has suffered from the personnel losses. Linebacker Jonathan Cornell leads the defense with 51 tackles, which include a team high of 9 1/2 tackles for losses. Three of the top five tacklers come from a secondary that has struggled against the pass. Six of the seven opponents have passed for more than 200 yards and four have gained more than 250 yards.
Linebacker Jonathan Cornell is a defensive veteran for the Rebels.
Ole Miss has given up 13 touchdown passes while intercepting only two passes this season. The Rebels have only 46 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, which is seventh best in the conference. Through seven games Ole Miss is 111th nationally in red zone defense, which will be up against an Auburn offense fourth nationally in most trips to the red zone this season.
Inside the Numbers...
•Since the SEC expanded to 12 teams in 1992, Auburn has a 14-4-0 record against the Rebels.
•During the last 18 meetings between the two schools Auburn has averaged 374 yards and 25 points per game while holding Ole Miss to 295 yards and 18 points.
•From 1992-2007 Ole Miss had failed to rush for 200 yards against Auburn, but has surpassed that mark in the two meetings since Nutt has been the Rebel head coach.
•Nutt is 6-6 against Auburn and his teams have averaged 187 yards rushing per game against the Tigers.
•In the last 20 meetings with Ole Miss, Auburn is 13-1 when rushing for 150-plud yards with the lone loss coming in 2003.
•Mississippi's offense is currently 111th nationally in allowing tackles for loss, which could result in another big night for Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley.
On his first trip to the state of Mississippi this year, Nick Fairley put on a strong performance at Starkville vs. the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
•Fairley has 17 tackles for lost yardage this season, No. 1 in the conference and third nationally.
•Newton enters the Ole Miss game as the nation's sixth leading rusher and the third most efficient passer.
•Ole Miss is ranked 20th nationally in third down conversion defense, but has given up a high number of impact plays to opposing offenses.
•As bad as Auburn has been on pass defense (78th in pass efficiency rating), Ole Miss has been even worse, and is ranked No. 97th nationally.
•Look for Auburn to have a distinct edge on kick coverage and returns. Auburn is No. 14 in kick return offense and Ole Miss is No. 95 in kick return defense. The Rebels are ranked No. 98 in kick return offense and Auburn is No. 45 in kick return defense.
•Ole Miss holds an edge in punt returns with the Rebels ranked No. 3 and Auburn ranked No. 41 in punt return defense. Auburn is No. 78 in punt returns and the Rebels are No. 113 in punt return defense. Both teams have struggled in net punting with Auburn currently ranked No. 92 and Ole Miss is No. 115.
•Through eight games Auburn has compiled 80 impact plays on offense while surrendering 48 on defense. Ole Miss has totaled 53 impact plays on offense in seven games while their defense has allowed 52.
Why Auburn should win...
•Auburn's run offense continues to improve as the season progresses. In their last three conference games the Tigers have averaged 361 yards per game on the ground with 7.1 yards per rush. The Ole Miss defense has allowed 162 yards rushing to conference opponents.
•In three of their last four games the Ole Miss defense has allowed more than 400 yards on defense while the Auburn offense has averaged 504 yards in total offense in its last five games.
•During the last four games the Rebel defense has allowed 34 points per game while the Auburn offense has averaged 43 points per game in its last five games.
•With the Rebels struggling against the run and pass, dual-threat quarterback Newton should have a very productive outing this week.
•Auburn is currently on a nine-game winning streak and has won 11 of its 13 games.
Why Ole Miss should win...
•Ole Miss quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is currently averaging 237 yards per game and will face an Auburn defense currently ranked No. 78 in pass efficiency defense.
Jeremiah Masoli joined the Ole Miss team in August after transferring from Oregon.
•The Rebels feature the third best offense Auburn has faced. Ole Miss is averaging 410 yards and 31 points per game. The ability to run and pass will keep the Auburn defense guessing to identify the point of attack.
•Ole Miss is averaging 211 yards rushing per contest and will be the second best run offense the Auburn defense has faced this season.
•Under Nutt, Ole Miss has compiled a 13-5 record at home and Gene Chizik's Auburn Tigers are 3-3 on the road.
Coach Houston Nutt and his Rebels will be looking to even their record on Saturday evening in Oxford.
•Nutt has been able to motivate his teams to pull off upsets during his coaching career. The 2008 Rebels upset eventual national champion Florida, 31-30. The year before Arkansas defeated eventual national champion, LSU. In 2006 Arkansas defeated an 11-2 Auburn squad and a 10-3 Texas team in 2003.
Auburn's 24-17 victory over LSU propelled the Tigers to a No. 1 ranking in this week's BCS poll and gives Auburn an opportunity to play for it all. This should also provide plenty of motivation for the Rebels who have their backs to the wall and are fighting to become bowl eligible.
Auburn is a favorite to win on Saturday, but life in the Southeastern Conference has not been easy this season. There have been numerous upsets in conference play and Auburn has flirted with disaster on more than one occasion. Coming off a huge victory over the No. 6 team in the country, Auburn could be prime for an upset if the players start to believe all the press clippings of their recent success. Auburn's coaches will do everything they can to keep their team focused and grounded with the primary thought being "the job has not been completed."
It's import to remember that the Auburn defense over the past two seasons has allowed the opponent to score at least 20 points in 17 of their 21 games. You would have to go back 50 games prior to 2009 to equal the 17 games of 20 points or more allowed. As well as the defense performed against LSU, the Tigers still have concerns about their defense as they take to the road for the third time this season. The focus for the defense will again be taking away the running game and limiting the opportunities for big plays.
Another strong performance by the Auburn offense could take the home crowd out of play, especially if the Tigers get off to a quick start. In the last four games Auburn has scored on 81 percent of its first four possessions of the games. That's 13 scoring possessions out of 16 with an average of 55 yards per possession at 8.7 yards per play. The successful starts by the offense have allowed the Tigers to play downhill, which normally results in the opponent having to adjust its game plan.
As well as the offense has performed this season, I still don't believe the Tigers have reached their peak. Michael Dyer is not full speed yet, but he managed to rush for 100 yards on 15 carries against a stout LSU defense. With opposing defenses focused on slowing Newton, Auburn must exploit the openings when defenses are concentrating on the quarterback. We witnessed this with Dyer's long touchdown run against Arkansas and Onterio McCalebb's 70-yard touchdown run against LSU.
During the first four games of the season the Auburn offense totaled 17 touchdowns, but made eight turnovers. During the last four games the Auburn offense has scored 21 touchdowns with only three turnovers. That's an improvement in touchdown to turnover ratio of 2.1 to 7.0. The only offensive concern is that Auburn has only one touchdown pass in its last 52 pass attempts.
During the first half of the LSU game Auburn had a difficult time keeping quarterback Jordan Jefferson contained and he was able to extend possessions with his running ability. He finished the game with 93 yards rushing minus his sack yardage. Chris Relf of Mississippi State had 56 yards rushing and the South Carolina quarterbacks totaled 56 yards rushing vs. the Auburn defense. That is a combined 200 yards rushing on 34 carries, which should be a concern for the Auburn defense facing Masoli. He will clearly be the most athletic at quarterback the Auburn defense has faced this season.
Another Ole Miss player to keep your eye on will be running back Jeff Scott, who has 201 yards rushing in the last four games at 5.7 yards per carry. Scott, along with wide receiver Jesse Grandy, could be impact players with their ability to make plays in space. The Rebels have enough playmakers on offense to make this game interesting, but Auburn's offense should secure the victory. Auburn 38, Ole Miss 23
Around the SEC...
Kentucky over Mississippi State by 3
South Carolina over Tennessee by 8
Arkansas over Vanderbilt by 14
Georgia over Florida by 6