While the play of the quarterbacks for both teams has been up and down this season with too many turnovers and mistakes for both the Tigers and Rebels, the key to winning on Saturday will come down to which offensive line can take over the game and take the pressure off the inexperienced QBs.
For Auburn that means letting the five guys up front pave the way for a running game that has done well when given the opportunity this season with Tre Mason getting the ball. Against Clemson and ULM, arguably Auburn's best two offensive games this season, Mason carried the ball 36 times for 196 yards to set the pace for the Tigers. The problem has come in Auburn's three SEC games this season.
Facing Mississippi State, LSU, and Arkansas, the speedy Mason has carried the ball a total of just 23 times, but managed to gain 111 yards in the process. Of those 23 carries just 11 have come in the first half when the tone of the game is set.
For Auburn's offense to get back to the mentality of running the football and the play-action passing game that was successful in the season opener against Clemson, Mason has to get more touches and early in the game to get a rhythm.
Because of that freshmen tackles Greg Robinson and Patrick Miller, sophomores Chad Slade and Tunde Fariyike, who is filling in for injured Reese Dismukes, and senior John Sullen will be called upon to control the line of scrimmage against an Ole Miss defense that is undersized and struggled mightily against a power running team in Texas earlier this season.
While Auburn's offense has struggled with consistency and balance, Ole Miss has done a great job of keeping opponents off balance this season, even with eight interceptions from starting quarterback Bo Wallace. Using a hurry-up style with a quarterback who is athletic enough to make big plays with his feet, the Rebels present a challenge for an Auburn defense that still has problems at times when teams spread the field.
One thing that is a must for the Tigers is to control the line of scrimmage and make Wallace throw the football to win the game. Behind a strong offensive line anchored by guards A.J. Hawkins (6-1, 310, Sr.) and Aaron Morris (6-5, 330. So.), the Rebels enter the game averaging 213 rushing yards per game. Speedy Jeff Scott leads the way at 85 yards per game with Randall Mackey and Wallace both averaging more than 30 per contest.
Speedy Jeff Scott is a dangerous weapon for the Rebels
If Auburn hopes to contain the Rebels the group of Corey Lemonier, Dee Ford, Nosa Eguae, Jeffrey Whitaker, Angelo Blackson and Gabe Wright must contain the running game and force Wallace to win the game with his arm.
A Look At The Rebels
Under the direction of their new head coach Hugh Freeze, the Ole Miss Rebels have done a solid job of infusing some excitement into the offense this season. Playing a hurry-up style with the junior college quarterback Wallace at the helm, Ole Miss is one of the most balanced offenses in the SEC through six games.
Averaging 213 yards on the ground and 226 yards through the air per contest, Ole Miss is paced on the ground by Scott. Playing in five games this year he has 425 yards and five touchdowns on just 71 carries while the former quarterback Mackey has added 227 yards and three scores in his role as a do-everything player for the Rebels.
Ranked 10th in the SEC in rushing in 2011, Ole Miss has moved up to fourth and 25th nationally this season. The Rebels lead the league in rushing first downs with 79 with Georgia the next closest at 63.
Wallace has done a solid job of throwing the football in his introduction to the SEC, hitting on 61.6 percent of his passes for 1,145 yards and eight touchdowns. Also capable is backup Barry Brunetti, a dangerous runner who is completing 70.1 percent of his passes for 177 yards in six games.
No matter which quarterback puts the ball in the air for the Rebels there is no question that sophomore receiver Donte Moncrief will be the main target. In his five starts the big receiver has caught 27 passes for 453 yards and five touchdowns this season.
Defensively, the Rebels enter the contest giving up 27.7 points per game this season, but other than a thrashing at the hands of Texas they have more than held up to the task at hand so far. Giving up 151.7 rushing yards and 227.2 passing yards, Ole Miss is led by active linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche on the outside.
A playmaker at every level, the redshirt freshman leads the team with 38 tackles, two sacks and eight tackles for losses this season. He has also added an interception and two forced fumbles in six games. A big man in the middle, linebacker Mike Marry has added 33 tackles with three going for a loss.