Following very similar paths throughout their coaching careers from high school to college at Arkansas State to the SEC and building a friendship along the way, Hugh Freeze said his team and that of Gus Malzahn look very similar and he sees a little of his first Ole Miss team in the 2013 Tigers.
"They remind me a lot of us last year," Freeze said. "Very, very hungry team that plays with great emotion, great energy and great passion. That doesn't surprise me at all."
With plenty of people on both sides of this battle who are familiar with the opponent, such as former Arkansas State quarterback Ryan Aplin now at Ole Miss and former ASU assistant David Gunn now at Auburn, both sides should have a very good feel for the base offensive attacks each will employ. Because of that Freeze said this week his defense should get a pretty good crash course in what the Tigers will do, but that will likely change come Saturday night.
"We can certainly look a lot alike offensively," Freeze said. "We should be able to simulate their looks very efficiently for our defense, I would think, but having said that both of us can change a lot during the course of a week and he's got two weeks to do whatever he's going to do. I know he'll dress things up and have some wrinkles that we haven't seen. We are very, very similar in the things we do on offense. It helps prepare, but you never know exactly what to prepare for."
The similarities in scheme are obvious when you look at Auburn and Ole Miss, but personnel is much different in this game. Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall is a strong-armed junior with the speed to get out of jams in the pocket. Auburn's running game features three types of backs with both Tre Mason and Cameron Artis-Payne more physical runners than the speedy Jeff Scott for Ole Miss.
Both entering the game already with a loss in the division, Saturday night will be an important game for both teams if they hope to take a step forward in 2013. A team that is already familiar with going on the road with wins at Vanderbilt and Texas before losing at Alabama last weekend, Freeze said Ole Miss knows it's in for another challenge this weekend from Malzahn's Tigers.
"They are off to a great start," Freeze said. "They have a very good homefield advantage and we have to go there for a hostile environment on a Saturday night. It's a big game for both schools. They are extremely athletic at quarterback and at running back. The offensive line and defensive line are physical.
"He's got them playing extremely hard," Freeze added. "We're facing an offense that is extremely balanced in rushing and passing. They give you a lot of looks, a lot of motion, a lot of smoke and mirrors, but they are efficient in what they do."
Kickoff for Saturday night's game between Auburn and Ole Miss is scheduled for 6 p.m. and can be seen on ESPNU.