StatTiger: Previewing, Analyzing AU/Ole Miss

Stuart Carter crunches the numbers in his StatTiger column to predict a winner as Auburn plays at Ole Miss in a key SEC West football showdown.

#4 Auburn (6-1) at #7 Ole Miss (7-1)

Series Record: Auburn (28-10-0)

Last Meeting: (2013) Auburn, 30-22

About the teams:

*Coach Hugh Freeze is 52-19 overall and 22-12 at Ole Miss. Gus Malzahn is 27-6 all time and 18-3 at Auburn.

*Auburn’s Nick Marshall has a quarterback rating of 143.7 with 11 touchdown passes to just three interceptions. His leading receiver is Duke Williams with 34 receptions for 527 yards and five touchdowns. Sammie Coates and Quan Bray have combined for 28 receptions, 421 yards and three touchdowns.

*Cameron Artis-Payne leads Auburn in rushing with 831 yards at 5.5 yards per carry. Marshall is No. 2 on the team with 581 yards, averaging 6.84 per attempt.

*Johnathan Ford leads Auburn in tackles with 48 followed by Cassanova McKinzy with 46. McKinzy also leads the team in tackles for loss with 6.5 and is followed by Davonte Lambert with 6.0.

*Auburn has 46 tackles for loss on defense while allowing 33 on offense. This includes 12 sacks to six sacks surrendered.

*Jonathan Jones is No. 14 nationally with 11 passes defended (interceptions plus deflections) and leads the Tigers with five interceptions.

*The Ole Miss ground game averages 149.5 yards per game led by Jaylen Walton with 376 at 5.3 yards per rush. I'tavius Mathers is the No. 2 rusher with 221 yards on 4.33 per carry.

*Bo Wallace has a quarterback rating of 153.2 with 18 touchdown passes and seven picks for the Rebels. He averages 259.4 yards passing per game.

*Laquon Treadwell and Vince Sanders have combined for 65 receptions for 960 yards and eight touchdown catches.

Laquon Treadwell is a key performer for the Rebels.

*Tony Conner leads the Rebels in tackles with 47 playing the their version of the star position. Defensive end Marquis Haynes leads Ole Miss in tackles for loss with 7.5 tackles. Field-corner Senquez Golson has eight interceptions and is No. 8 nationally with 12 passes defended.

*The Rebels have recorded 55 tackles for loss while allowing 59 on offense. This includes 18 sacks on defense and 19 sacks allowed on offense.

*Malzahn's offense vs. Ole Miss has averaged 422 yards and 39 points per game.

How they match up...

*Auburn’s run offense is ranked No. 10 nationally vs. Ole Miss, which is ranked No. 23 defending the run. Ole Miss is No. 83 in rushing vs. Auburn, which is No. 25 in run defense. Edge to Auburn.

*The Ole Miss offense is ranked No. 28 in pass efficiency vs. Auburn, which is ranked No. 28 in pass efficiency defense. Auburn is currently No. 10 in pass efficiency vs. Ole Miss, which is No. 5 in pass efficiency defense. Edge to Ole Miss.

*Ole Miss is No. 63 in yards per play on first down vs. Auburn, which is 51st in yards allowed on first down. Auburn is No. 38 in yards per play on first down vs. Ole Miss, which is No. 21 in yards allowed per play on first down. Edge to Ole Miss.

Hugh Freeze is head coach of the Rebels.

*Auburn is No. 2 nationally in third down offense vs. Ole Miss, which is No. 13 in third down defense. Ole Miss is No. 55 in third down offense vs. Auburn, which is No. 30 in third down defense. Slight edge to Auburn.

*Auburn is No. 8 in red zone touchdown percentage vs. Ole Miss, which is No. 2 in red zone defense. Ole Miss is No. 51 red zone touchdown percentage vs. Auburn, which is No. 24 on defense. Slight edge to Auburn.

*Auburn is No. 6 in generating run plays of 10-plus yards and pass plays of 15-plus yards vs. Ole Miss, which is ranked No. 3 defending them. Ole Miss is No. 61 in generating impact plays on offense vs. Auburn, which is No. 64 defending those plays. Slight edge to Ole Miss.

*Auburn is No. 22 in generating run plays of 20-plus yards and pass-plays of 25-plus yards vs. Ole Miss, which is No. 4 defending them. Ole Miss is No. 49 in generating big plays on offense vs. Auburn, which is No. 48 on defense. Slight edge to Ole Miss.

*Auburn is No. 17 in turnover margin vs. Ole Miss, which is No. 3 nationally. Edge to Ole Miss.

*Auburn is No. 59 in tackles for loss vs. Ole Miss, which is ranked No. 118 in tackles for loss allowed. Ole Miss is No. 21 in tackles for loss vs. Auburn, which is No. 18 in tackles for loss allowed. Edge to Auburn.

*Ole Miss is No. 4 in net punting vs. Auburn, which is ranked No. 80. Edge to Ole Miss.

*Auburn is No. 1 in punt return offense vs. Ole Miss, which is No. 15 in punt return defense. Ole Miss is No. 117 in punt return offense vs. Auburn, which is No. 98 in punt return defense. Edge to Auburn.

*Ole Miss is No. 114 in kickoff returns vs. Auburn, which is ranked No. 109 in kick return defense. Auburn is No. 82 in kickoff return offense vs. Ole Miss, which is . 69th defending them. No edge.

Keys to victory...

•Auburn must be productive on first down to increase its chances on third down. Ole Miss is No. 12 nationally in third down defense.

•The Ole Miss offense is heavily reliant upon passing. The Rebels are ranked No. 28 nationally in pass efficiency. Auburn must be able to apply pressure on Wallace to force him into some bad throws.

•This might be the best overall defense Auburn will face this season. Auburn must rush for 200-plus yards and avoid being placed into too many obvious passing situations against one of the best pass defenses in the country.

•Turnovers will likely play a major factor in the outcome of this game. Ole Miss is currently No. 4 nationally in forcing turnovers and Auburn is No. 18. The Rebel offense is No. 40 in protecting the football and Auburn is No. 48. Auburn cannot afford to lose the turnover battle with the Rebels.

Cameron Artis-Payne is a senior running back for the Tigers.

•Artis-Payne needs to have a solid game against the Rebels and the Auburn running backs need to be utilized in the passing game.

What to watch...

Marshall rushed for 140 yards against the Rebels last season, but was limited to just 93 yards on 17 pass attempts. Can he be productive against Ole Miss playing within his attributes or will he be forced to play outside his comfort zone? During his previous six games vs. top 25 defenses, Marshall has averaged 219 passing yards and 63 yards rushing per game.

In conference play only, Auburn is averaging 307 yards per game on the ground and the Rebels are allowing 119 yards per game. The Tigers have rushed for 97 percent more than their conference foe has allowed while the Rebel defense has held its conference opponents to 26 percent below their rushing average. This projects for Auburn to rush for 227-234 yards against the Rebels.

Looking at conference games only and based on both teams’ yardage margins and yardage averages in the passing game, it projects Ole Miss to throw for 250-291 yards this Saturday night.

If the matchups between the offensive and defensive strengths is a wash, it will come down to the Ole Miss running game vs. Auburn's run defense and Auburn's pass offense vs. the Rebel pass defense. Based on both team's productions offensively, this will likely favor the Tigers.

Wallace has averaged only six rush attempts per game outside the conference and 12 carries per game against conference opponents. Look for Wallace to carry the ball 10-15 times against the Tigers.

Ole Miss allowed an average of 5.2 impact plays (15+) per conference game while the Auburn offense has averaged 12.7 per game in conference play. An impact play has been worth 3.6 points for the Auburn offense. Auburn needs to be closer to 10 than five against the Rebels.

Look for Freeze to open up his offense this week, hoping to take advantage of Auburn's lack of pass rush.

Final Word...

Looking at conference games only, Ole Miss looks to be the favorite when it comes to scoring margins and averages. The Rebels are scoring 23.9 percent more than their conference opponent has allowed. The Ole Miss defense is holding its conference opponents to 64.2 percent below their scoring average. Auburn is scoring 55.7 percent more than its conference opponent has allowed while the defense has held its conference opponents to 32.2 percent below their scoring average. This projects victories by Ole Miss of 19-17 and 31-14. Average the two scores and the Rebels defeat Auburn, 25-17.

Three immediate concerns about this game are turnovers, playing on the road and the lack of a pass rush by the Auburn defense. The Ole Miss defense is No. 4 nationally in forcing turnovers. Auburn has averaged 25 percent less total yardage on the road, compared to playing at home, and 54 percent less points on the road compared to playing at home. The Auburn defense is No. 97 nationally in sacking the quarterback with one in every 21 pass attempts.

Should Auburn struggle in any one of these areas, it could be fatal. Struggle in all three areas and the Tigers will be run out of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Though Ole Miss is close to being a one-dimensional offense, its strength (passing) will face-off against Auburn’s defensive weakness (pass rush). The Rebels have misfired on offense as of late and are working through a few injuries.

This game basically comes down to the Rebels’ pass-offense vs. Auburn’s pass defense and the Auburn running game vs. the Ole Miss run defense. Turnovers and big plays will likely create separation between the teams in what should be an extremely physical game.

During Auburn’s last 21 conference games away from Jordan-Hare, it has allowed 417 yards and 31 points per game. This includes an average of 460 yards and 33 points per game allowed by Ellis Johnson’s defense on the road vs. conference opponents. Malzahn’s offense while at Auburn has averaged 24 points per game vs. Top 10 scoring defenses and Ole Miss is currently No. 1 in fewest points allowed. Ole Miss is playing at home with the better defense and what appears to be the more physical team. Ole Miss 28, Auburn 24

Around the Southeastern Conference:

Texas A&M over La-Monroe Georgia over Florida
Kentucky over Missouri
Old Dominion over Vanderbilt
Mississippi State over Arkansas
South Carolina over Tennessee

Record: 62-12


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