Petre Thomas

Stat Tiger Column: Previewing Ole Miss at Auburn Football Game

Columnist Stuart Carter (StatTiger) crunches the numbers and analyzes what to expect when the Ole Miss football team visits Auburn for an SEC football game.

Chad Kelly (above) is a first-year starter at quarterback for Ole Miss.

Auburn (4-3) vs. Ole Miss (6-2) 

Series Record: Auburn leads 29-10-0

Last Meeting: (2014) Auburn won 35-31

About the teams:

  • Coach Hugh Freeze is 60-24 all time and 30-17 at Ole Miss. Coach Gus Malzahn is 33-13 all time and 24-10 at Auburn .
  • Auburn is coming off a 46-54 overtime loss against Arkansas and Ole Miss defeated Texas A&M 23-3. 
  • Auburn is 8-2 vs. the Rebels during the last 10 meetings. 
  • The Rebels under Hugh Freeze are 14-14 in conference play.
  • Auburn is 3-7 during its last ten conference games.
  • Ole Miss returned nine starters on offense and seven on defense.
  • Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly is currently the No. 1 rated passer in the conference. He has thrown for 309.4 yards per game, including 18 touchdown passes with 10 interceptions.
  • Auburn's Sean White has completed 64 percent of his passes for 201.3 yards per game. He has yet to complete his first touchdown pass through 97 pass attempts.
  • Jaylen Walton leads Ole Miss in rushing with 428 yards at 5.4 yards per rush.
  • Peyton Barber is the fifth leading rusher in the Southeastern Conference with 110.0 rushing per game, totaling 770 yards on 4.48 yards per carry. The Auburn sophomore has 12 rushing touchdowns.
  • Laquon Treadwell leads the Rebels in receptions with 54 for 756 yards and has five touchdowns. Quincy Adeboyejo is the Rebels’ second leading receiver with 27 receptions and six touchdowns.
  • Ricardo Louis leads the Tigers in receiving with 32 catches for 426 yards and one touchdown.
  • Senior linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche leads the Ole Miss defense 45 tackles, which is 32nd best in the conference. The Rebels have four different players with at least 5.5 tackles for loss on the season.
  • Auburn’s Rudy Ford is second in the SEC in tackles with 72 and Kris Frost is ninth in the conference with 59 tackles. Cassanova McKinzy is No. 22 in the conference with 6.0 tackles for loss. 
  • The Rebels are No. 3 in the conference with 8.0 tackles for loss per game. Auburn is No. 13 in the conference with 4.6.
  • Malzahn is 6-0 in games he has coached vs. Ole Miss.

How they match up...

*Ole Miss is No. 2 in total offense in the SEC with 426 yards per game and will face off against a team ranked No. 13 in total defense in conference play. Auburn has allowed 441.3 yards per game.

*Auburn is No. 9 in total offense in the SEC with 368.0 yards per game and will face an Ole Miss team ranked No. 5 in total defense, allowing 343.0 yards per game in conference play.

*Ole Miss has the No. 6 in scoring offense in conference play, averaging 25.8 points per game. The Rebels will face an Auburn defense ranked No. 14 in conference play, allowing 35.8 points per game. Auburn has allowed 28.2 points per game in conference play during regulation.

*Auburn has the No. 5 scoring offense in conference play, scoring 25.8 points per game. The Tigers face a Rebel defense ranked No. 8 in conference play, allowing 23.5 points per game.

*Ole Miss has the No. 10 third down offense in conference games and will face an opponent ranked No. 14 in third down defense.

*Auburn has the No. 3 third down offense in conference play, facing a Rebel defense No. 11 in third down defense.

Photo by Jason Caldwell

Sean White is a redshirt freshman for the Tigers, who has played in four college games.

*Based on scoring margins and averages from FBS competition only, it projects an Auburn victory of 27-22 and an Ole Miss victory of 32-20. Average the two scores and Ole Miss projects to a 26-23 victory over Auburn.

*Ole Miss has the No. 7 run offense in conference play vs. Auburn, which is ranked No. 11 in run defense. Auburn has the No. 6 run offense in conference play vs. Ole Miss ranked No. 3 in run defense.

Keys to Victory...

  • Malzahn is 5-0 vs. Ole Miss while at Auburn with his offense averaging 454 yards and 38 points per game against the Rebels. This includes an average of 261 yards rushing. Can Auburn establish the run against a good Rebel defense?
  • During the last 25 meetings between the two schools the team with the most rushing yardage is 20-5-0. 
  • Though Ole Miss is No. 15 nationally in pass efficiency, the Rebels are No. 79 throwing on third down. Auburn must force Kelly into obvious passing situations.
  • Auburn enters the game No. 15 in third down offense and will face a Rebel defense ranked No. 92 in  third down defense. Auburn must take advantage of this edge on third downs.
  • White has converted 36.4 percent of his third downs passing the football and Kelly has converted 34.0 percent. During the last 25 meetings against Ole Miss, Auburn is 13-1 when the Tigers win the third down battle and 7-4, when they don’t.
  • With Malzahn calling the Auburn offense the Tigers are 24-8 in conference play with at least seven points during the first quarter. When Auburn has been shutout during the first quarter it is 1-7. 

What to watch...

  1. Ole Miss is currently holding opponents to 27.7 percent below their rushing average. This projects Auburn to rush for only 130 yards against the Rebels. Auburn is 4-9 under Malzahn when held to less than 170 yards rushing in conference play.
  2. The Rebels are currently No. 26 nationally against the run and No. 12 against the run on first downs. Auburn will face a major challenge running on this Ole Miss front seven. During the last five meetings against the Rebels, Malzahn’s run offense has averaged 61 percent more yardage than the Rebels allowed during the season.
  3. Ole Miss is No. 8 nationally in defense on first downs, allowing only 4.26 yards per play. Auburn’s offense cannot afford to be on the short end of the stick when it comes to down and distance.
  4. The Rebel offense is No. 115 nationally in turning the football over with one every 31 snaps. During the last three games Auburn has forced six turnovers, scoring 24 points off their opponents’ miscues. Auburn has not turned the ball over during the same period. 
  5. The Rebels under Freeze are 3-9 on the road in conference play with an average score of 19-29 and 12-29 during the nine losses. On the flipside Auburn under Malzahn is 7-2 at home in conference play, averaging 34 points per game.
  6. What could the return to the lineup by Carl Lawson mean to Auburn’s defense? The Tigers have played nearly 500 snaps since he saw action against Louisville so expect some rust in his performance. He will, however, provide a major emotional lift to a defense lacking in consistency and confidence. He could also create opportunities for the interior line to make plays against the Rebels.

Final Word...

 At first look the Rebels’ nationally ninth-ranked scoring offense (41.0 points per game) looks rather impressive and a daunting task for a struggling Auburn defense. A closer look reveals the Rebels have averaged 26 points in conference play while allowing 23. During regulation time Auburn has averaged 21 points in conference play while allowing 28. Though the numbers still favor the Rebels, the mountain no longer appears to be as difficult to climb. There is no doubt Ole Miss has played better football this season than Auburn, but this is a game Auburn can win. Once again the Rebels’ offense is built around their passing game, which is why Ole Miss can look very impressive one week and very average the following week.

The game sets up similarly to the Mississippi State game, an opponent primarily one-dimensional on offense. Quarterback Dak Prescott was very patient against Auburn, taking what Auburn was willing to concede. He finished the night with 29 completions for 270 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Ole Miss quarterback Kelly has proven to be more aggressive, which has cost him at times this season. If Auburn can take way the Ole Miss running game, the Tigers increase their probability for victory. The Rebels under Freeze are 4-12 in conference play when held to under 150 yards rushing. Ole Miss scored an average of 19.5 points during those 16 games. When Ole Miss cracks the 150-yard rushing mark, the Rebels are 10-2 in conference play averaging 33.1 points per game.

As poorly as the Auburn defense has performed this season, the Tigers have only allowed one opponent to score more than 27 points during regulation, which was LSU, a team that simply out-muscled the Tigers up front. Despite Auburn's defensive issues since 2008, Auburn is 15-4 in conference play when holding its opponent under 150 yards rushing, allowing an average of 25 points per contest. They key on defense is taking away the Rebel run offense and on offense Auburn will need Sean White to perform consistently.

From 2009-2015 Auburn is 22-4 with a passer rating of 135 or better in conference play. Malzahn must be aggressive on offense early on to set the tone. Look for the Auburn defense to play with passion this Saturday and for the offense to feed off their performance. Auburn 31, Ole Miss 28

Around the Southeastern Conference:

Texas A&M over South Carolina

Florida over Georgia

Arkansas over UT Martin

Houston over Vanderbilt

Tennessee over Kentucky

Season Record: 54-17


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