Stat Tiger Column: Analyzing Ole Miss at AU

Stuart Carter crunches the numbers to pick a winner as Auburn entertains Ole Miss this weekend.

Ole Miss 5-2/2-2 SEC at Auburn 5-3/2-3 SEC

2009 National Rankings:

Auburn/Ole Miss:
Rush Offense: 7th/Rush Offense: 44th
Pass Offense: 78th/Pass Offense: 51st
Total Offense: 19th/Total Offense: 51st
Score Offense: 26th/Score Offense: 30th
Rush Defense: 89th/Rush Defense: 60th
Pass Defense: 35th/Pass Defense: 14th
Total Defense: 74th/Total Defense: 20th
Score Defense: 78th/Score Defense: 9th

About Ole Miss...

The Ole Miss Rebels have not lived up to their lofty preseason rankings, but remain a very dangerous opponent in the Southeastern Conference. Since losing to Alabama three weeks ago, the Rebels have bounced back with two convincing victories over UAB and Arkansas.

Their 30-17 victory over the Razorbacks was impressive as the Rebels gained 553 yards to the Razorbacks' 299. Ryan Mallett was only able to complete 12-34 pass attempts and was under constant pressure by Ole Miss, which is currently ranked No. 20 nationally in total defense.

One of the reasons the Rebels were expected to do well in 2009 was the return of quarterback Jevan Snead. Many considered Snead the second best quarterback in the conference, but his performance through seven games has been inconsistent. Snead has averaged 206 yards passing per game along with 14 touchdown passes, but he has completed only 53 percent of his passes to go along with 11 interceptions.

Coach Houston Nutt believes in a strong running game and his run offense is led by Brandon Bolden, who has rushed for 426 yards at 5.07 yards per carry. Dexter McCluster had his breakout game against Arkansas, rushing for 123 yards against the Razorbacks, and he will be the key component in the "Wild Rebel" formation as well as at tailback. Senior wideout Shay Hodge is having the best season of his career with 31 receptions for 459 yards and four touchdowns.

Dexter McCluster is a big-play threat for Ole Miss.'

Johnny Brown and Kendrick Lewis are the two leading tacklers for Ole Miss, which is ranked ninth in the nation in scoring defense. Auburn fans should remember linebacker Patrick Trahan, a former Tiger, who is third on the Rebel defense with 36 tackles.

The Ole Miss defense is third in the conference with 45 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and No. 1 in the SEC in sacks with 21. One of the reasons the Rebels have been difficult to score on is because of their success on third downs. Ole Miss is currently ranked third nationally in third down defense allowing opponents to convert only 24 percent of their opportunities.

Inside the Numbers

*Auburn currently holds a 24-9-0 record against Ole Miss, including an 11-2 record at home against the Rebels.

*In the last 20 meetings between the two schools, Ole Miss has averaged only 95 rushing yards per game, but under Houston Nutt the Rebels rushed for 233 yards last season, the most rushing yards against Auburn in the last 20 Auburn vs. Ole Miss meetings.

*Auburn is 11-1-0 against the Rebels when rushing for at least 150 yards during the last 20 meetings.

*During this decade Auburn has averaged 395 yards and 25 points against the Rebels while allowing 299 yards and 17 points per game.

*The last 10 times an Auburn running back has rushed for more than 100 yards against the Rebels the Tigers have won nine of those contests. Ben Tate has rushed for a combined 107 yards against the Rebels on 20 carries.

*Nutt's running game, combined from his teams at Arkansas and Ole Miss, has averaged 202.3 yards per game against the Auburn defense. This includes at least 150 yards rushing in six of 10 meetings.

*In their four conference games this season Ole Miss is averaging 144 yards rushing while allowing 120 yards rushing on defense.

*The Rebel defense has held three of its four SEC opponents to under 300 yards in offense, allowing 294.5 yards per games against conference opponents.

*Ole Miss is No. 16 nationally in kickoff returns while Auburn is No. 94 in kick-return defense.

*Ole Miss is No. 8 nationally in red zone defense and Auburn is 112th.

Auburn is 45th nationally in turnover margin and Ole Miss 96th.

*The Ole Miss defense has allowed a rating of only 92.2 on first down passes and 104.6 on third down. In the last three games, Auburn's pass offense has compiled a pass rating of 75.9 on first down and 59.2 on third down.

Why Auburn should win...

*Looking at the Rebels' scoring averages against SEC competition compared to Auburn's scoring margins against SEC teams, Auburn is projected to win 19-18.

*Vanderbilt, Alabama and UAB were all able to rush for at least 170 yards against the Rebel defense.

*Auburn is 16-4 against Ole Miss in the last 20 meetings.

*Ole Miss is currently 57th nationally in pass-efficiency offense and Auburn is 32nd in pass-efficiency defense.

Why Ole Miss should win…

*Taking the scoring averages and margins in both teams' last three games, Ole Miss should win 33-8.

*In their last three conference games, Auburn has averaged 15 points per game while the Rebel defense has allowed 15 points per game. Just 15 points by Auburn won't be enough to defeat Ole Miss, especially when you consider how Auburn has progressively scored fewer points per conference games (49, 26, 23, 14 and 10).

*Chris Todd was sacked four times against LSU last Saturday and now will go up against the SEC's leader in quarterback sacks.

*Despite the Rebels' 5-2 record this will be the most complete team Auburn will have faced this season. The Rebels are physical, capable of running the football and throwing it deep. They have an aggressive defense, which should spell problems for a declining Auburn offense.

*Auburn is an exhausted team right now, lacking depth at key positions.

Final Word…

Based on recent comments by Coach Gene Chizik, it appears there will be no change at the quarterback position for Auburn this week. Though Todd is projected to start against the Rebels, his room for error will likely be shorter this week. Watching the Tigers play the last two weeks, it's evident the team is suffering from rubber legs and a poor start against the Rebels will likely lead to a similar outcome as the LSU game.

A combination of fatigue and poor execution is always a recipe for disaster, which is why the Auburn offense must play well early against the Rebels. Auburn cannot afford to keep the football away from its playmakers as it did in the first half against LSU. Onterio McCalebb, Mario Fannin, Eric Smith, Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery had a combined four plays on offense against LSU during the first half.

Statistically speaking, this is one of Auburn's worst defenses during the modern era of college football, but not because of a lack of effort. The defense actually played well against LSU except on third downs. LSU was able to convert 6-11 third down plays of seven yards or more. Had Auburn been able to make stops on those six conversions, LSU would have scored 16 points on 309 yards. This has been the case for most of the season as the Auburn defense has not been able get its opponent off the field, even in third and long situations.

If Auburn has any chance of winning this Saturday, the offense will have to return to its early form this season. Though a quarterback change is warranted, focusing all the blame of Auburn's offensive struggles on Todd is not. Another slow start by the offense will certainly translate into another loss with Auburn averaging just 86 yards during the first half in their last three games.

Chris Todd, after getting off to a hot start as a senior, is in a three-game slump.

On the subject of making a good start, Auburn's passing game needs to do the same on first downs. From 1992-2009, Auburn has compiled a pass rating of 133.3 on first down. Against SEC competition this season, Auburn's pass rating on first down plays is 104.0. It is 75.9 during the current three-game losing streak. Ole Miss 34, Auburn 10

Around the SEC…

Arkansas over Eastern Michigan by 28
LSU over Tulane by 30
Florida over Georgia by 7
Kentucky over Mississippi State by 6
South Carolina over Tennessee by 4
Georgia Tech over Vanderbilt by 11

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