StatTiger Column: Previewing AU at Ole Miss

Stuart Carter crunches the number as he analyzes what will happen on Saturday in the SEC West football matchup of the Auburn Tigers and Ole Miss Rebels.

Auburn 1-4 (0-3) at Ole Miss 3-2 (0-2)

Series Record: 27-9-0 (Auburn)

Last Meeting: 2011, Auburn 41-23

National Statistical Rankings (2012):
Rushing Offense: Ole Miss (No. 23), Auburn (No. 92)
Pass Efficiency Offense: Ole Miss (No. 61), Auburn (No. 110)
Total Offense: Ole Miss (No. 42), Auburn (No. 113)
Scoring Offense: Ole Miss (No. 50), Auburn (No. 117)
Rushing Defense: Ole Miss (No. 64), Auburn (No. 95)
Pass Efficiency Defense: Auburn (No. 79), Ole Miss (No. 84)
Total Defense: Ole Miss (No. 56), Auburn (No. 75)
Scoring Defense: Auburn (No. 48), Ole Miss (No. 73)
Net Punting: Auburn (No. 53), Ole Miss (No. 66)
Punt Return Offense: Auburn (No. 75), Ole Miss (No. 113)
Punt Return Defense: Auburn (No. 6), Ole Miss (No. 63)
Kick Return Offense: Auburn (No. 14), Ole Miss (No. 72)
Kick Return Defense: Auburn (No. 3), Ole Miss (No. 115)
Turnover Margin: Ole Miss (No. 71), Auburn (No. 120)

Inside the Numbers:

•Junior running back Jeff Scott leads the Rebels in rushing with 425 yards at 5.9 yards per rush. He has five career 100-yard games, including two this season.

•Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace is currently averaging 191 yards passing per game, including eight touchdown passes in six games. He also has an additional 186 yards rushing.

Donte Moncrief leads the Rebels in receiving with 27 receptions for 453 yards and five touchdowns.

•The Rebels have five defenders with at least 30 tackles on the season. Linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche leads Ole Miss with 38 stops on the season, including eight for loss. Fellow linebacker Mike Marry has 33 tackles.

Denzel Nkemdiche is a freshman for the Rebels.

•The Rebel defense has recorded 17 sacks, fourth in the conference and No. 16 nationally.

•The Rebels' offense has scored at least 27 points in five of their six games and gained at least 450 yards in offense in four of six games.

Texas rushed for 350 yards against the Rebels and Texas A&M racked up 290 yards on the ground.

•Ole Miss has registered 55 runs of 10 yards or more, including nine runs of 20 yards or more. In comparison Auburn's run offense has generated 25 run plays of 10 yards or more.

•The Rebels' explosive offense has totaled 28 pass plays of 15 yards or more along with 16 pass plays of 25 yards or more. Auburn's defense has allowed 24 pass plays of 15 yards or more and seven plays of 25 yards or more.

•Auburn's defense has allowed 6.04 yards per play on first down. It faces a Rebel offense currently averaging 6.62 yards per play. Auburn's offense averages 5.06 yards on first down and will face an Ole Miss defense allowing 5.43 yards.

•The Rebels have converted 50.6 percent of their third downs and face an Auburn defense allowing 34.6 percent. Auburn's offense has converted only 29.0 percent of its third downs and will take on a defense allowing 45.1 percent.

What to watch for...

•Position play and following assignments will be essential for an Auburn defense facing a wide-open offense. The Rebels possess the ability to spread out the Auburn defense while running inside on the Tigers' nickel defense. With the Rebels' mobility at the quarterback position Auburn's defensive ends will need to be disciplined while maintaining containment.

•Look for Auburn to make a concerted effort to establish its running game, something Gene Chizik appears to regret not doing during the Tigers' loss to Arkansas.

•Mississippi is No. 71 nationally in turnover margin and Auburn is dead last nationally. Turnovers have destroyed attempts by the Auburn offense to sustain drives. Auburn is currently turning the ball over once every 17.8 plays, the worst ratio by an Auburn offense over the past 30 years. The Tigers have lost the turnover battle in every game this year, something that needs to change if they are going to have any chance of upsetting the Rebels.

•Veteran defensive coordinator Dave Wommack runs a 4-2-5 defense and is aggressive in his approach to applying pressure on opposing offenses. The Ole Miss coach has prior SEC experience at Arkansas and South Carolina. Look for the Rebels to be aggressive up front to try to stop the running game, forcing Auburn to throw to move the football.

•The Rebels' front six relies on quickness and speed to make up for lack of size. This could be something Auburn's offensive line and running game could exploit if the effort is made to do so.

•The Rebel defense has given up 32 pass plays of 15 yards or more and 10 plays of 25 yards or more. Last week against the Rebels, Auburn's pass offense generated eight impact plays, which could carry over against Ole Miss.

Keys to victory...

•Auburn's defense struggled against the Clemson and Louisiana-Monroe spread offenses. Like Clemson, Ole Miss will throw short early and often to open up the running lanes. Auburn must tackle well in space and limit the yards gained after catch and contact.

Junior defensive end Corey Lemonier is a key performer for the Auburn defense.

•Auburn's offensive line played its worst game of the season against Arkansas, allowing eight sacks. The Rebels are No. 4 in the conference in sacks, which means Auburn's front four must play better this week.

•This could be a big game for Auburn's running backs. The Rebels have been exposed at times on run-defense and their undersized line and linebackers could be just what the Tigers need to reestablish their running game.

•Over the past 20 years Auburn's offense has generated the second most impact plays against Ole Miss with 155. Only Mississippi State has allowed more against Auburn with 162. The current Rebel defense has been vulnerable to explosive plays, something the Auburn must exploit to have any chance of scoring more than 20 points

•During Auburn's last 14 games the Tigers have been held under 20 points on 10 occasions. Auburn will likely need to score into the high 20s or low 30s to beat the Rebels. This might be too much to ask of a team that has produced only three offensive touchdowns against its four BCS opponents this season.

•Before the season began Auburn coaches talked about becoming more physical and running the football. Somehow this thought process has not carried over to the offensive game planning. If Auburn makes a true effort to run the ball against Ole Miss, the Tigers can be competitive and they can win this game. If not they will continue to see the same results.

For only the fourth time since 1950 Auburn has begun the season with only one victory during the first five games. The primary concern for Auburn's coaches is whether or not they have lost the will and faith of their players. Losing can often breed discontent and a lack of resolve. This lack of determination will show up in poor execution and lack of effort. The moment the game begins to go south, the problem is compounded with a very minimal chance of rebounding or recovery. This is why it will be vital for Auburn to have success early to maintain the focus and effort given by the players.

QB Bo Wallace is in his first season with the Rebels.

Ole Miss comes into the game scoring 24.5 percent more than its opponent allows and holding their opponent to 15.7 percent below their scoring average. Auburn's struggling offense is scoring 33.0 percent below what its opponent allows, but the defense is holding the opponents to 30.9 percent below their scoring average. Taking Auburn's average score vs. the Rebels' scoring margins projects a 30-13 victory for Ole Miss. Taking the Rebels' average score vs. Auburn's scoring margins and it projects a close Rebel victory of 22-19. With the way Auburn has performed in conference play this season the 30-13 Rebel victory appears to be the more realistic outcome and score.

Auburn's competitive losses to Clemson and LSU are a strong indicator the team is not void of talent, but lopsided defeats to Mississippi State and Arkansas hint to a lack of football maturity and preparation. There is no way of hiding the glaring fact Auburn is a bad team on multiple levels.

The question now is whether or not this team can improve as the losses continue to mount. The offense actually made improvements against Arkansas, but the sacks allowed and five turnovers neutralized the results and prevented the Tigers from cashing them into points. If the Tigers continue to self-destruct in the same manner, this Ole Miss team is very capable of delivering another embarrassing defeat. Ole Miss 27, Auburn 13

Around the Southeastern Conference...

Alabama over Missouri
Florida over Vanderbilt
Arkansas over Kentucky
South Carolina over LSU
Tennessee over Mississippi State (upset)
Texas A&M over Louisiana Tech

Season Record: 47-10

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