Monday press conference

In his Monday press conference, Ole Miss Coach David Cutcliffe called this weekend's opponent - Auburn - "by far the best team we have faced this year." According to the polls and oddsmakers, who have installed the War Eagles as a 19-point favorite for th Oxford game, that's no exaggeration by Cut. The following is a transcript of Cutcliffe's Monday press conference.

Cut: From an injury standpoint, the open date has been good to us. We are healthier and feeling better than we have been. CB Bryant Thomas is still not ready with his hamstring problem, but outside that everyone should be back. I don't think all of them are 100%, but they are as close as they've been. We are looking forward to getting back on the practice field. We should be rejuventated and rested. We have a big, big challenge in front of us. Auburn is by far the best team we've played this year. They are very balanced and playing very well on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game. This is a big challenge, but it's also a big opportunity for us. We have an important week of preparation starting this afternoon.

Q: Talk about the new Auburn offense under Al Borges?

Cut: They are a multiple formation offense, but their emphasis is still on running the football. They do a great job in that regard, but QB Jason Campbell has shown a marked improvement in his play. He is obviously very comfortable in their offensive system. They are very effective throwing the ball with a high percentage completion rate. They also make a lot of big plays. It's a West Coast offense with all their formations and shifts, but more run-oriented than what you see from most West Coast offenses.

Q: Are they similar to UT in balance and can you apply anything from the two games to give your team an edge?

Cut: They have a different style of offense, so that won't be the same. The style of run game is different. They are statistically comparable due to their balance, but they get their in different ways. It all starts with trying to find a way to slow down the run. You have to minimize the big play and keep it from coming in chunks of yardage. Stopping it cold would be very, very difficult, but you can slow it down somewhat.

Q: Talk about your short yardage set with Brandon Jacobs and Lorenzo Townsend.

Cut: Brandon is basically our short yardage guy in the I formation. He's big, he runs with good body lean, he runs with a no-nonsense style, he makes good decisions and he has a nice knack for finding the crease in the front in conjested situations. He's also been consistent with that for two years. He's kind of like a relief pitcher in baseball - he has to stay ready and be ready to go in critical situations. He knows his number is going to be called in critical short yardage situations and he's done a great job with that role. Lorenzo is a good runner with good feet and instincts. He also has size to gain the hard yards. Lorenzo is also a good receiver and has made big catches for us the last couple of years. In play-action, he's always a threat.

Q: If Auburns beats you, they clinch a spot in the SEC Championship game. Is that a motivator for you to be a spoiler?

Cut: Our motivation has got to be more than being a spoiler. We have work to do on our season and it starts with Auburn. They are a great football team and have earned every accolade they've gotten, but our motivation will be on us doing something for us and being focused on us. We still have a lot to play for.

Q: What about Tuberville coming back to Oxford and is this his best team you have faced?

Cut: I think the luster of Coach Tuberville coming back is gone. He's been over here a couple of times in the last six years. To this point, it's his best team we've seen on tape since we've been at Ole Miss. They are completely balanced on offense, they call themselves the "no name" defense but they are very talented on that side of the ball and they play a lot of people who are producing. This is an outstanding Auburn team.

Q: Talk about their improvement on defense since last year.

Cut: Well, they were fifth in the country in total defense last year, so they were pretty good then too. This one is playing well. They run to the ball, they are very quick, they have active and physical people up front and they are deep, their secondary has matured and has been effective thus far.

Q: You have fared well against ranked teams traditionally. Why?

Cut: Well, we've been pretty good the last few years ourselves and have played well in big games most of the time. But each game is unique to itself. I think our preparation and focus has been good, but I think our teams have been good as well. We have been competitive with the elite teams and have won a share of them, but we'd like to win more. The challenge is obvious - compete and beat a Top 5 team. They would be a challenge for anyone. We will have to play our best to compete well in this game.

Q: With their passing game going, does it make it more difficult to sell out to stop the run?

Cut: No question. Their receiving corps has matured and Campbell is playing the best football of his career. When they are able to throw the ball as effectively as they have been this year, it really makes it difficult to stop their run game.

Q: Is there any update on your QB situation?

Cut: No real update. We discussed it as a staff this morning, but I'm not going to go into detail what we discussed. I know it sounds repetitive, but we are evaluating that day-to-day based on their performance in practice, the gameplan and all the things we think we have to do to be successful. When I say no evident change, there will be changes on a week-to-week basis, but there's nothing to say on Monday about it.

Q: How is PK Jonathan Nichols?

Cut: His MRI was negative so he should be close to being back to a normal work routine today. This will be the first time in three weeks he's kicked on a Monday. It's good to have him back.

Q: Would you prefer to get to a one-QB situation?

Cut: In the past, my preference has always been to have one quarterback win the job and to start. But I want someone to clearly win that role. With this team in this particular situation, I don't have a preference right now unless one of them steps up and takes the job. We are not at that juncture right now, in my opinion.

Q: Can you look at any of last year's Auburn games offensively to get an idea of what they are likely to do?

Cut: No. They are running some of the same things, but not out of the same formations and sets. We have to use this year's films to gameplan. There's a new guy calling plays and the system is different. Last year's tapes do us no good.

Q: Is Auburn's defense doing anything differently due to their maturation level in the secondary?

Cut: Not too much. They are just more effective. They will always have a new wrinkle in their pressure package but their system is the same as last year's. It worked last year, why change it?

Q: With just one TD catch this year, are your wide receivers as much of your offensive output as you'd like?

Cut: No, they haven't been and that's part of the problem. We haven't thrown the ball effectively most of the season, especially early. I'm sure any of the receivers will tell you the same thing - they'd like to be more a part of the offense. I think we have a good receiving corps that's played OK, but we have to continue to bring balance into our entire offense. We can't go one way. We can't just run it or just throw it and be successful. We need to use all of our weapons. We will need them this weekend in this ballgame.

OM Spirit Top Stories