Approach with Caution

Believing Auburn's three-game skid will continue is a dangerous mindset to have. Taking them for granted would be fool's play. Read about it inside.

"Auburn's fans are jumping ship."

"The Tigers are in a tailspin."

"Kentucky beat them - no problem."

That kind of talk has been rampant in the Rebel nation.

It's all baloney, not even the all beef variety. Beaks and gizzards baloney.

The Ole Miss coaches cringe when they hear that kind of talk, especially Rebel Defensive Line Coach Terry Price.

"I know what kind of athletes they have on that team," said T.P. "I coached and recruited a lot of them. I know their personalities. They will strap their chinstraps on tight and come at us hard. Anyone who doesn't believe that doesn't know them."

In other words, throw recent developments, comparative scores and logic out the door.

The match between Ole Miss and Auburn - the oddsmakers say - will be an old-fashioned gravel dance.

Yes, both teams will bring sophisticated offensive schemes to the table, but in the end, the team that blocks and tackles the best will come out on top.

Auburn will try to confuse and rush the Rebel defense by employing a hurry-up variety of the spread offense. Early in the year, it seemingly confused and frustrated everyone. In the last three weeks - all SEC games - it has neither fooled nor flustered anybody.

Reb Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix is concerned about the uniqueness of the War Eagle attackers, but he also knows the main key for his guys will be to slow down or stop the run game led by one Ben Tate, a tough runner who does not succumb to meek tackling.

Another area of concern is the dual-threat ability of Kodi Burns, who operates in the Wildcat formation as the QB and is capable of running or throwing out of that set.

As Nix said earlier in the week, the Reb defenders are going to have to stay alert, comprehend the calls and their assignments quickly, recognize the different personnel groupings Auburn uses, and try to avoid confusion.

Auburn's defense has given up more points than they are historically used to, but when you can anchor your front with a player the quality of DE Antonio Coleman, you are capable of making plays.

The Rebel offense is going to have to build on the momentum they have gained the past two weeks, but they are also going to have to do a better job of avoiding turnovers.

Ole Miss, to Coach Houston Nutt's displeasure, have not been able to avoid the turnover bug in several games, even in a winning effort against Arkansas a week ago.

"We just have to figure out a way to take care of the ball better. We have made that a point of emphasis all year, but we still have made more than we should," Nutt stated.

While Houston is pleased with the surge in execution of late, particularly up front where some chemistry seems to be developing, he knows that the turnovers have to stop if the Rebs are going to get a good win streak going.

Once again, as is the case with most SEC games, establishing a run game will be critical.

Now that the season is heading toward the two-thirds completion mark, the Rebel coaches are less reluctant to use Dexter McCluster more. It worked against the Razorbacks and the hope is that it will continue working.

Last week, the key to the game was who could protect their quarterback the best.

This week, the main key will be which team can establish and stop the run.

Auburn has not been doing very well the past three weeks after a blistering start. The Rebels started somewhat slowly and have finally built some momentum.

But anyone who thinks the Ole Miss - Auburn game at Auburn Saturday morning will be anything less than a chair-swinging cage match is living on Fantasy Island.

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