Things aren't going real well down on the Plains, and Auburn needs to improve in just about every facet of the game. It's probably not going to happen over night or from one week to the next. You've got to walk before you run, and you've got to learn to crawl before that. Auburn is going to have to get back to basics and take this one step at a time, one matchup at a time. Players have got to get back to playing for each other, play as a group, and each group has to win it's matchup.
I can't say this enough, but it all starts in the trenches. Last week was a mindboggling display of suck. The offensive line was a sieve and the defensive line only showed up in theory. Both units have to put up a better fight this week. If Auburn wants to win this game it has to win the battle in the trenches. I include the six inches between the ears of our players AND coaches, which I'll equate to the Mariana Trench. That's the biggest matchup Auburn must win this week. Right now there seems to be a discord among the team with some players calling for leaders to step up and others saying we have solid leadership. From this outsider's vantage point, I'm inclined to believe the former. Regardless, the Tigers have to come together with one purpose, one goal, singing in harmony like a fine tuned gospel choir.
While the Tigers are busy battling the Tigers, they also have to keep one eye on the fighting Admiral Ackbar Rebel Black Bears from Oxford -- it's hard to keep up with their mascot since they banished Colonel Sanders. The Rebs aren't the New England Patriots (psst ... come closer ... [whispers] neither are the Tigers). However, they do still have some playmakers that could pose a problem for Auburn. The Rebs are a pretty balanced team on offense, averaging 213 yards per game on the ground and 226 per game through the air. They have had some issues with ball security, having lost six of 12 fumbles and thrown nine interceptions. Their O-line hasn't done the best job of protecting Bo Wallace, giving up 17 sacks on the season. In comparison, their defense is giving up 152 yards per game on the ground and 226 through the air. Ole Miss has managed 14 takeaways and 17 sacks. The Rebels are certainly an improved team under new head coach Hugh Freeze.
What individual matchup has a potential to burn Auburn? Is there a matchup the Tigers can exploit in their favor?
Be wary of...
Donte Moncrief. Like last week, Auburn's secondary is under a Fire Weather Watch. Moncrief, a 6'3, 213-pound sophomore, has established himself as the Rebels No. 1 receiving threat. Through six games this season, he has 27 receptions for 453 yards and five touchdowns. He is by far Ole Miss' most productive receiver. Auburn will look to institute a burn ban by locking Moncrief down.
The Tigers also have to shore up their offensive line play, or the Rebels will have a field day with
Kiehl Frazier Clint Moseley whoever is taking snaps for Auburn this week. In addition to the 17 sacks, the Rebs' D-line has amassed 46 tackles for loss this year. Their defense has been able to get after the quarterback and will be licking their chops after seeing what Arkansas did last week.
Auburn will look to exploit...
I know, I know ... I said this last week. But, the Tigers' defensive line could really slow down the Ole Miss attack if, IF, it plays to its potential. Ole Miss has given up 40 tackles for loss to go with the 17 sacks in the first half of their season. Sure, those stats may be skewed by having played Alabama and Texas, but even Tulane and Central Arkansas got in on the action in the Rebels backfield. The Tigers have talent, but the production just hasn't been at the level it should. Could the Rebels' porous line play help Corey Lemonier and the rest of the D-line break out?
There is one other area, looking at the Rebels' game-by-game statistics, where Auburn could have an advantage. That's in the running game. The Longhorns racked up 350 yards on the ground against the Rebs. Texas A&M ran for 290. Of course, those teams committed to the run by handing off 54 and 44 times, respectively. In theory, the opportunity is there for the Tigers to pile up the yards on the ground. For this to happen, Tre Mason is going to have to get more than six carries. Mason is averaging 5.2 yards per carry this season, yet the past two games he has 15 total rushes. He should be getting at least that many touches per game -- at least. Auburn has had success running the ball this season when it has used the power running game. Running Mason behind Jay Prosch has equalled success on the ground this year. That is why I am calling for MOAR Prosch! If Loeffler will commit to the running game, use Prosch as the manchild he is, and give Mason a healthy amount of carries, the Tigers can pile up the yards on Ole Miss and control the clock. If the Tigers will do those things anything can happen. Maybe even a -- nope, I'm not gonna say it for fear of jinxing it.