War Eagle and welcome to the first day of the rest of your football season - or so it seems. To say tomorrow's game at Ole Miss is huge would be an understatement. Auburn desperately needs a win over the Rebels to gain momentum and have any hope of winning at Amen Corner.
It won't be easy. Houston Nutt's team has a lot of talent and could easily be 6-2 right now. Ole Miss enters the game with the 55th ranked offense in the nation. That's 36 places higher than they were a year ago. In contrast, Auburn's offense goes to Oxford ranked 109th nationally and still trying to find its way.
The game likely will come down to special teams and that's not necessarily a good thing for Auburn. Tommy Tuberville opened up the kicking duties in practice this week and starter Wes Byrum has gotten a stiff challenge from punter Clinton Durst and backup place kicker Morgan Hull. It appears for now that Byrum has held off the two challengers, but Tuberville notes that could change should Byrum lapse into old habits.
Durst will likely have his hands full keeping up with his Ole Miss counterpart. "Their punter is doing a good job," Tuberville says. "Their coverage teams have been very good. I think they gave up one long return against Samford. Their kicker does a great job of kicking the ball in the corner--deep left corner. He is very accurate."
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Here are some quick hitters to get you ready for Saturday's early morning kickoff...
- Auburn is 8-1 all-time in Oxford against Ole Miss, including a 23-17 victory in its last visit in 2006.
- Auburn has had the lead at halftime in every game this season, outscoring its opponents 105-36 in the first half this year.
- Auburn has not allowed a touchdown in the first quarter all season.
- Auburn ranks second in the nation in opponents' third-down conversion percentage, surrendering just 25 first downs in 110 attempts (25.4 percent).
- Auburn ranks 13th nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 15.8 points per game.
- Auburn ranks 12th nationally in pass defense (166.0), 17th in total defense (294.3) and 19th in first downs allowed (15.8).
- Junior Antonio Coleman leads the SEC in sacks (6.0) and tackles for loss (10.5).
- Senior Robert Dunn ranks second in the nation in punt returns, averaging 21.4 yards per return.
- The two teams combined to score at least 40 points in seven of the previous eight contests.
- The Tigers have held Ole Miss to less than 100 yards rushing in nine of the last 11 meetings, including an average of 59.7 yards over the last three seasons.
- Ole Miss defensive line coach Tracy Rocker was an All-American defensive tackle at Auburn. Rocker made history in 1988, becoming the first player in the SEC to win the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Trophy in the same year.
- The Tigers have allowed just three touchdowns and five field goals in the first two periods, and have outscored their opponents 44-6 in the opening quarter, allowing just two field goals.
- Ole Miss has already equaled its most wins since the 2003 season.
- Ole Miss has played five consecutive games that have been decided by seven points or less.
- The Rebels are fourth in the SEC in total offense (377.6) but 11th in total defense (345.1).
- Ole Miss leads the SEC in tackles for loss, averaging 7.9 per game.