The key to tomorrow night's matchup between Auburn and Ole Miss will be quarterback Clint Moseley's ability to get the ball downfield, something that's been an elusive goal over the past month. Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said on Tuesday that his primary mission is stopping Auburn's running game.
In other words, Ole Miss is going to try and force Auburn to throw the football. And why wouldn't they?
Since leading receivers Emory Blake and Trovon Reed (RF. WR) went down with injuries a month ago, the Auburn passing game has been all but non-existent. Over the past four games, Auburn has averaged an anemic 125 passing yards per game with only two touchdowns through the air.
When you look at the entire season, the picture doesn't get much better. Auburn has gone under 400 total yards of offense in seven of its eight games. By comparison, Gus Malzahn's offense at Tulsa dropped below 400 yards only three times in two years.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that you are going to lose more than you win with this kind of production. Put simply, Auburn needs a boost - and quick.
With Blake's status still up-in-air, look for Reed to be the main target for Moseley on Saturday night. Despite not practicing during the week leading up to LSU, Reed still managed to grab two catches in his first return to action.
All things considered, it was a positive step. Auburn assistant Trooper Taylor says having Reed back practicing for Ole Miss this week is important.
"That's huge, because of the timing with the quarterbacks," Taylor said. "That makes a big difference. Now, he's out there and he's on the same page with him.
"He's really worked hard this week and I've really been excited about him. He's done a really good job."
Before being injured, Reed was the team's second leading receiver behind Blake. For the season, he's hauled in 15 catches for 117 yards, but has yet to reach the end zone.
Those numbers need to increase dramatically in the coming weeks with Amen Corner on the horizon.
A source inside the program says that Malzahn has ratcheted up the intensity this week with Houston Nutt coming to town. While the traditional rivalries are important, for Malzahn, this one is personal.
You'll remember that while coaching Arkansas, Nutt showed Malzahn the door after one season as offensive coordinator in Fayetteville. Beating Nutt is high on Malzahn's to-do list.
Reed's play will go a long way in determining whether Malzahn walks off Pat Dye Field with a smile on his face late Saturday evening.