Auburn hosts Ole Miss Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium, and both the Tigers and the Rebels will be trying to bounce back from their first losses of the season. With a close matchup expected, we chatted with Juco All-American from Red Cup Rebellion, SB Nation's Ole Miss blog, to get his thoughts on the game.
College and Magnolia: Ole Miss is coming off a rough game at Alabama. How do you think the Rebels will respond? Will they come out looking to make amends for a poor performance, or will they be suffering from a lack of confidence?
Juco All-American: It's tough to say. All the comments so far from players have been about how they have put that loss behind them. I don't know whether they're just saying that because they know it's the right thing to say or not. I would say that last year the team was able to compartmentalize losses, even big ones, and quickly bounce back. They have't shown the ability to do that this season, but they also haven't lost yet, so that's moot. This game will tell Ole Miss fans a lot about their team either way. Auburn isn't in the top three of the West, but they're a good test.
CaM: Auburn and Ole Miss are remarkably similar in their schemes on both sides of the ball. Which staff do you trust more to execute a sound game plan on offense? How about defense?
JAA: I don't know a ton about the staff at Auburn. I know that Gus Malzahn showed a strong ability to execute offensively at each level.
I'll just say that I anticipate that the defense he saw against Alabama threw Hugh Freeze off a bit. I don't imagine that to be the case against Auburn. That's not to say that the Rebels will score at will, but it shouldn't be as perplexing to him as last week's game.
Defensively, we don't really know what to expect from Ole Miss. They performed very well against Alabama until the game was essentially over and they gave up two long TD runs. The secondary was a question mark entering the season but appears to be better than expected. As you say, both teams are similar schematically. It will be interesting to see whether the defenses get the best of the offenses for that very reason. They see them every day in practice.
CaM: Bo Wallace, Jeff Scott, Donte Moncrief and Laquon Treadwell are the Rebels' known play-making commodities on offense. Which player whom Auburn fans don't know could break out and have a big game?
JAA: Evan Engram is a freshman flex tight end who has really made a name for himself already. He had no other good offers, and many Ole Miss fans wondered why the staff was signing him. Fast forward eight months, and he leads the team in receiving. He's a difficult matchup since he can line up regularly in the slot or at H-back along with at traditional tight end. This causes problems for the defense in determining which personnel package to roll with on defense. He's capable of obliterating cornerbacks during run-blocking to the outside and can run past linebackers with relative ease. Engram has been very good thus far.
CaM: What about the Ole Miss defense? Which under-the-radar player could make a big impact?
JAA: If he's still under-the-radar, it's another true freshman. Tony Conner, who plays "husky" for the Rebels, is a safety/linebacker hybrid. He is capable in coverage and is an excellent form-tackler. He was the least-ballyhooed of the four five-star signees, but he has really come out and already made a big name for himself. Conner makes passes to the flats difficult.
CaM: What's the biggest advantage Ole Miss has in this game?
JAA: I think that Ole Miss will have success stopping Auburn's running game. The linebackers are both fast and powerful, and the defensive line is a mixture of players who are either big and strong or very quick, making it difficult to get too much of a push. Also, the Rebel defenders have likely seen a lot of the same looks that Auburn runs, making it a little less foreign to them. They're also at least somewhat familiar with tempo offenses.
CaM: What's the biggest disadvantage? What worries you the most?
JAA: I guess what worries me the most is whether there was a blueprint established by the Alabama defense as far as how to stop Ole Miss. If Auburn lines up wide along the defensive line and forces the action to the middle in the running game, I'm not sure what Ole Miss' answer is. That's not to say that they definitely don't have one. They just haven't had much success running between the tackles so far this season.
If Auburn takes away the Ole Miss running game, things get tough.
CaM: How do you see this one playing out? What's your prediction?
JAA: I think Ole Miss will win by four. I like Auburn a whole lot and think they're definitely headed in the right direction, but I do think Ole Miss is a year ahead of them in the process. Most Rebel players are accustomed to scheme, the no-huddle and the concept of fighting through close games. I'm not sure the same can be said for a lot of Auburn's team at this point. The Mississippi State win was very good and felt good in my Rebel soul, but that shouldn't really have taken a last second touchdown to win.
So yeah ... Rebels by four.
More from College and Magnolia:
- Auburn vs. Ole Miss: Breaking down the X's and O's
- Wednesdays with (Oscar) Whiskey
- College football viewing guide, Week 6: Conference shake-up edition
- Auburn Tigers in the NFL: Week 4
- Undercover Barner: Bye week observations and Fighting Okra