So, I just finished looking at the film of Ole Miss's offense against the Auburn defense last year. What a weird game. Ole Miss (usually a balanced offensive team) attempted 56 passes, going 26 for 50 with 6 sacks and two interceptions. Ole Miss attempted five fourth down conversions going 3 for 5. Ole Miss ran nearly 90 plays. Auburn, as usual jumped out to a good lead and managed to hang on for a 30-22 (then considered an upset) win over the #24 Ole Miss Rebels.
So what should we expect Saturday?
Ole Miss has a power/misdirection running game that looks a lot like ours. Here's their sweep which looks a lot like a zone read:
This looks a lot like a zone read (which Ole Miss also runs extensively). There's an unblocked defensive end and the running back attacks the line aggressively. The jet sweep motion threatens a double option to the backside and that keeps the end at home. How do we know it isn't a zone read? First, the line doesn't zone block. This is a traditional sweep blocking scheme. Both guards pull. Playside guard looks to kick someone out of the lane, backside guard looks to seal the lane off from inside defenders. Playside receiver cracks back on the linebackers. Runningback follows the blockers into the hole. This play works just like a sweep out of a single back set except it comes with the added bonus of misdirection which might slow the defense down just enough and help the guards get to the point of attack. Here it is live:
One wrinkle Ole Miss has added this year on short yardage is their "heavy set," so named because they bring in their backup quarterback, Jeremy Liggins, and bring the combined weight of their offense nearly 3200 pounds. On a side note, it's nice to see Ole Miss forgive and forget Liggins (an Oxford native) for going to LSU and announcing his intention to do so in downtown Oxford on a local Ole Miss sports call in show. But that's none of my business.
Liggins weighs 296 pounds. Even their wide receiver in this set tops 225. It's impressive looking. What do they do with it? A few things, including passing but mostly, they just want to shove it down your throat:
Here it is live:
Ole Miss has a fairly simple, but effective passing game. Most of it is a quick hitting passing game on routes from 8-15 yards. They want to run the play action fake and then get the ball out of Bo's hand as quickly as possible. I don't think Bo is asked to do much in the way of reading defenses and working his way to a second and third option. To the extent they are asking it of him, he's not doing it. If the first option is covered, Bo tends to start running before either throwing it away or forcing it. He is a capable runner physically but he doesn't have a scrambler's mentality. When he scrambles, most of the time he's trying to buy more time to pass rather than pick up extra yardage with his feet. What does Bo look like when the secondary has taken away his first option? Something like this:
Ole Miss loves to cross their receivers close to the line before sending them into their routes. Here's one of their favorites from our game last year:
Here it is live:
Ole Miss will run some bunch formation routes scattering three or four bunched receivers to confuse the defense. Here is a nice diamond quads scatter route they ran against Bama. One runs a deep post, one runs a shallow post, one goes in and one goes out. Alabama loses the deep post in the shuffle and good things almost happen for Ole Miss:
Against man (which Auburn runs a lot of) Ole Miss loves to get a running back out of the backfield going deep against a linebacker. Think about the long bomb SJSU completed on us earlier this year. This play operates on a similar theory.
Play side split end fakes the quick screen. Slot receiver runs a post to take his defender and the safety out of the play. Running back runs a wheel out of the backfield and is going full speed ahead by the time the secondary knows he's there.
Alabama actually plays this well. Landon Collins covers the running back but the ball was just too well thrown.
Ole Miss has a talented group of receivers including Auburn native Cody Core, son of Auburn High athletics legend Thaddeus Core. Bo Wallace has a sporadic arm but he finds them about as often as Nick Marshall finds our receivers. Ole Miss likes to run deep routes and they're going to connect on a few.
Ole Miss's running game has been suspect this year. If Ole Miss beats us, it's likely going to be through the air. I think we're going to see Auburn do this year what they did last year. Play physical man cover 2 to knock the receivers off their routes and allow for extra deep safety help. Try to force Bo Wallace to find a second and third option. Our defensive line and linebackers should be able to slow down or stop Ole Miss's run game.
I foresee a game a lot like Kansas State with Auburn escaping with a close, physical, hard-fought win. Auburn 28 Ole Miss 21.