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GAME PREVIEW: #18 Auburn vs #10 Ole Miss

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Game 8: Getting bigger every week

NCAA Football: Auburn at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

My dad always use to tell me the only personal ghost story he ever experienced. Growing up in Montgomery in the 1950s and 1960s, his family had a big towering home built around the turn of the century in the Garden District. He lived there with his parents and his older sister, and they had a maid come to clean the house fairly often.

One day the maid asked his mother “Who’s that old woman up there brushing her hair in front of the mirror?”

My grandmother responded “What old woman?”

The maid replied “The old woman sitting up in front of the mirror brushing her hair. I see her every time I come over here.”

bUT nO oLd WoMaN lIvEd In ThE hOuSe WiTh ThEm!!!!

Maybe there was a ghost, or maybe this was some story that my dad was told as a little kid to keep him in line. Either way, it freaked him out and he behaved for the most part. Invoking the spirits can be an effective tool, and Auburn is going to try to do a little bit of that tonight.

After whipping out white : for the road trip to Penn State, the Tigers are harkening back to the days of Pat Dye and Bo Jackson with the orange covers. They’re not going quite full bore with the Doug Barfield orange jerseys, and I can’t imagine that they’re going to go 2015 Gus Malzahn with the orange cleats —

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

— gross — but they will be bringing in the spirit of Bo Jackson with the subtle orange facemasks for a little extra oomph. It should be a bit of fun without defacing the best-looking home uniforms in the sport.

We’re hoping that the Tigers can provide a little more in the way of frights for Ole Miss, a team coming into tonight’s game extremely banged up at some of the most important positions (especially for a Lane Kiffin team). There was doubt that Matt Corral would play much, if at all, against LSU last weekend after carrying the ball 30 times against Tennessee, and the Rebels lost senior right guard Ben Brown to a torn bicep this week as well. That ends a 40-game streak of starts for Brown, and means that Ole Miss loses a huge cog in the offensive attack. Wide receiver Braylon Sanders was also slowed over the past couple of weeks with lower body issues, but that might not be as big of an issue.

What we’re going to be seeing is a Rebel team with some momentum after wins over Arkansas, Tennessee, and LSU over the past three weeks, and a team that’s desperate to keep winning so that they can stay in position for the SEC West title (with another Alabama loss). Lane Kiffin has Ole Miss rolling, and at 6-1 they’re standing in a spot to be able to avenge last year’s final minute loss to Auburn at home.

Let’s mention the black bear in the room, they think they were cheated. That kickoff that Shaun Shivers may have touched before it skittered into the end zone maybe should’ve given them an extra touchdown on the board. Instead, Bo Nix hit Seth Williams for a wild game-winning touchdown in the closing moments and Auburn escaped with the victory.

You really never know what you’re going to get with Lane Kiffin in command, either. He may have transcended actual consciousness dodging mustard and golf balls, and he could be sketching up hitherto unseen offensive wizardry on the way into town for this game. Auburn has had its run-ins with Kifferz over the past, if you remember his speedy stint at Tennessee, those two Iron Bowls where we couldn’t stop Amari Cooper or Derrick Henry, and then last year with his resurgence at Ole Miss as a formerly chubby Floridian. As a head coach, he hasn’t beaten the Tigers, and there are some things that Auburn can do to continue that trend tonight.

WHEN AUBURN HAS THE BALL: Everyone — EVERYONE — is saying that you should try to run the ball on this Ole Miss defense. It’s a good idea, every SEC team with a pulse that they’ve played (Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, NOT LSU) has run for 200+ yards. Even including the LSU pittance of 77 yards, the Rebels are giving up 215 yards per game on the ground in SEC play and 4.45 yards per carry. If there’s ever an opportunity to get Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter back on track this season, it’s tonight. However, the pass defense has been equally as porous, and that might actually be what Auburn is doing better as of late. Did the Tigers turn the corner against Arkansas? Bo Nix played one of his best career games, and he’s going up against an opponent tonight that he’s never really had trouble.

In 2019, Bo went 30-44 for 340 yards. Last season, 23-30 for 238 yards. Zero turnovers in either game. With him finding some good footing against LSU and Arkansas (and getting no help against Georgia but definitely not losing us that game), this could be yet another chance for a solid performance. Throw in his home splits, the nighttime atmosphere, and a Rebel defense that has struggled this season, and we’re looking at what could ostensibly be a huge game for Nix. With his feet, he may actually be able to provide the running game that Auburn’s looking for since Ole Miss with almost assuredly try to force him to throw and take away Tank/Jarquez.

WHEN OLE MISS HAS THE BALL: Everything flows through Matt Corral and the backfield.

After running 30 times against Tennessee and taking some hard hits, Corral’s probably not quite as slippery as he was a few weeks ago. For the team’s leading rusher in attempts, yards, and touchdowns, that’s a huge blow. He’s going to play, of course, but he might not be able to get away from a little extra Auburn pressure. How convenient that we’re getting TD Moultry back from his issues and maybe Owen Pappoe as well (we hope!). It could really beef up the Auburn pass rush against a gimpy quarterback.

When you think of Lane Kiffin, you think of wide open passing and a bevy of dizzying routes and schemes, but this Ole Miss offense is different. They’ll involved everyone in the passing game, and you’re going to get a bunch of looks that feature the triple-headed tailback regime in aerial situations as well as running ones. Snoop Conner, Jerrion Ealy, and Henry Parrish. Parrish is the team’s second-leading receiver with 17 catches, and Ealy has another 11 for fifth on the squad. Meanwhile, they both average 5.5 yards per carry, but it’s Conner who’s the main threat in the ground game.

Conner’s averaging 5.8 yards per rush, with 9 touchdowns on the year (tied with Corral for team lead), so Auburn isn’t going to get a breather with any of these guys on the field. They’ll have to keep a weather eye on Dontario Drummond and his 36 catches this season as well. He’s been the featured receiver for Ole Miss, and by far Corral’s favorite target.

SERIES HISTORY: Auburn leads the all-time seires 34-11, with the Tigers winning five straight. Gus Malzahn only lost once to the Rebels (2015), and Auburn’s only lost four times to Ole Miss this millennium.

LAST MEETING: 2020’s affair was a fun one in gloomy Oxford, with the Tigers escaping on a last minute touchdown by Seth Williams. Tank Bigsby ran for 2 touchdowns, and Auburn won 35-28.

KEYS FOR AUBURN:

  1. Run the ball. I mentioned above that Ole Miss will be trying to limit what Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter can do in the rushing phase, but Auburn can find its yardage elsewhere and lean on those two in the end to work on a tired defense. Obviously, mix in the standard stuff when you can, but don’t be shy about letting Bo be Bo and wiggle around throughout the defense when he needs some key yardage.
  2. Create the impactful negative plays. Ole Miss doesn’t turn the ball over, so we’re not talking about big interceptions (although that would be nice). We’re talking about getting a possibly slowed Matt Corral down on a few sacks, or hitting him way back when he tries to scramble. We’re talking about making Ole Miss march, not parade, and limiting those huge plays. They likely won’t string together a 12-play drive, and may get frustrated if they’ve got to keep dinking and dunking all the way down the field.
  3. Let the crowd help you. This ought to be an absolutely wild atmosphere. Auburn has gone on the road and gotten wins twice this year already, and they’re rested after a week off. The fans are frothing for a big home game under the lights, and with Halloween and all day to tailgate, this should be electric. We’re going to get to experience the light show for the first time in its true glory, and we’re going to get to have the crowd feed off of the uniform adjustments, and a team that’s pretty good. Plus, whenever Lane Kiffin is in town, things get a little more intense.

Huge game for Auburn tonight. The implications of a win are that the Tigers are in November controlling their own destiny for the SEC West, which is what you have to hope for as an Auburn fan every year. Most of all, this should be fun, and a great way to return home to Jordan-Hare after two Saturdays away. War Eagle!