No. 19 Ole Miss Rebels (6-2, 3-1 SEC) vs. Auburn Tigers (4-3, 1-3 SEC)
This Halloween matchup features two teams trending in opposite directions.
Auburn is last in the SEC West after a devastating four-overtime loss to Arkansas last Saturday. On the other side, the Rebels are coming off a convincing 23-3 win against Texas A&M.
Ole Miss controls its own destiny in the race for the SEC West crown, while Auburn simply needs a win to get closer to bowl eligibility.
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 31, noon ET (ESPN)
Weather: Cloudy, high of 75 degrees (Weather.com)
Line: Auburn +7 (VegasInsider.com)
By the numbers
Auburn is ranked last in the SEC in total defense allowing 430.6 yards per game. That doesn’t bode well for the Tigers, as the SEC’s highest-scoring offense comes to town.
Ole Miss averages 514.8 yards per game, while scoring 41 points per contest.
Much of that damage has come through the air, with Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly accounting for 18 touchdowns. The Rebels also have 17 rushing touchdowns.
Ole Miss’ offense has been explosive, however, the team has been turnover prone. The Rebels have an SEC-worst 19 turnovers.
It will be a difficult matchup for Auburn, but if the Tigers can force turnovers they could slow down the Rebels.
Speaking of turnovers, Auburn has forced six interceptions this season. Why is that important?
Ole Miss is tied for last in the SEC with 11 interceptions. It is unlikely that Auburn’s defense will be able to keep the Rebels from moving the ball, but timely turnovers could allow the Tigers to keep the game close.
Auburn freshman defensive back Carlton Davis has two of the Tigers’ six interceptions. The 6-foot-1 cornerback will likely be tasked with covering 6-foot-2 Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell, who leads the SEC with 54 receptions.
Davis has been the best cover corner on Auburn’s roster, but he will face the biggest test of his young career.
Only LSU has allowed more passing touchdowns in the SEC than Ole Miss. The Rebels have allowed 13 passing touchdowns.
All of Auburn’s touchdowns in Sean White’s four career starts have come via the ground, but Ole Miss is tied with Alabama for the fewest rushing touchdowns allowed in the SEC with four.
With the expected return of star Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, who missed the past two games with a concussion, Auburn may have trouble establishing the run.
If that happens, the Tigers will have to try and attack the weaker Ole Miss secondary to move the ball.
Storylines to watch
Last season, Auburn and Ole Miss met as two of the top four teams in the first ever College Football Playoff rankings.
Auburn emerged 35-31 and for all intents and purposes ended the Rebels’ playoff hopes. Treadwell had the game won, but he fumbled just before crossing the goal line. That was Treadwell’s last play of the season as he broke his leg on the play.
“They’re (Auburn) going to feel my pain,” Treadwell told reporters earlier this week. “I know my teammates are feeling me all week and they’ll feel where I’m coming from and I think they’ll play with an edge also.”
Auburn wide receiver Ricardo Louis had similar sentiments after the Tigers lost last Saturday, although his comments were motivated by his five dropped passes.
“I’m hurt right now,” Louis told reporters after the game. “I’m going to make Ole Miss feel my pain.”
It’s impossible to quantify how much of an effect these emotions will have on the game, but both teams definitely have an added incentive to come away victorious.
Can Auburn get through Laremy Tunsil and the Ole Miss offensive line?
Ole Miss looked like a different team when they inserted left tackle Laremy Tunsil back in the lineup last Saturday. Tunsil missed the first seven games due to a suspension.
Tunsil’s return moved all of the Rebels’ linemen back to their natural positions, and the line responded well. The Rebels had a balanced game with 230 rushing yards and another 241 through the air.
Tunsil also limited Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, who leads the SEC with 8.5 sacks. Garrett had a sack in four consecutive games, but he did not record a sack against Ole Miss.
Auburn has had difficulty putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks and the Tigers don’t currently have a pass rusher the caliber of Garrett. Auburn must find a way to get in the Rebels’ backfield or it will be a long day for the defense.
Will Sean White finally throw a touchdown?
Auburn quarterback Sean White has now thrown 97 passes without registering a touchdown. This is not a negative reflection of White, because he has improved every game.
Auburn has turned to the run game in the red zone, and the Tigers receivers have dropped multiple would be touchdowns during the past two games. Auburn finished with nine dropped passes last week against Arkansas.
Is this the week that White gets his first career touchdown?
Auburn’s offense has looked a lot better in recent weeks. Expect the Tigers to put up points on Saturday even with Ole Miss coming off one of its best defensive performances of the season.
With that said, Auburn’s defense may be overmatched. Every opposing offense, excluding Mississippi State, has gained at least 405 total yards of offense against the Tigers. There is no evidence to suggest that the same won’t happen for the SEC’s top offense.