Published October 11, 2012 - 2:30pm
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To the average college football fan, Auburn-Ole Miss will be a snoozer that many won’t even pay attention to. However, I’ll be tuning in to see the storylines within the game: Ole Miss is trying to win their first SEC game since 2010, and Gene Chizik finds himself in a must-win situation at Auburn.
The two programs look to be headed in opposite directions, even though neither has a win in the SEC. There is life in Oxford under Hugh Freeze, who surpassed last season’s win total in four weeks, and Auburn looks to be regressing at a rather rapid rate.
Ole Miss (3-3, 0-2)
Team Buzz: The Rebels haven’t won an SEC game since 2010 and currently sit 0-16 since that time. However, things are looking up in Oxford, especially with the defense playing more physical and the offense playing particularly well week-in and week-out. The last time Ole Miss won a conference game was against Kentucky in 2010, and Ole Miss has the best opportunity to break that streak against the downtrodden Tigers. From a 2-10 record last season to a 3-3 record so far, the Rebels could inch closer to a bowl berth if they take care of business this week.
Ole Miss Wins This Game Because: They are the hungrier team. Auburn wide receiver Sammie Coates expressed this week that the Tigers have no leadership within the team. That’s been very evident through five weeks, and it starts from the top. However, Freeze has his offense moving the football and scoring over 31 points per game this season, a far cry from 16 points per game in 2011. Running back Jeff Scott is ninth in rushing in the SEC with 425 yards, averaging 6.0 yards per carry, and wide receiver Donte Moncrief is a future NFL star with 27 catches for 453 yards and five touchdowns.
However, the defense looks to be playing with a different edge. Freshman linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche is a player and currently sits sixth in the SEC in tackles for loss (6.0). An improved defense will be squaring off with the statistically the worst offense in the conference in Auburn.
Auburn (1-4, 0-3)
Team Buzz: 2012 has been a year of one big massive negative snowball. And yet, the team didn’t look that bad against Clemson, and it looked like there were very correctible issues within the offense and defense that the program could rally around. But that hasn’t been the case. The Tigers lost their first two games and regressed mightily in the first two weeks. The quarterback position has been non-existent and turnover-ridden, and the poor tackling on the defense sure hasn’t helped. Auburn has every reason to lay down yet again this week on the road against Ole Miss.
Auburn Wins This Game Because: It finds an offensive identity. Gene Chizik vowed this week to work with the offense and help establish an identity. The Tigers are 12th in rushing offense (130.4 ypg) and 13th in passing offense (172 ypg). Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler has struggled establishing an identity. It seems they are trying to continually run a pro-style offense when the Tigers have been playing a mobile quarterback. Kiehl Frazier’s legs are his biggest asset, and Auburn has been hard-headed not to amend the offense to fit Frazier’s strengths. If Frazier gets the start this week, I’d like to see the Tigers mix it up on offense and get him more involved in the running game, running a similar offense to what Gus Malzhan ran last season. That might help the offense move the football.