Mississippi football: 5 reasons Rebels will beat Auburn
Ole Miss travels to Auburn on Saturday night for a game with SEC West implications, and an opportunity to make the conversation of finishing 11-1 very real.
October has felt like a month of survival of sorts for the Rebels, as they’ve waded through the teeth of their SEC schedule, endured injuries and come out 3-1. One more test stands between them and a pseudo bye week against Liberty before a home showdown with Texas A&M.
If Ole Miss is able to go to Auburn and win on Saturday night, these are the 5 reasons why.
5. The defense continues to fare well against the run
After a pretty brutal start to SEC play against Alabama and Arkansas, the Ole Miss defense has sung a different tune the last 2 weeks. It held Tennessee to 4 yards per rush, and it took the Vols 50 attempts to rush for 200 yards. Last week, the Rebels held LSU to 77 yards rushing and just 6 in the 2nd half. If this defense — now fully healthy and more aggressive with Jake Springer on the field — can continue this trend and force the game into the hands of Bo Nix, Ole Miss will have a great chance to win this game.
Nix has also factored into the running game of late. After Nix’s benching against Georgia State, the Tigers have seemingly catered to his strengths better, one of them being his feet. But if the Rebels can force him to have to throw to win the game, Nix hasn’t proven he can do that on a consistent basis. This Auburn offense doesn’t do anything particularly well, but it does everything just well enough. Neutralizing Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter will go a long way toward keeping Auburn out of the end zone.
4. Braylon Sanders plays
Sanders went out with a leg injury early in t `he Tennessee game and did not play in the win over LSU. With Jonathan Mingo on the shelf for the foreseeable future, Ole Miss desperately needs Sanders out there. Injuries have plagued him throughout his career, and the Rebels simply don’t have the depth at receiver this year to lose Sanders. Miles Battle moving from corner to receiver last week is as good an indication as any that the Rebels are really searching at the wide receiver position. The younger players haven’t developed enough to be trusted, and the coaching staff is making the best of it in the meantime. But Sanders being on the field against Auburn will help this offense tremendously.
3. Corral has his best game through the air
Piggybacking off the Sanders note, Ole Miss will likely need another heroic performance from Matt Corral similar to the one in Knoxville, only this time it will need to come via his arm. The Auburn secondary has been the most disappointing part of its defense under new coordinator Derek Mason. A lot of that is due to the shift from press man to zone concepts. There has been a lot of miscommunication in the Auburn secondary, and elite quarterbacks like Corral prey on such gaffes. If Corral has a monster day throwing, Ole Miss likely will score more than enough points to win.
2. Williams, Johnson repeat their pass-rushing performances vs. LSU
Sam Williams and Cedric Johnson were as disruptive on the edges as they’ve been all season in last week’s win over LSU. Auburn’s offensive line has been decent for the most part against opposing pass rushes. But if Williams and Johnson can pressure Nix and flush him out of the pocket, there will be opportunities for turnovers. Nix is fairly nimble, but consistent pressure will flush him out of clean pockets and disrupt plays. Williams and Johnson were difference-makers against LSU, and their services will be needed again on Saturday night.
1. All 3 running backs see at least 8 carries
Ole Miss played its running back carousel to perfection last week. It was the best the 3 have gelled together all season. Jerrion Ealy was the speed back that has made him one of the best running backs in the conference. Snoop Conner wore LSU down between the tackles. And Henry Parrish Jr. was used in the passing game and some perimeter runs. While you’ll likely see more Parrish than you did last week, a similar formula will be optimal for Ole Miss. As great as Corral is, this offense is fueled by the ground game, and it will need to be functioning at a high level.