The start of SEC conference play has not been kind to the Auburn Tigers, as they’ll enter this weekend’s matchup against Ole Miss with an 0-3 conference record. Following their blowout loss to LSU, the Tigers will not only be looking to avenge their 14-point loss to the Rebels last season, but they’ll be looking to find the win column for the first time in three weeks. After previewing the game, I’ll break down whether or not I think Auburn can at least cover this weekend at home.
Spoiler alert… I do not.
During the offseason, the Ole Miss Rebels had two big-name quarterbacks transfer into the program, yet incumbent starter Jaxson Dart is the one still leading the Rebels offense. Dart has proven why he was the best choice to remain under center by helping the Rebels rank 17th in points (35.4) and yards (453.8) per game following two big conference wins over LSU and Arkansas.
Prior to their bye week, the Rebels beat Arkansas 27-20, and while Dart threw for 153 yards and a touchdown, it was the Ole Miss rushing attack that once again separated the Rebels from their opponent. On 45 attempts, Ole Miss rushed for 196 yards, and both Ulysses Bently IV and Quinshon Judkins ran for a touchdown. Overall, Ole Miss is now 29th in rushing yards per play and 21st in rushing yards per game.
One of the bigger storylines from the Arkansas game, though, was that the Ole Miss defense made a stand after allowing 49 points the week prior to LSU. The Rebels held the Razorbacks to 36 yards on 29 rushing attempts. The fact that they are ranked 23rd in average yards allowed per rush could serve as a big advantage this weekend against an Auburn team that almost relies entirely on the run.
With a 61.16% run play percentage, Auburn is 11th in that statistical category and 25th in average rushing yards per game with 185.4. The only problem is that offensive game plan has them 119th in average yards and 79th in average points per game. Through three SEC games, the Tigers are averaging just 16 points, and unlike Ole Miss, the Tigers have a transfer quarterback calling the shots in Payton Thorne, and so far this season, he has a 4:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Ole Miss has been bet up to a (-6.5) point road favorite, and I’ll be backing them this weekend for my play. Whatever offensive system Auburn is running is clearly not suited for the SEC, and with the way Ole Miss can pour it on offensively, I don’t think the Tigers can keep pace.
Through three conference games, Peyton Thorne is averaging 76 yards per game, so the Rebels can almost focus entirely on stopping the run again this weekend like they did against Arkansas. If Ole Miss limits the number of explosive runs that Auburn is getting, I don’t trust their passing offense, which ranks 127th in yards per pass and 119th in completion percentage, to pick up the slack.
Auburn’s lack of rush defense also puts them in a bad spot this weekend. In their loss to LSU last weekend, Auburn allowed 238 rushing yards, and now they have to deal with Bentley IV and Judkins. If Jaxson Dart needs to, he should also be able to throw it all over the yard against the Tigers' defense since they are 90th in opponent completion percentage and 87th in average yards allowed per pass. With a week to rest up for this game, I think the Rebels can pull away quickly from the Auburn offense.
Ole Miss (-6.5)