These two old South rivals come into this game at completely opposite ends of the spectrum. The unbeaten Ole Miss Rebels (6-0, 2-0 SEC) have quietly ascended into the top 10 and are looking for consistency as they head into the toughest part of their schedule. Auburn (3-3, 1-2) is a ragged flag flapping in the wind as the Tigers are lucky to be sitting at .500 and suffered crushing blowouts to Penn State and Georgia.
Both teams took nearly the entire first half before the alarm clock went off last week. Auburn was held scoreless for the fourth straight quarter in taking a 14-0 deficit to the locker room at halftime against Georgia. Penalties crushed the Tigers' momentum as they racked up nine whistles in the first half alone.
The Rebels actually trailed Vanderbilt by 10 points on two different occasions and were down 20-17 at the break. But the third quarter was a track meet as Ole Miss outscored its hosts 21-0 and outgained the Commodores 217-to-31 on the way to a 52-28 rout.
Now Lane Kiffin's team has an opportunity to end a six-game losing streak to its SEC West rivals.
Auburn at No. 9 Ole Miss
When Auburn Has the Ball
The roller coaster that is Robby Ashford keeps on a-rolling. Though he was only averaging 141 passing yards per game entering the game against LSU two weeks ago, he broke out for 337 in the close loss. Then last week, he struggled mightily against Georgia — then again, doesn't everybody? He was merely 13-of-38 for 165 yards against that Junkyard Dog defense. It will be interesting to see if he gets back on track against the ninth-best pass defense in the SEC.
On the opposite side of that, Auburn has been terrible at keeping hold of the ball, suffering 17 fumbles. The remarkable part is that the Tigers have only lost five of them. Obviously, a case of butterfingers here will certainly kill any chances of pulling the W against the Rebels.
Keep a keen eye on third-down conversions in this one because there is no greater chasm stats-wise between these two teams. Auburn is just 27-of-82 (32 percent) in moving the chains on third down plays and Ole Miss is sixth nationally, cashing in on 41-of-77 (53 percent) opportunities. As analyst Rick Neuheisel pointed out during the CBS broadcast of that Georgia game, the Tigers had just too long to go on third down, averaging third-and-8.1 yards to go. That's not manageable for any offense. Auburn must get positive gains on first and second down and not get behind the sticks all game long.
When Ole Miss Has the Ball
Oof. This doesn't look good for that Auburn defense. The Tigers allowed Georgia to run roughshod through them for 292 yards, averaging 7.5 yards per carry. Now they'll be facing off against an even better running game as the Rebels come into this one ranked seventh in the nation at 242 yards per game and 5.7 yards per carry. Auburn is 92nd in the country at 164 rushing yards allowed per game. Freshman Quinshon Judkins and junior Zach Evans should be licking their chops for this game — both rank in the top six in the SEC in rushing and each is averaging at least 5.9 yards per carry. If the Rebels control this game with their running game early, it's curtains for the Plainsmen.
But definitely don't sleep on quarterback Jaxson Dart, the USC transfer who has shown flashes with his strong arm, including last week's 448-yard performance on 25-of-32 passing. He'll be sure to go with the hot hand and target Jonathan Mingo, who leads the SEC in receiving yards and had a record-setting day against the Commodores with nine catches for 247 yards and two touchdowns. The yardage also is the most so far in a single game this season by any FBS player.
On paper, this one looks like a mismatch, especially with Ole Miss playing at home and feeding off the crowd. I'm a little surprised that the spread is *only* 15 points, but I suppose it depends on which Rebel team shows up; the one from the first half against Vandy or the one from the second half? Auburn's defense showed some life early on against Georgia but couldn't maintain that high level. Look for this one to be close for a while, but the Rebels have too much firepower for the Tigers in the second half.
Prediction: Ole Miss 33, Auburn 14
Podcast: Complete Week 7 Preview, Predictions, and Picks Against the Spread + Latest in Coaching News
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.
*Price as of publication.