Ole Miss - Auburn matchups

The Match-Up:
meeting will be the 33rd all-time between the Rebels and
Tigers dating back to 1928. Auburn holds a 24-8 advantage
in the series. Last season, Auburn won 17-3 at Auburn. The
Tigers have not lost in Oxford since 1992 and own a 8-1 advantage over the
Rebels in games played at Ole Miss, including a 23-17 victory two years ago. Overall,
Auburn has won 13 of the last 15 meetings dating back to 1993
and 22 of 25 dating back to Auburn's 35-28 win in the 1971
Gator Bowl.
At stake:  The
win over Arkansas, improving Ole Miss to 4-4 on the season,
took some of the pressure off the team when it comes to bowl
eligibility.  With games remaining with ULM and
Mississippi State, the Rebels could get to the six win level,
required to be bowl eligible, without a win over Auburn. 
Auburn was ranked a preseason Top 10 ten, but has struggled to
a 4-4 record and is coming off a 34-17 blow out loss at West
Virginia and has lost three straight. While Auburn remains a
tough opponent, the Rebels are entertaining a potential gift
horse that looked unbeatable in the preseason and has a chance
to make up ground for disappointing losses to Wake Forest,
Vanderbilt, and South Carolina. A win here puts the Rebels in
good shape for a seven or eight game winning season and a
better bowl - which would be a remarkable achievement under
first year head coach Houston Nutt.
Keys to the Game:
1) Stop the Auburn offense early.  This is an Auburn
offense that has struggled often this season and one that Ole
Miss needs to shut down early and cause the team to continue
to question their ability. Early success could mean confidence
that could make this game closer than it should be. 2) Stop
Kodi Burns.  Burns is a dual-threat quarterback and his
scrambling ability means a challenge to contain and
potentially more time for receivers to work against an already
challenged secondary.  Ole Miss must limit his run
production and put pressure on him, where he will be subject
to mistakes.  3) Turnovers.  The Rebels had just one
against Arkansas and won the game. Turnovers have told the
story of every Ole Miss game - three against Alabama in a
loss, six against Vanderbilt in a loss - and limited turnovers
in the Florida and Arkansas wins.  The team must limit
Ole Miss rushing versus the Auburn
ground defense:  Ole Miss enters the game ranked at
No. 48 among 119 Division I teams, picking up 162 yards a game
on the ground. The latest wrinkle for the Rebel offense, used
against Arkansas, was to line wide receiver Dexter
McCluster up in the running back position. It's a
position that he's not unfamiliar with, having picked up more
than 2,000 yards his high school senior season as a running
back.  He responded with 52 yards on 11 carries and the
change from lining him up in the Wild Rebel was a method to
get the ball in his hands as a playmaker since teams are
concentrating on defending the Wild Rebel, where he had lined
up earlier this season as the quarterback.  However, it
wasn't McCluster who did the most damage to the Razorbacks; it
was junior Cordera Eason who had a career best game with 81
yards on 19 carries.  The Rebels will face an Auburn run
defense that is ranked No. 51, giving up 128 yards a game. 
Overall, Auburn ranks fifth in the SEC in total defense
and will field a typical Tommy Tuberville defense -
big, physical and fast.  Last week against Arkansas, the
game was decided, in large part, by Nutt pounding the ball on
the ground when he found a soft spot in the middle of the
Razorback defense. He'll need to find similar success to notch
a win over Auburn.
Advantage: Even
Ole Miss passing versus the Auburn
secondary:  Ole Miss continues to have a reasonably
good passing game, but sophomore quarterback Jeven
Snead is yet to have a breakout game.  That breakout
game is likely not going to happen against Auburn.  While
Ole Miss enters the contest at No. 60, throwing for 215 yards
a game, Snead and his wide receiver corps will face an Auburn
team ranked No. 12 in pass defense, giving up
only 166 yards a game. Tuberville did mention this week in his
press conference that his Tigers will likely face the best
group of wide receivers they've seen all season, and Rebel
burner Mike Wallace had a big game with five catches
for 120 yards against Arkansas.  A key for Ole Miss will
be Snead's accuracy - even in his highlight reel against
Arkansas - there were some throws that caused receivers to go
to the ground, jump, or slow down to make receptions. 
After eight games, the rust should be off after sitting out
last season and his accuracy should be improved.   He'll
have to avoid an Auburn defense that features junior defensive
lineman Antonio Coleman, who tops the conference with six sack
and 10.5 tackles for a loss and
sophomore defensive back Mike McNeil, who is the squad's leading tackler with
43 total stops. Overall, the Rebels will be hoping an Auburn
defense shows up that gave up almost 450 yards of offense to
West Virginia, and not one that played better earlier in the
Advantage: Auburn
Auburn rushing
versus the Ole Miss ground defense:  Auburn enters
the game ranked No. 66 in rushing offense, accounting for 137
yards a game on the ground.  Junior
running back Ben Tate has been their top offensive weapon, averaging
67.2 rushing yards per game with a pair of touchdowns. 
However, a bigger concern for Auburn is offensive point
productions.  The Tigers are ranked
No. 102 in scoring offense at just 18. 8 points per game. 
Meanwhile, Ole Miss is No. 29 in rush defense, giving up 110
yards per game, thanks to the strong play of a defensive line
that includes senior Peria Jerry, who has emerged as
the leader on the team, along with fellow tackles Lawon
Scott and Ted Laurent.  The Rebel defensive ends are
some of the best in the conference with Greg Hardy,
who may or may not be available due to a foot injury, along
with former four-star recruit Marcus Tillman
However, it may be Kentrell Lockett who is most
improved and picking up any slack in Hardy's absence. 
The linebacker corps is solid with senior junior college
transfers Ashlee Palmer and Tony Fein[d/b]. Run
support from the safeties has been outstanding from senior [db]Jamarca
Sanford and junior Kendrick Lewis, a former wide
receiver.  Key for the Rebel defense is to limit the run,
force Burns into passing situations, then contain him and
pressure him into some bad throws.  The Rebels have the
personnel to do that - but the defense must play with the
intensity it did at Florida, where they constantly pressured
Tim Tebow, and not lackluster, as they did the following week
against South Carolina.
Edge: Ole Miss
Auburn passing versus the Ole Miss secondary: 
It's no secret that Auburn's passing game has struggled this
season and is a key reason that the running game hasn't been
effective.  The Tigers come in at No. 106, gaining only
151 yards a game through the air.  Junior Chris Todd and
sophomore Kodi Burns have split time at quarterback
with Burns getting the starting nod last time out. Todd has
completed 86-of-156 for 903 yards, five touchdowns and six
interceptions, while Burns is 30-of-63 for 309 yards, one
score and four picks. However, it appears that the job now
belongs to Burns.  While Burns, a true sophomore with
limited experience, gets the nod and is a big-time threat
running the football, his passing is suspect at best. 
However, he did show improvement his last time out, hitting on
13 of 21 passes for 111 yards.  The threat for Ole Miss
comes not from a strong arm or pinpoint accuracy, rather
Burns' scrambling ability that will place a premium on Rebel
secondary players maintaining their discipline. Ole Miss is last in the SEC in pass defense
and ranked No. 88, giving up almost 235 yards a game. The
secondary was torched in the first half against Alabama, but
played well in the second half after adjustments were made,
and played well for all but the last five minutes against
Arkansas last week.  Look for Ole Miss to include fifth
year senior Dustin Mouzon in the cornerback rotation
to add depth.  He started last season before losing his
job this season and has played sparingly this year, but an
extra body and fresh legs could benefit the Rebels.
Edge: Auburn
Special Teams: Ole Miss'
secondary has played well this season and made tremendous
strides since last year (click
here to read more about the secondary). Place kicker Josh
Shene is 12 of 13 on field goals, punter Rob Park is
having his most consistent year and kick off specialist Justin
Sparks has helped his team with good placement of kicks. 
Wallace, who handles kick returns, and punt returner Marshay
Green are a threat to score on any return.  Coverage
teams have been more than adequate with only an occasional
breakdown. Auburn comes in ranked No. 18 in net punting at
37.5 yards per kick, No. 12 in punt returns at over 15 yards a
return, and No. 5 in kick off returns at over 26 yards a kick
return. Kicker Wes Byrum has hit on just eight of 14 field
goal attempts.
Edge: Even
Weather forecast: 
Mainly sunny. High 72F. Winds light and
variable. Nightly low temperatures are around 40 degrees.
Broadcast information:
TV: Raycom Sports (Dave Neal, play-by-play; Dave Archer, color
analyst; Dave Baker, sideline reporter; Available on ESPN
Gameplan and The CSS replay of the game will be
Sunday at 1 p.m. RADIO: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum,
play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, color analyst; Stan Sandroni,
sideline reporter). Satellite radio: Sirius 211 XM 199. WEB: will provide live audio through RebelVision,
live stats and an in-game blog. The official Rebel athletics
website will also provide a full game recap, a photo gallery
and live postgame video.