This week, we have a rather lopsided matchup down in Oxford, Mississippi, as home team Ole Miss will play host to a deeply struggling Auburn Tigers squad. The Rebels enter the matchup 6-0 and ranked #9 in the country, while Auburn are currently 3-3 with a handful of embarrassing losses, and even an embarrassing one-score win over San Jose State. Let’s see if Auburn has a shot to shake up the rankings and pull a fast one on Ole Miss, look at some odds and project this Saturday’s ballgame.
Auburn vs. Ole Miss Odds
Auburn will go into Oxford as 14.5 point underdogs, not at all shocking as they are on the road, and should be by far the worse team on the field. The points total of 55.5 is a good deal more interesting- it’s hard to know if Ole Miss’s ground-based offense will move fast enough to push the total over, with Auburn relatively unlikely to contribute many points.
Auburn vs. Ole Miss Prediction & Pick
Ole Miss have put together a very strong first half of the season, punctuated most recently by a win over then-#7 Kentucky, and a total demolition of Vanderbilt this past weekend, in which they racked up over 50 points. They’ve done this by running the ball extremely effectively; they go to the ground on over 60% of their offensive snaps, and they pick up over 5.5 yards per carry for a per-game tally of almost 250 yards. EPA says their rush offense is #11 in the country, PFF says it’s #12, and opponents say it’s absolutely no fun. They’ve done this with only decent o-line play, carried by the running back duo of Quinshon Judkins and Zach Evans, who have combined for over a thousand rush yards so far, as well as 14 touchdowns. While Judkins has racked up just under 60% of the production in both statistics, it’s been a relatively egalitarian effort.
Auburn, on the other hand, has struggled to find offense from any source, finding themselves outside of the top 100 in FBS by every offensive category tracked by EPA, and PFF sees their offense in the bottom-5 of the Power-5 conferences- in fact, they think that Auburn has the single worst passing offense among these teams. They’ve also struggled in some ways on the other side of the ball as well, as their only above-average area as per EPA is pass defense. While the season may feel lost in some respects, there’s still a lot on the line for these Tigers- hopes of bowl-eligibility have dwindled to a spark, which would surely be snuffed out with a loss in Oxford, with the likes of Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi State and Texas A&M on the horizon. On a related note, Head Coach Brian Harsin could get canned just about any day now, but a top-10 win on the road would certainly buy him some time.
The long and short of this matchup is that Auburn are not only going on the road into a raucous SEC environment, but they’re also outgunned in almost every way. Their on-field product has not been close to what Ole Miss is showing us on Saturdays, and the coaching battle is as lopsided as they come, with the Lane Train steaming into the station while Harsin has one foot out the door. I think Ole Miss is fully capable of covering the broad spread, and it’s worth betting at 14.5, but if you’re able to find 13.5 or just an even 14, it’s pretty significant and a little safer. Regarding the points total, it’s a bit of a tougher one but I’m leaning over; Auburn really has no answers for the Rebels’ offense, and Ole Miss could have defensive backups in before this one’s over.
Auburn vs. Ole Miss Key Matchups
Auburn Run Defense vs. Ole Miss Rushing Attack
We’ve already talked about this one a bit, and how it’s an enormous mismatch, but frankly, unless Auburn are able to defy expectations in this arena, they have essentially no chance to even cover in this one; Ole Miss with room to run will simply control the ball and dictate the pace of the entire game. However, there is some vulnerability: Ole Miss has run the ball effectively, but they’ve done so without the benefit of an elite offensive line. Right tackle Jeremy James has been solid, but his counterpart on the left, redshirt freshman Jayden Williams, has had a rough adjustment to a starting role.
To take advantage of the relative weakness of Ole Miss’s offensive line, Auburn will need more than it has gotten from its defensive front thus far. Of the four defenders with the most snaps defending the run, only one has a PFF run prevention grade over 60, and even his is only 61.1. D-lineman Marcus Harris has been a bright spot in the middle of the field, garnering a PFF grade into the 70s and 2.5 non-sack tackles for loss. Graduate transfer edge rusher Eku Leota has also racked up 3 non-sack TFL, and has performed really well with limited snaps. Along with NFL prospects Derick Hall and Colby Wooden, he’ll need to be at his best to help Auburn push back against the extremely prolific Ole Miss rushing attack.
Ole Miss Run Defense vs. Auburn Runners
Ole Miss’s secondary is relatively vulnerable, but as the worst Power-5 passing offense and a team that’s breaking in a new, young QB, it’s still not a viable route to success for the Tigers. Instead, we’ll focus on the team’s running game, led by Tank Bigsby, owner of one of the all-time college football names, and a solid on-field resume to boot. After entering this year with high expectations, having just completed a season in which he broke the 1000-rushing yard mark, Bigsby hasn’t quite lit the world on fire, averaging just over 57 rushing yards per game. Still, he’s been a reliable veteran, and a relative bright spot for a team that has had basically none. New QB Robby Ashford has also been arguably more productive on the ground than through the air, as he’s a threat to take off at any time.
They’ll be squaring off a pretty solid run defense, top-50 according to PFF and closer to top-30 as per EPA/play. Linebacker Troy Brown has been outstanding, leading the team in tackles, including a pair of non-sack TFL, and accruing an excellent PFF run defense grade of 87.4. DB’s AJ Finley and Deantre Prince have spent more snaps in run defense than any of Ole Miss’s front-seven players, and they’ve both done pretty well with those opportunities. Safety Ladarius Tennison has also been solid in support of the defensive line, headlined by edge rusher Isaiah Iton and interior player JJ Pegues. Ole Miss has the ability to snuff out the threat of a running game from Auburn, but if the Tigers find an opening, it could be their one path to competition. in this one.