AUBURN — Auburn has dominated the series against Ole Miss. The Tigers have beaten the Rebels six consecutive times and in 35 of the 45 matchups between the teams.
The Rebels have beaten Auburn only three times since 2000, not including a vacated win from 2015. Auburn controls this series, and last season's matchup was a signature win for Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin.
However, this Saturday is a different story. Auburn is 3-8 since last year’s orange-out. The Tigers head to Oxford with a 13-3 record at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium but are currently two-touchdown underdogs against a team that is 10-1 since last year’s loss to Auburn and looking to make waves in the SEC West once again.
This is also a different Ole Miss team that Auburn faces. The Rebels have a dominant offense once again under Lane Kiffin, they have the No. 18 scoring offense in the entire country, and they are near the top of the conference in every major offensive statistic.
“You’ve got to be aware of who's on the field and you might be doing some different things because of the game plan,” said Harsin. “They snap the ball with about 20 seconds remaining on the play clock.”
Ole Miss brings a balanced attack of 248.3 yards per game through the air and 241.7 yards per game on the ground, led by dual-threat quarterback Jaxson Dart. Dart has 1,358 yards through the air, eight touchdowns and five interceptions along with 256 yards on the ground.
Auburn has faced this before, and the leaders on defense should be prepared for what the Rebels bring to the table, though Lane Kiffin is certainly a wild card as a play caller.
“I think the whole entire team has just got a lot of momentum through the season. That's why they're undefeated. And that's why they've had the type of season so far that they've had,” Harsin said. “When your quarterback is playing well and doing things in the system that creates production on the offensive side, you can score points, which they've been able to do.”
The true challenge for the Tigers remains on the defensive side, and this Ole Miss team is much better on that side of the ball than in prior years.
Ole Miss, which was No. 51 in the country in scoring defense just one year ago now has the No. 12 scoring defense in the nation and one of the best defenses in the country through six games. The Rebels are also No. 29 in the nation in yards allowed, giving up 330.2 yards per game, 212 of that through the air.
“They were pretty good last year as well. They are better,” Harsin outlined. "I think the guys are playing with confidence. I think they're playing fast. I think they're physical on that side of the ball. I think they're tackling well.”
The Rebels are allowing just 3.1 yards per carry, No. 20 in the country, which could be an issue for an Auburn offense that wants to run the ball, but has not been able to sustain much of a rushing attack in recent weeks. Ole Miss has struggled against better passing offenses, but the Tigers have struggled to find their identity through six games.
Auburn leaned heavily on Robby Ashford last week, as the running game was nonexistent, but the freshman quarterback completed just 13 of his 38 pass attempts. The dynamic duo of Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter struggled to find any room behind that offensive line, managing just 39 combined rushing yards against Georgia.
“There are some things we can do schematically that can help them. All right, and we know that and so we’ve got to do a better job of putting them in positions to be successful,” Harsin said. “At the same time, you still have to go out there and play, you still gotta go out there and execute those assignments, which our guys will do. All right, they will do that.”
Auburn and Ole Miss faceoff for the 47th time on Saturday in Oxford, with kickoff scheduled for 11 a.m. CST.
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