AUBURN – Auburn finds itself on a three-game losing streak after falling 48-18 to the No. 22 LSU Tigers on the road last week.
Lane Kiffin and the No. 13 Ole Miss Rebels are coming to town, which always presents a challenge. Auburn head coach Hugh Freeze is aware of the task lying ahead.
"It's going to be a tremendous challenge," Freeze said. "I'm thankful that we're at home in Jordan-Hare. We need it to be at its all-time best, and I know it will be. We'll get ready and excited to play in this challenge, but it's a really good football team coming in.”
This will be Freeze's first matchup against Ole Miss as an SEC head coach since his time with the Rebels came to an end. He did make a trip to Oxford as the head coach of Liberty in 2021, which makes this reunion easier.
“I think it actually helps a lot," Freeze said. "Jill and I talked about that because it removes the, ‘Hey, it is your first time playing Ole Miss since your departure from there.’ So, I think it is very helpful. That was an emotional day originally, but I was truthfully overwhelmed."
He continued, "I have a lot of friends there and a lot of people who, I think, appreciate the good things that we did and certainly wish things were different in the end, just like I do. We are seven or eight years removed from my seasons there, and I have got a lot of friends there, but the trip back there absolutely helps. This is not something that is new.”
Auburn will still have some lingering injuries to deal with.
“It does not look good for Damari (Alston). (Jaylin) Simpson was not 100 percent Saturday night, for sure," Freeze said. "Hopefully he will get better. Hopefully, we will get good news on Keionte (Scott) sometime soon. He makes a huge difference in our leadership. Austin Keys, I know he got out of his cast. I do not think he will be back this week but is getting closer.”
Auburn struggled to stop LSU's offense, which is similar to that of Ole Miss. Freeze talked about how he is handling it.
“They are similar," Freeze said. "They go faster than LSU. LSU is not tempo all the time. Lane (Kiffin) and Charlie (Weis Jr.) want to go fast all the time. That is hard to prepare for, for sure. They do a few more running things than LSU and probably in the passing game too. Their quarterback is playing at a high-level. He’s turned it over maybe two times."
"(They have) talented receivers and great running backs. (Their) O-line is really solid. I have not watched much of their defense yet, but I will do that this afternoon. I know my guys have told me they are playing extremely hard on defense, for sure. They are stopping people for the most part. I think you have a complete team and give credit to the job Lane has done there. He has built it back to a competitive, top-25 program," he added.
Quarterback Payton Thorne has received a lot of criticism, but Freeze implied that there is blame to go around for Auburn's struggles.
“When I say these things, it is a combination," Freeze said. "I want to be clear. It is not just the quarterback that makes the passing game go with the protections, the routes, the correct routes. And we had some inconsistencies at the quarterback’s spot. On throws, we always come back from that.
"Those two mishaps on the first possession, you will complete the pass and we saw another one too. Luke Deal was wide open, and we missed the throw," he continued. "There was great protection, the route was good. Then there are others where the route may be a little deep and the balls coming out on the timing as it should. It is a combination, but the passing game is still inconsistent.”
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. CT. ESPN will carry the broadcast.
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