One thing that goes along with struggle, and Ole Miss knows this all too well, is turnover margin.
Auburn is 120th – last in America – in this department at minus-2.20 per game.
You cannot, however, assume turnovers. Turnovers are based on decisions. With Clint Moseley at times it’s been about trying to fit passes into too tight a window.
With Bo Wallace and Randall Mackey in Tuscaloosa it was about trying to force the ball to the Rebels’ best offensive player, Donte Moncrief. Last week for Wallace it was a bad decision that ended up costing the Rebels a chance to tie or win it late.
If Auburn’s trend for giving it away continues, that could make things easier for Ole Miss.
The more likely path to the Rebels’ first SEC win will be running the football. They’ve been one of the better rushing teams in the league all season. They’ve run the ball on some good defenses. Auburn has struggled to stop the run, giving up 192.6 yards a game, last in the SEC and 95th in the nation.
It’s not enough for the Rebels to look back at the end of the game and be pleased with 180 or 200 rushing yards.
They’ve got to finish drives with touchdowns, and that might mean running in from 10-12 yards out or more. Backs have to get to the second level of the Tigers’ defense, then make people miss.
If the Rebels find themselves in a goal-to-go situation from the 2, it won’t be easy. Ole Miss does not have an offensive line that moves defensive fronts off the ball, a fact painfully driven home on fourthand-1 inch last week with the game on the line.
But the Rebels have been successful running off tackle with the zone read and getting to the edge.
Getting the edge Saturday will not be easy against Auburn’s talented defensive ends.
The Rebels will help themselves reach the end zone if they can do it before the field shrinks, and the Auburn defense can naturally crowd the line of scrimmage.
Speaking of those ends, Corey Lemonier is one of the top rushers in the league, and the Rebels are going to have to keep him off of Wallace. Lemonier has five sacks this year, fourth in the league, and he was a big problem for LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger.
Ole Miss has been consistent most of this season in its performance and the fight with which it competes.
Emotions are a real concern for this game. The Rebels have lost a lot of football games the last couple of years, but that Texas A&M loss was unique.
Many of the losses the last two years haven’t even been competitive, and there the Rebels were last week with the Aggies backed up at their 1, down 10 points and the clock running. There was great anticipation for the end of the losing streak.
Ole Miss really needs to start fast in this game, gain some confidence and let the emotions build in their favor.
The Rebels can’t, as Freeze so often says, let one game beat them twice.
I don’t think they will.
Prediction: Ole Miss 25, Auburn 14