Auburn Begins October with Ole Miss (Previewing Auburn vs. Ole Miss)
Shea Patterson will be a dangerous quarterback, this season
War Eagle, everybody! It’s time now for another Auburn football preview! On October 7th Auburn will host the Ole Miss Rebels. It’s another critical October matchup for both teams. A loss here would send Auburn tumbling towards the bottom of the bowls. For Ole Miss, there is no post-season this year, as they will sit out due to self-imposed penalties. Head coach Hugh Freeze says that the team will treat every game like a bowl game.
The Auburn Tigers will have opened the season with Georgia Southern, then traveled to Clemson. Auburn will then enjoy an early homecoming game against Mercer before traveling to Missouri, prior to a home clash with Mississippi State. The Rebels follow at Jordan-Hare Stadium the following week. Ole Miss has an easier start to this season, at least at first. The Rebels ease into the season hosting South Alabama, then U. T. Martin. Ole Miss then travels to Berkley, California to play Cal in a 9:30 PM kickoff. Ole Miss then gets a bye week to get over the jet lag. Then it gets difficult with back-to-back road trips to play Alabama in Tuscaloosa followed by Auburn at the Plains.
Ole Miss returns a lot of talent, including 4 starters on the offensive line, to an offense that could score last season. There are a lot of young, highly recruited receivers that will get a chance to shine in an air-raid offense installed by new offensive coordinator Phil Longo. Where Ole Miss had difficulties last season was, first, running the ball. Presumed starting running back Jordan Wilkins was declared ineligible early, and the ground game never took off. Then, just past midseason starting quarterback Chad Kelly was lost for the season to injury, and the Rebels ripped the redshirt off of true freshman Shea Patterson. Whether that was the right thing to do was certainly debatable, but it does give Patterson SEC experience going into this season.
The Rebel defense went from solid to shaky as the season progressed, and the team finished giving up 34.0 points per game. A good starting defensive line returns, but the back 7 needs to improve. Ole Miss poached Auburn assistant Wesley McGriff at the end of last season to coordinate its defense. Judging from the Ole Miss spring game, tackling on the back end is still a work in progress. In the spring game, the defense gave up catch-and-run touchdowns of 74 and 76 yards, and Shea Patterson threw for 341 yards.
Ole Miss returns a strong pair of legs in the kicking games in seniors Gary Wunderlich and Will Gleeson. New return men will have to be found, but there are plenty of fast skill players to choose from. Rebel coverage was middle of the pack last season and figures to be once again.
Unit Matchups after the jump:
Auburn defensive line vs. Ole Miss offensive line: Auburn brings a big, athletic defensive line back this season. Likely starters at tackle are junior Dontavius Russell and sophomore Derrick Brown. Sophomore strong-side end Marlon Davidson was a beast on A-Day. The buck side will likely be manned by a combination of junior Jeffery Holland and senior transfer Paul James III. Auburn has a good bit of depth behind the starters as well. Ole Miss has shuffled things up a bit this year, moving junior tackle Sean Rawlings to center. Guards will be juniors Javon Patterson and Jordan Sims. Tackles will be sophomores Alex Givens and Gregory Little. Advantage: Even.
Auburn linebackers vs. Ole Miss backs: The Auburn Tigers have a good cross-trained quartet of upper echelon SEC-caliber linebackers. Junior Deshaun Davis, senior Tré Williams, junior Darrell Williams and junior Montravious Atkinson can play all three positions, and we might see any combination of these players out on the field at a given time. The Rebels hope that the return of senior Jordan Wilkins revives a running game that averaged only 149 yards per game last season. Sophomores D’Vaughn Pennamon and Eric Swinney should provide depth. Advantage: Auburn.
Auburn corners vs. Ole Miss receivers: Auburn has a fairly good combination of starting corners in junior Carlton Davis and sophomore Javaris Davis. The Tigers are hoping that Jamel Dean will be healthy this fall, as he is one of the fastest players on the team. Sophomore Jeremiah Dinson could move over from nickel back, if needed. Ole Miss seems to lose receivers to the NFL every year and still fields good ones. This year, the depth chart out of spring has sophomores A. J. Brown and DeKaylin Metcalf on top with veteran junior DaMarkus Lodge and senior Markell Pack for depth. Advantage: Even.
Auburn safeties vs. Ole Miss secondary receivers and quarterback: Auburn’s starting unit features seniors Tray Matthews and Stephen Roberts at safety, and sophomore Jeremiah Dinson at nickel back. There’s not much depth beyond senior Nick Ruffin, who’ll probably see as much playing time as the starters. The Tigers are solid here as long as no one gets hurt. Ole Miss is solid at the slot receiver spot with sophomore Van Jefferson and redshirt freshman Tre Nixon. Where there is a question mark is at tight end. The Rebels have sophomore Octavius Cooley listed as the starter with sophomore Dawson Knox as the backup. Ole Miss moved sophomore quarterback Jason Pellerin to tight end, and he could become a dangerous receiving threat. Advantage: Even.
Punting: Sophomore Ian Shannon will likely get the nod as Auburn’s starting punter after a couple of years of waiting in the wings. Shannon looked good on A-Day a year ago in warmups. The Tigers gave up only 19 punt return yards last season on 6 punts, for a stifling 3.2 yards per return. The Tigers are still auditioning for the punt-returner job. It’s thought that senior Stephen Roberts has the inside track after returning 6 punts last season for 100 yards. Ole Miss returns senior Will Gleeson as the punter, and he boomed it for 44.1 yards per punt last season. Ole Miss gave up 11.8 yards per return. Penciled in as the starting return man for the Rebels is sophomore Van Jefferson. Advantage: Ole Miss.
Kickoffs: Daniel Carlson was very good kicking off last season, notching 57 touchbacks on 72 kickoffs. When Auburn did allow returns, opponents averaged only 18.0 yards per return. Junior Kerryon Johnson is Auburn’s most experienced return man returning, and he averaged 22.2 yards per return last season. Senior Gary Wunderlich will kick off for the Rebels, replacing the departed Nathan Noble. Ole Miss gave up 20.5 yards per return. Senior Jordan Wilkins is listed as the top kick returner for Ole Miss. Advantage: Auburn.
Place kicking: Auburn sophomore Daniel Carlson is the man for Auburn. Carlson was 28 of 32 on field goals, and perfect on extra points. One of Carlson’s misses was a block by Vanderbilt. Gary Wunderlich of Ole Miss hit on 22 of 23 field goal attempts and missed a couple of extra points. Advantage: Auburn.
Auburn offensive line vs. Ole Miss defensive line: It’s still not settled who’ll start for Auburn on the line although the starters looked pretty good on A-Day. It seems the tackle spots are set with seniors Darius James and Braden Smith. Senior Austin Golson will likely start at center although Auburn is bringing in senior transfer center Casey Dunn from Jax State. If Dunn starts, Golson could move to guard. Also transferring in this fall is former Florida State starting guard Wilson Bell. Bell is expected to start at one of the guard spots. If Dunn does not beat Golson out, the other likely starting guard would be sophomore Mike Horton. Ole Miss will again be pretty nasty up front if they stay healthy. Junior Breeland Speaks and sophomore Benito Jones are impressive tackles. Junior Victor Evans and senior Marquis Haynes are ends that have been through the wars in the SEC. Advantage: Even.
Auburn backs vs. Ole Miss linebackers: Auburn features junior H-back Chandler Cox blowing open holes. Running behind the big H-back will be massive junior Kamryn Pettway with the shifty junior Kerryon Johnson in reserve. Ole Miss currently has penciled in junior Detric Bing-Dukes and senior DeMarquis Gates at linebackers. This group allowed 240 rushing yards to Pettway last year. Advantage: Auburn.
Auburn receivers vs. Ole Miss corners: At the end of spring, it looked like Auburn’s two starting outside guys were sophomore Nate Craig-Myers and sophomore Darius Slayton. Both guys can fly and have good height and great hands. Redshirt freshman Marquis McClain had a great A-Day and is someone to watch out for on the outside as well. Ole Miss had 3 of its top 4 corners miss the spring game due to injury, and the ones that played were often toast. Sophomore Myles Hartsfield was the best of those who played, and the Rebels hope that senior Kendarius Webster is ready to go by September after a gruesome knee injury against FSU last season. Advantage: Auburn.
Auburn secondary receivers and quarterback vs. Ole Miss safeties: Auburn has potential threats here, starting with wickedly fast junior slot receiver Will Hastings. Sophomore Eli Stove can also fly. Tight ends Jalen Harris and Sal Cannella are expected to be a big part of the passing game as well. Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham is likely the starter in the opener. In 6 games as a freshman at Baylor, Stidham was electric. That trend continued during A-Day this spring as Stidham was deadly accurate and showed great mobility. At this time, the likely Rebel starters are senior A. J. Moore at nickel and sophomore Deontay Anderson and junior Zedrick Woods at safeties. Advantage: Auburn.
By the middle of the season both teams will be a bit nicked up, and Ole Miss will be playing under uncertainty caused by a looming NCAA investigation that has been dragging on. Also, Ole Miss comes in right off a tough game against Alabama.
I think Ole Miss will move the ball some. Auburn’s defensive back seven must play patient ball and tackle well. I think Auburn’s offense will wear down the Rebels, and Auburn will pull away in the end.
Prediction: Auburn romps to a 49-27 win over Ole Miss.