License to Chill
Auburn’s opponent this weekend arrives on the heels of a shutout at the hands of the Alabama Crimson Tide – Hugh Freeze and the Ole Miss Rebels are not accustomed to coming away with a goose egg after implementing his hurry up no huddle offense, and Auburn’s defense is determined to keep the Rebel offense on ice for one more week. On the other side of the ball, Auburn’s offense is hoping to get back on track after misfiring in Baton Rouge two weeks ago. The Tigers have had the fortune of a bye week to work on mistakes and make adjustments, but will that be enough to top the Rebels in Jordan-Hare?
As I mentioned previously, Ole Miss is looking to move past a poor showing in Tuscaloosa. A fast-paced offense is guaranteed trouble for Auburn’s defense being in a state of serious transition, but a fast-paced offense with a chip on its shoulder is likely an even larger indicator of trouble on the horizon. It will be interesting to see how Ellis Johnson plans to limit the Rebel attack.
Senior Nosa Eguae will make his first career start at tackle tomorrow night. It’s a move that will take Angelo Blackson out of the starting lineup after the coaching staff used the bye week to reevaluate several positions. This will give the Tigers a quicker, albeit slightly smaller, defensive line to combat the Rebels’ offense. In other defensive news, Chris Davis will return to action this weekend after missing the previous two games due to injury. His return to the lineup is a much needed addition to the secondary and will hopefully bode well for Auburn’s chances.
Auburn’s offense continues to search for someone who will step up and become a dependable go-to receiver for Nick Marshall to target. The good news here is that although the aforementioned ‘go-to guy’ has yet to emerge, several players have been slowly building momentum and improving with each game. Marcus Davis (only a freshman) has been the big head-turner thus far by providing an unexpected spark to the wide receiver group. Overall, the biggest issue here has been drops. I honestly don’t see how some of these guys can keep a working cell phone for more than a day or two with the way we have been dropping passes. It is as if they expect the ball to be anywhere except for headed in their direction.
Nick Marshall was able to find a new gear in the Malzahn offense and offered a preview(hopefully) of things to come on The Plains when he led the Tigers down the field for a game-winning touchdown drive to defeat Mississippi State. The following week, Marshall understandably struggled against a tough LSU defense, in a tough venue, and in sloppy conditions. I think the bye week arrived at a perfect time for the coaches to be able to really get a handle on Marshall’s strengths (and weaknesses) and for Marshall himself to grow immensely in this offense. I expect him to turn in an impressive performance against Ole Miss tomorrow night.
Bearing down on The Plains late Saturday will be Tropical Storm Karen which will add an obstacle for both teams to overcome. So far, reports are a little broad but it is safe to assume that at least the second half of tomorrow’s contest will be wet. Having played their previous game under similar circumstances, I give the advantage to Auburn to have the ability to best overcome the conditions.
At the end of the season, this game will probably serve as a turning point that either propelled Auburn to an incredibly successful comeback season or one that showcased that there are still glaring issues to be addressed. A loss here is certainly not the end of the world, but the rest of Auburn’s SEC schedule is awfully daunting and to lose at home coming off of a bye week to a reeling Ole Miss team would certainly sting.