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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 13, 12:21 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (60,580) -- Oxford, Mississippi. Television: SEC Network. Home Record: Auburn 1-2, Ole Miss 2-2. Away Record: Auburn 0-1, Ole Miss 1-1. Neutral Record: Auburn 0-1, Ole Miss 0-0. Conference Record: Auburn 0-3, Ole Miss 0-2. Series Record: Auburn leads, 27-9.
GAME NOTES: A pair of SEC Western Division rivals seeking their first conference win of the season meet in Oxford on Saturday afternoon, as the Ole Miss Rebels play host to the Auburn Tigers.
After earning a respectable 8-5 record in 2011, Auburn's terrible start to this season has come as a surprise. With its only win coming against ULM in overtime, 31-28, it could easily be winless. The Tigers lost at home last week to Arkansas (24-7), which had lost four straight heading into the matchup.
Under new head coach Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss has shown improvement, already winning more games this season than all of last year, but following a heartbreaking loss at home to Texas A&M last week (30-27), the team fell to 0-2 in conference. The Rebels have now lost eight straight SEC home openers, and they have dropped 16 consecutive conference games dating back to 2010.
Auburn has a handle on the all-time series with Ole Miss, 27-9, which includes wins in nine of 11 matchups in Oxford.
Auburn has not been able to get on track offensively (15.4 ppg, 302.4 ypg), and most of the blame can be pointed at poor quarterback play.
To say that Kiehl Frazier hasn't performed well would be sugar-coating things. In his first year as the starting quarterback, Frazier has completed less than 55 percent of his passes for 664 yards with just two touchdowns and eight interceptions. He was pulled at halftime of last week's game in favor of Clint Moseley, who looked impressive at times (13-of-21, 163 yards, TD) despite throwing a pair of interceptions.
The inconsistent play under center hasn't hindered Emory Blake's output much. Coming off a career-high 10 catches last week, he now sits with 22 receptions, 340 yards, and two touchdowns, all team highs. He's tied for 10th in program history with 1,573 career receiving yards.
The running game has been a saving grace for the poor offense, with Tre Mason (307 yards, TD), Onterio McCalebb (262 yards, two TDs) and Mike Blakely (114 yards) all averaging better than five yards per carry. McCalebb is also one of the most feared kickoff return men in the SEC, averaging 30.6 yards per return on eight tries, including a 100-yard score.
Considering the poor position the offense often puts it in, the Tigers' defense has played reasonably well this season, allowing 23.6 ppg.
Daren Bates has made his impact felt all over the field with 54 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery. Corey Lemonier is one of the SEC's best penetrating defensive linemen with five tackles for loss, five sacks, a forced fumble and a blocked kick.
The Ole Miss offense (31.3 ppg, 439 ypg) is much improved from a year ago and boasts exciting playmakers at each position.
Bo Wallace has made plenty of plays both with his arm (1,145 yards) and his legs (186 yards), and he has accounted for 11 total touchdowns. He has been hampered by turnovers (eight INTs) and sacks (14) however, and if the mistakes keep piling up, Barry Brunetti could be in line for more snaps (19-of-27, 177 yards, TD).
Wallace and top receiving threat Donte Moncrief have an undeniable chemistry on the field. Moncrief is fourth in the conference in receiving yards with 453 and he has caught a touchdown pass in five of the team's six games.
Since missing the opener against Central Arkansas, Jeff Scott (71 carries, 425 yards) has emerged as the Rebels' primary running back. He has rushed for 95 yards or more in three of five games, and has at least one touchdown in four straight. Randall Mackey (47 carries, 227 yards, three TDs) also sees plenty of opportunities.
The Ole Miss defense has held its own considering the number of high-powered offenses it has faced in the early going (Texas, Alabama, Texas A&M), allowing 27.7 ppg and fewer than 380 ypg.
The unit has accounted for 14 turnovers, tied for 10th-most in the country. Cody Prewitt and Dehendret Collins have a pair of interceptions each, and Denzel Nkemdiche has been one of the top freshman linebackers in the country (38 tackles, eight TFL, two sacks, INT, two FF).
Both teams are desperate for a win in conference play, but with the Tigers staring down the barrel of a 1-5 start, their backs are certainly up against a wall, especially with Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama still left on the schedule. Auburn's quarterback play has simply been too erratic to count on however, and with an upstart Ole Miss squad with a ball-hawking defense playing at home, expect the Rebels to notch their first conference win in more than two years.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ole Miss 24, Auburn 21
10/10 10:34:12 ET
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