1. Hidden identity: What is the identity of the Auburn offense? We should find out this week with coach Gene Chizik vowing to take a more active role in the offense and emphasize the running game. This should mean more carries for Tre Mason, who leads the Tigers with 307 yards on 59 carries but had just six carries for 32 yards against Arkansas last week. Mason had 14 carries for 106 yards against Clemson and 22 carries for 90 yards against ULM; expect a similar performance today.
2. Quarterbacking woes: Will the quarterback struggles continue for the Tigers? Kiehl Frazier had to be pulled at halftime last week and Clint Moseley performed well but also threw two late interceptions and was sacked four times. Auburn’s pass offense is averaging 172 yards and ranks 13th in the SEC. With the emphasis being placed on the running game, no matter who plays at quarterback should have an easier time this week, provided the offensive line does not have a repeat performance of last week.
3. Duel-threat talent: Ole Miss Bo Wallace is another duel-threat quarterback with daunting size. The 6-foot-4 204 pound Wallace was 20-for-34 for a season-high 305 yards with a touchdownand two interception and added 21 yards rushing and a touchdown in last week’s game against Texas A&M. Wallace has 1,145 yards passing for the season so keeping him in check will be a chore for a dinged up Tigers secondary who may be without starting cornerback Chris Davis. The Ole Miss offensive line has allowed just as many sacks (17) as Auburn so the Tigers front four could be in for a big day.
4. Something special: Special teams could be an area Auburn is once again able to capitalize on. The Tigers special teams had a rough week against Arkansas as Cody Parkey missed his first field goal of the season and normally reliable Onterio McCalebb bobbled a kickoff return which had the Tigers start at their own seven rather than the 25. Ole Miss is last in the SEC in kickoff coverage so McCalebb should have some chances today and with the emphasis on the run game, Parkey could be called upon to kick a few field goals if drives stall before the end zone.
Auburn CB Jonathon Mincy vs. Ole Miss WR Donte Moncrief: Mincy was beaten badly on a pass over the middle on the first play of the game last week by Arkansas wide out Cobi Hamilton which went for 41 yards. After that Mincy and the Auburn defense held Hamilton to four catches for just 31 more yards.
If fellow cornerback Chris Davis is unable to play this week then Mincy will be called upon to defend Moncrief even more than usual. The 6-3 Moncrief leads the Rebels with 27 receptions for 453 yards and five touchdowns, which is nearly as many receiving yards as the Rebels next three leading receivers combined and more than half of Ole Miss’ TD receptions. If Mincy can limit Moncrief it can allow the defense to focus on rushing Bo Wallace and shutting down the run.
Jay Prosch FB, 6-0, 260, Jr.
Prosch got his first carry of the season last week, a run of just three yards. It was his first handoff since high school though he did have a few non-traditional rushes at Illinois.
While Prosch is not expected to become a Mike Alstott type running threat as a fullback, coach Gene Chizik has said Prosch will be utilized more the rest of the season. With the emphasis on establishing the running game, Prosch should have plenty of chances to clear the way for Tre Mason, Onterio McCalebb and perhaps Mike Blakely.
At 6-foot and 260 pounds, Prosch is heavier than nearly every member of the Ole Miss starting front seven with the exception of the Rebels defensive tackles. Prosch may also help in the passing game after Auburn’s offensive line allowed eight sacks last week. The Mobile native may get opportunities to help chip block the Rebels defensive ends.
439: Average yards of total offense for Ole Miss — fourth best in the SEC
37.8: Average net kickoff yards for Ole Miss — last in the SEC
27: Average net kickoff return yards by Auburn — second best in the SEC
17: Sacks by the Ole Miss defense — second most in the SEC and sacks allowed by Auburn which is tied with Ole Miss and Florida for most allowed in the SEC
50.6: Third-down conversion percentage for the Rebels, best in the SEC
140: First downs by Ole Miss, most in the SEC
Emphasizing the running game is smart and Tre Mason could have a very big day, but after last week’s eight sacks allowed can the Tigers offensive line stop even the undersized Ole Miss front seven long enough to help Mason? The Auburn wide outs did have a good performance as a group last week and Quan Bray returning should only help but the offense may not pass much today.
Ole Miss 24, Auburn 16