Well, it finally happened. Ole Miss lost a football game. And I got my prediction wrong.
Deep down, every Rebel fan knew the team was bound to suffer a loss. But I don’t think any of those fans thought it would be so heartbreaking. To force four turnovers. To hold LSU to a measly 10 points. To have a chance at a game tying field goal at the end of regulation. All of those things you might think would add up to a victory for the Rebs over the Tigers. But in the end Bo Wallace made a decision to win the game, was intercepted, and the dreams of a perfect season cam crashing down in Death Valley.
While the Rebels lost, they are still #4 in the first ever College Football Playoff Top 25, and in what in all reality will be an elimination game, Ole Miss will host the #3 team in those same rankings, Auburn, on Saturday. In the SEC West right now, it’s survive and advance. So who will survive this week?
Auburn is having a great season, despite their loss to Mississippi State. They are still very much alive in terms of the Playoff, but like I mentioned above, if they lose on Saturday they will essentially be eliminated, barring some unlikely craziness. Gus Malzahn has the Tigers on the right path, and with experienced quarterback Nick Marshall leading the up-tempo offense, the Tigers have no problem putting points on the boards. It’s their ability to stop opponents from putting points up that makes me think this matchup will be intriguing. Auburn’s defense, specifically their pass defense, is not very good. Their total defense currently ranks 47th in the country, behind teams like Boise St., Memphis, and Tennessee, all of which Ole Miss has faced and seen success against.
Ole Miss’ defense is still playing stingy. Despite having trouble stopping the run last week, they still only gave up 10 points and frustrated the quarterback anytime he had the ball. I think that Auburn will have much more success than LSU did, but they will not be able to score nearly as easily as they have so far this year.
So really this matchup comes down to two things for Ole Miss. Can they score points against a mediocre defense and can they stop points against a great offense?
The Rebels are banged up on both sides of the ball. Injuries to both Nkemdiches (with Denzel being out for the year), Cody Prewitt, and Laremy Tunsil will certainly affect how the game plays out. And even though he’s played well thus far this season, Bo Wallace is probably pretty banged up mentally. Throwing that game ending interception against LSU was a huge blow to his confidence. Rebel fans need to hope that he’s moved past it, because if he hasn’t, I wouldn’t expect him to bounce back against Auburn.
The game, one that will feature two Top 10 teams playing one another for the first time in Oxford history, is going to be a close one. Ole Miss can limit Auburn’s scoring. The Rebel crowd, with their team having so much left to play for, will be loud and rowdy helping the defense greatly. But I worry that the Rebs will have trouble scoring. If Ole Miss can’t score more than 20 points, I don’t think they can win. And if Bo Wallace is not on his game, they definitely can’t win.
I initially predicted that Ole Miss would lose this game. And honestly of all the games left, this would be the one to lose. But for the fairy tale season to continue, the Rebels have to look at this as a must win. I think Hugh Freeze will have Ole Miss ready to play, and the offense will give the defense just enough to work with to pull out a win. A close, heart-stopping win in which the defense stops a potential game-winning Auburn drive late, late, late in the fourth quarter.
Ole Miss 27 – Auburn 21