Historically, Ole Miss has struggled when it plays at Auburn. Its last win on the Plains came in 2003, when Eli Manning was still the quarterback. On Saturday, the Rebels will look to end the losing streak against a hungry Auburn team who has upset on its mind.
Track meet: The relationship between Hugh Freeze and Gus Malzahn has been well documented this week. They’re close friends who both started out coaching high school football, and they like to go fast. Don’t expect a lot of huddles when the two get together Saturday. Freeze once ran 117 plays when he was a head coach at Lambuth University, while Malzahn has nearly reached the century mark twice during his FBS coaching career. It will no doubt be a fun game to watch and a difficult one to keep up with. Conditioning could play a major factor for both teams, especially towards the end of the game.
Wallace watch: Which Bo Wallace will show up this Saturday? The one who led Ole Miss past Vanderbilt and Texas, using both his arm and his feet, or the one who struggled against Alabama after predicting they would score on the Crimson Tide like it was nothing? Ole Miss fans hope it’s the player they saw in the first three games. Wallace is still one of just two FBS quarterbacks with at least 115 pass attempts who has yet to throw an interception. He’s thrown for 807 yards with four touchdowns and no picks, while rushing for 125 yards and three scores. The Rebels need to him to bounce back from last week’s game and play well against Auburn.
Stopping the run: The quarterbacks will play a role Saturday, but when both Auburn and Ole Miss have had success this season, they have been able to run the football. When the Rebels won on the road at Vanderbilt and at Texas, Jeff Scott rushed for over 100 yards and a touchdown. The Tigers, led by running backs Tre Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant, rushed for right around 300 yards in wins over Washington State and Arkansas State to open the season. Both teams will try and establish the rushing attack early on, and neither defense has shown the ability to slow down the run yet this season.
Fresh faces: During his weekly press conference, Malzahn made light of the Ole Miss freshmen and said both he and Freeze are not afraid to play freshmen right away if they’re talented enough. The Tigers haven’t seen as many significant contributors, but they’re hoping that first-year wide receivers Marcus Davis and Tony Stevens will step in the absence of Jaylon Denson, who was lost for the season with a knee injury. The most intriguing matchup will be between Ole Miss defensive end Robert Nkemdiche and Auburn defensive end Carl Lawson. They were ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the 2013 ESPN 300.
Karen effect: Tropical Storm Karen is expected to hit the Gulf Coast and the state of Alabama sometime Saturday, and the precipitation could make its way up to Auburn for the game. There’s no telling what either team is in store for, but both teams practiced using wet balls this week just in case. It will likely slow down the tempo and put a premium on ball security. Auburn dealt with rain the last time out when they played at LSU, and it resulted in three turnovers in the first half alone. The Tigers will be playing in a much more conducive atmosphere this time around, but they have to be able to hang on to the ball if Karen hits during the game.