It's the Auburn Realist: Ole Miss Preview......Government Shutdown Edition! I woke up this morning and realized that I had not done my (nearly) weekly habit of previewing this game. A lot of that has something to do with the fact that I am not on my lunch break at work. And that's because I am currently furloughed. The bigger problem is that I don't really have a computer at home.
So, I had to dig this old crusty lap top out of the closet. It's easily from 2005. It doesn't connect to wireless. It's battery is dead. And the DVD drive is busted out of it. But it works... Ok, so the baby is asleep. Griffin is watching the tube. Aubree is at school. And I have the house cleaned up. So let's get to it while the laundry is still drying.
Auburn is coming off of a bye week. Much needed too. Judging by the reports on AL.com, there are a ton of impact players coming back from injury and all signs point to play time. Ole Miss is coming off of a loss at Alabama. And while the media (And every Bama fan I know) labeled this as a dominating performance, I suggest we take a quick step back and use our brain.
Let's talk Ole Miss for a second. In typical Ole Miss fashion, they are starting another polarizing QB in Bo Wallace. He seems to be another QB in a lines going back to Jevon Snead in whom you don't know what to expect from game to game. The kid ha talent, we call have seen it. But he can melt down in impressive fashion. While I have been critical of Freeze in the past, I was especially amazed on his play calling on Saturday against the Tide. TAKE THE POINTS, FREEZE! Honestly. You never leave points on the field against a number 1 team. You especially don't leave points on the field against a team that is having offensive issues. Furthermore, a QB draw on the 1? Wow. Anyway, Ole Miss has some play makers in Moncreif and Treadwell. But, Moncreif never seems to show up in a tight game. THat may not be his fault. And Treadwell is a redshirt freshman that benefited early in the year from being widely unknown and matched up with the 2nd or 3rd best DB on opposing teams. I don't think that will happen against Auburn. Their D is decent. And I don't even consider it because of Nkemdiche The Younger. They were a solid group last year. But, again, they don't have the depth yet to provide anything more than terrific spot play. Then there is the aforementioned play calling from Freeze. There is no doubt that he is good when he is good. When he has opposing defenses on their heels, he knows how to stick the knife in deeper. The problem is adjustments and clutch calls against decent opponents. And before you talk about all the great things he has done, let us recall that they were still 7-7 last year. Ok, that's more than I normally say about opposing teams, so let's move on to the points that matter.
Defense There was a ton of news that has come out in the last 2 days regarding returning players from injuries. That's never a bad thing. Jones is back from a foot injury. Davis is back from an ankle. Perhaps the most interesting bit of news was the Eguae's move to DT. That seemed to stem from Sanders' return to full speed, Blackson's inability to crash the pocket, and the rapid development of Adam's as a 3rd and long pass rusher. The secondary, despite the rash of injuries and slim depth, has played well with players that were backups in the preseason. It's easy to think that their play will be even better with the return of "starters". But, don't expect the starting line up to change drastically from what we saw against LSU. Being the Tempo man who understands pace and rhythm, Malzhan knows when to ride a hot hand, example: Therezie. LSU exposed what we (if you have been reading these previews) already knew about the Auburn defense. It's soft in the middle and the MLB play is lacking. If the offensive line can stall the D-Line or get a push, and another offensive player can engage the MLB, you can break off long runs on the inside. Time after time against LSU, Copeland was either (to steal a line from AUFamily forums) giving Holland a free ride to Arkansas or at least tying him up, the RB was in the secondary before anyone knew it was a run play.
In the words of Hubart Farnsworth: "Great News Everybody!" Scott isn't a between the tackles runner and Johnson has at least made an attempt to shore up this issue. The move of Eguae inside may be the answer. One thing is certain, Blackson and Co were having zero net effect on the game, and were in fact, the weakness of this defense. Honestly, it couldn't get worse. If he can make any impact what so ever, the Rebs are in for a long day. Now, start the Holland bashing. He must practice fantastic because his game play in a physical run game is pitiful. And while we said that Scott wasn't an inside threat, Wallace is. He is a 6'4" wrecking ball, very similar to what we saw with Prescott in the MSU game. This COULD be trouble. But, again, if the DTs can get a push (which they haven't done YET), it will be ok. I expect the passing game to be nil for Ole Miss. While the D-Line may not get to him, he has proven that he would rather run than sit in the pocket and wait for a receiver to break loose. I don't expect Scott to have much impact in the run game. I do expect him to have some impact catching the ball out of the backfield, similar...but not to the extent of....last year. I see him getting 50 yards on the ground and 50 yards in the air. He will get most of those recieving yards on one impact play. Treadwell will catch a fair amount of slants and underneath routes, but the DBs from Auburn have shown that they can make solid tackles, though I can see them botching an early slant for a TD. Possibly a short yardage or down-and-goal play where they go for the ball and miss. The only real damage I see is from the feet of Wallace. With the inability of the D-Line to collapse the pocket, Wallace will run early and often right at the MLB. While this will provide impressive stats at the end of the game, it won't win the game. The key for Auburn's defense is to disrupt Freeze's script. He has a progression of plays he calls when he has the ball moving. And if you can force him out of that script, he falters. Just as he did against Alabama. He will learn from some of his mistakes and kick field goals, though. But Malzhan won't.
Offense Ole Miss has played terrific in spots for the last two years. They even had a couple of great complete games last year. This D is just as good, but it still doesn't have the depth. Auburn, on the other hand, is going to hit stride Saturday. If the LSU game taught us anything, it's that this offense can score on anybody, and do so consistently. While the 1st quarter was as ugly as I have seen in the modern era, the rest of the game was fairly impressive. Honestly, Auburn is 3 plays from winning that game. Granted, that's the difference in a loss or win for ANY team, so I am not making excuses for them. But, luck is luck...even when it's a dropped punt, a fumbled hand off, what have you. I don't know if Marshall will ever loose that deer in the head lights look this year. Everyone is thinking the same thing. He seems to get over anxious or nervous in key plays. It's so easy to say "oh, he will settle down." After all, the same was said after his first start. Then his first SEC game. Now it's being said about his first game against a big time opponent. What will we say after this week? It's his first hangover game? No. I don't expect him to get over his nervous tendencies. I do expect him to elevate all aspects of his game otherwise. Will he miss open receivers? Yes. Will he fumble the ball? Statistics say yes. The question is....will he have that play and get his act together for the rest of the game? I believe he does, and does so well.
Folks, I truly believe this is when the Tigers hit stride offensively. That doesn't mean they will become unbeatable. Far from it. I still think they loose to A&M and UGA. But I think they show that they have more than flash in the pan plays and start playing complete games. It's taught for me really to predict exactly what we will see because I think there are favorable match ups all over the field. I know a lot of people are expecting fireworks from both sides, but I think we will only be seeing it from one side. I think Mason has another big game. Ole Miss is susceptible to the run up the middle and Mason is one of the best 1 cut and go runners out there. I wouldn't be surprised if he goes for 150 yards and 2 TDs.
CAP has really struggled the last few weeks and I think a lot of that just has to do with the amount of touches he has gotten. I don't think this is the game where he gets rolling and I only see him getting 5 -7 touches. Grant is poised to have another 5 touch 100 yard game, but most of it will come on 1 play, as usual. However, with his injuries, I don't really think he will see the field. Instead, I expect him to sit it out, have a good tune up game next week to get ready for A&M.
I expect Marshall to have a good game. 250 passing and a couple of TDs and 50 yards rushing and another TD. The offensive line is going to give him enough time to settle in after the first 2 drives and really conduct the offense. We will see the game manager Marshall who will learn to be patient. He will get loose once or twice, just for kicks. Defensively, Wallace will give the interior of the defense fits early on and will continue to pile up useless yards on the ground.
The Line This game has always had some sort of hype, for good and for bad. I expect Freeze's first and second possession script to go well and he will pile up 10 points in the first quarter. I expect Auburn to fall behind with inadequate play. But, the adjustments will be made halfway through the 2nd Quarter and the route will be on. Auburn wins 31-13