AUBURN, Ala. – Auburn has played itself out of the race for a spot in the SEC Championship Game with two heartbreaking road losses in the last three contests, but the 12th-ranked Tigers are not looking back as they host rebuilding Ole Miss on Saturday night. Auburn dropped a 24-13 decision at Florida on Oct. 5 and led midway through the third quarter at No. 2 LSU last Saturday before falling 23-20.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Auburn -20
“Our guys aren’t going to flinch,” Tigers coach Gus Malzahn told al.com. “They’re disappointed. We have a really good football team. We have to correct some things. We have four games left against some really good teams, and there’s a lot to play for. … So, that’s really our message. But our guys will stick together. They’re true Auburn men. We’ll finish this thing the right way.” Freshman quarterback Bo Nix was 26-for-62 for 302 yards combined with four interceptions - one last Saturday - in the two losses for Auburn, who will face an Ole Miss team filled with first-year players. Freshmen have gained 2,936 of the Rebels’ 3,473 yards this season and they will most likely use two first-year quarterbacks again with Matt Corral (1,101 passing yards) and John Rhys Plumlee (508 rushing yards), who had a minor procedure on his knee during the bye week but is expected to play Saturday. “We have to focus on one game at a time and with our football team that’s what we’ve focused on, getting better week to week,” Ole Miss coach Matt Luke told reporters. “Let’s take this open date, get better and find a way to beat Auburn.”
ABOUT OLE MISS (3-5, 2-3 SEC)
Corral and Plumlee have combined for eight touchdown passes and three interceptions in their maiden voyage while the Rebels dropped four of their last five games after a 24-17 setback against Texas A&M on Oct. 19. Senior Scottie Phillips, who is expected to play despite being slowed by a knee injury, leads the team with 538 yards rushing and freshman Jerrion Ealy has 384 after gaining 80 on six carries against Texas A&M but could sit out Saturday due to a concussion. The Rebels’ defense is more experienced, led by junior linebackers Lakia Henry (58 tackles) and Sam Williams (4.5 sacks) along with senior nose tackle Benito Jones (eight tackles for loss).
ABOUT AUBURN (6-2, 3-2)
Nix, who has completed 53.9 percent of his passes and boasts 12 touchdown passes to go along with six interceptions overall, is determined to be sharper the final four games and match his teammates on the other side of the ball. “We just shot ourselves in the foot,” Nix told reporters after the LSU loss. “Defense played out of their minds again. It’s frustrating that, as a leader, as the quarterback, I feel like we should help them out a little bit more. That might be the most frustrating thing.” Sophomore JaTarvious Whitlow leads the team with 553 yards rushing and seven TDs, but freshman D.J. Williams came up big last week with 130 yards on the ground after managing 80 in the first seven games.
1. Ole Miss sophomore WR Elijah Moore is third in the SEC with 49 receptions and sixth with 621 yards receiving
2. Auburn sophomore WR Seth Williams (523 yards receiving) is tied for fourth in the SEC with eight TDs through the air
3. The Tigers lead the all-time series 32-10, including 15-3 at home, and Whitlow had 170 yards rushing in last year’s 31-16 win at Ole Miss.
PREDICTION: Auburn 38, Ole Miss 17