College breakdown: No. 24 Ole Miss (3-1, 1-1 SEC) at Auburn (3-1, 1-1)
by Ryan Black
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer
Oct 04, 2013 | 1480 views |  0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall rushes for yardage against Mississippi State. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall rushes for yardage against Mississippi State. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
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When: 6 p.m., Saturday

Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn.

Line: Ole Miss by 3

TV: ESPNU

Radio: 1070 AM, 100.5 FM

Four-down territory

1. Tigers not wasting opportunities:
Auburn’s offense has been almost automatic when entering the red zone this season. The Tigers have scored on 13 of its 14 times inside the opponent’s 20. Their 92.9 percent scoring percentage is tops in the Southeastern Conference, and puts them among 34 teams in FBS converting more than 90 percent of the time in the red zone.

2. Rebels prolific on punt returns: Ole Miss averages 23.2 yards every time it fields a punt, which is No. 1 in the SEC and fifth nationally. In fact, it almost doubles up SEC runner-up Alabama, which has averaged 12.5 yards per punt return this season. The Rebels will try to find some success against the Tigers, who allow the second-fewest on punt returns (0.5) of any team in the conference, right on the heels of LSU at 0.4.

3. Tigers’ offense hitting its stride: Auburn is coming off its best half of the season offensively, as it gained 333 yards in the final 30 minutes of its game against LSU. Those kind of numbers haven’t been seen at Auburn since Cam Newton was still around. The last time the Tigers had more than 300 yards in a half against a conference foe since the first half of the 2010 SEC Championship Game when Auburn rolled up 348 yards against South Carolina.

4. Alabama is Rebels’ home for another week: Ole Miss returns to the state for the second straight week, following a 25-0 defeat to top-ranked Alabama this past Saturday in Tuscaloosa. With their game at Jordan-Hare Stadium today, it marks the first time the Rebels have played in Alabama in consecutive weeks since 1932. Ole Miss lost both contests, falling 24-13 to the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa and 14-7 to the Tigers in Montgomery.

Key matchup

Tre Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant vs. Ole Miss front seven:
In its first three games of the season, Ole Miss allowed an average of 114.3 yards a game on the ground to Vanderbilt, Southeast Missouri State and Texas, respectively. Then the Rebels played the Crimson Tide. By the time Alabama was done, it had gained 254 rushing yards. And while some may point to the two long touchdown runs — a 68-yarder by T.J. Yeldon and a 50-yarder from Kenyan Drake — as aberrations, those 118 yards can’t be removed from the final total. And that should bring a smile to the faces of Mason, Artis-Payne and Grant. While Grant was slowed with an ankle injury against LSU, Mason picked up the slack and ran for 132 yards and two touchdowns against a talented LSU front With Grant back and Artis-Payne likely to play a bigger role this week, the Tigers will test the Rebels’ rush defense for the second week in a row.

Prediction

Both teams run hurry-up, no-huddle schemes and should be able to move the ball with success today. The difference then, comes down to the Rebels being more familiar with head coach Hugh Freeze’s system after playing 17 games under him since the beginning of last season. Any way one wants to spin it, Ole Miss has simply had more time to understand exactly what Freeze wants to do. After four games, Auburn hasn’t reached that point with Gus Malzahn. Regardless, this should be a nip-and-tuck contest until the end, and it would register as a shock if the final margin isn’t single-digits either way. ... Ole Miss 28, Auburn 24.
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