Featuring sports editor for The Daily Mississippian Dylan Rubino (@drubino11) and football writer Cody Thomason (@therealcodythomason)
Will the loss to LSU last week have an effect on the performance of Ole Miss this weekend against Auburn?
Dylan- After the recent College Football Playoff rankings, the loss to LSU will not have that much of an impact on Ole Miss. The rankings gave the Rebels a second wind. Being ranked fourth right behind Auburn revitalizes the team and gives them more hope to make a run for the SEC title. The loss to LSU was demoralizing, especially the way the offense played and the way senior quarterback Bo Wallace struggled. There were a lot of mistakes made by the Rebels on both sides of the ball, but those mistakes can be corrected and the rankings will definitely motivate Ole Miss.
Cody- I think the loss will definitely affect Ole Miss. The question is— how will it affect them? The team could take the loss in stride and use it to fuel them on to better play this week. If they can channel the anger and frustration of the loss into playing hard this week, they could have a great game. If they are still down about the LSU loss then Auburn could take control of the game early on and not let go.
How will the Ole Miss defense try and stop the Auburn rushing attack?
Dylan- The Gus Malzahn offense has fooled teams in the SEC since he started as the offensive coordinator for the Tigers in 2009. The offense is very fast-paced and fools defenses with a quarterback option-based running game. As a defender facing this offense, you must be very disciplined in the eyes when it comes to being aware of where the ball is and not get caught by the run fakes that senior quarterback Nick Marshall pulls. Marshall is a dual-threat quarterback and can kill you both passing and running. It’s a lot to prepare for, but the Ole Miss defense has the bodies and speed to keep up with the Auburn offense.
Cody- The Ole Miss defense is made to take on speedy teams like Auburn. They need to go back to their 4-2-5 package this week and use the speed of players like sophomore defensive back Tony Conner to contain the outside while the interior defensive line needs to clog up the middle and not give up power runs like they did against LSU. Also, the entire defense needs to be ready for Marshall and not give him any easy yards on the ground.
Can Bo Wallace turn it around after his performance last week, and do you expect him to be more aggressive?
Dylan- Wallace played his worst game of the season against LSU Saturday, going 14-33 passing with 176 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Wallace had some good and bad moments at Auburn last season, going 25-48 passing for 336 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Wallace has come out and stated that he and the offense need to have a more aggressive approach to games, as being conservative has held Ole Miss back. Wallace has had a successful season and has the ability to bounce back with the season he has had so far.
Cody- I expect Bo Wallace will focus on the game plan more and try not to force as many throws. Being aggressive and taking chances last week clearly didn’t work out for him, so I don’t expect him to continue that this week. He could be more aggressive on Saturday but only if Freeze calls the plays for him to do so. I think he should be able to turn it around as long as he doesn’t try to do too much and lets the game come to him.
Will the injuries suffered last week drag the Rebels down?
Dylan- The loss of junior linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche for the season with a broken ankle hurts depth in the linebacking core. Sophomore defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, sophomore offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil and senior safety Cody Prewitt all exited the game against LSU with injuries but are expected to play Saturday. Junior center Ben Still’s health is still up in the air. Ole Miss needs all the help they can get health-wise, especially on the interior offensive and defensive line.
Cody- The injuries are definitely a big concern for the Rebels. If Tunsil and Still aren’t at full strength, the offensive line takes a huge hit, and Prewitt is struggling with an injury of his own. But luckily for the Rebels, junior safety Chief Brown could be making his debut this season after recovering from an Achilles injury and could help Prewitt if he’s not at full strength. Ole Miss is definitely a much thinner team now, but they should be able to compensate with other players stepping up to play.