Auburn vs. Ole Miss preview: No. 12 Tigers look to keep rolling in SEC play vs. struggling Rebels
AUBURN, Ala. — Matt Luke and Mississippi are banking on the fluctuating fortunes of college football for a fast rebound.
The 12th-ranked Auburn Tigers, on the other hand, are hoping their last two performances will carry over into Saturday's game against the Rebels.
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"The best way to get over it is to start focusing on the next opponent," said Luke, the Rebels' interim coach. "Probably more so than any other sport, college football is so week to week. You can totally change everything in one week just by going out and fighting and competing."
The Tigers (4-1, 2-0) are fresh from a second-straight SEC blowout, 49-10 over Mississippi State . Now, they're three-touchdown favorites in this one with one of the SEC's best defenses and an offense that has been increasingly producing big plays.
Tigers coach Gus Malzahn, like Luke, isn't pinning too much on the last games.
"You can't buy into what last week was, not in this league," Malzahn said. "We're expecting their best and that's our approach."
This game pits quarterback Shea Patterson and the SEC's top passing offense against an Auburn defense that is the only one in FBS to allow 14 or fewer points in every game.
Auburn tailback Kerryon Johnson said the Tigers can't afford not to take the Rebels seriously, regardless of last week's score.
"We realize Ole Miss has got some of the skill players and a very good quarterback in this league, so if we come in half-stepping, they'll put up 50 points," Johnson said. "And it's hard to keep up with 50 points.
"Obviously our defense isn't going to let that happen, obviously our coaching staff isn't going to let that happen, but we have to make sure we come every week with, 'Hey, this is a big game. This is a big game. This is a big game. This game is bigger than the last one.'"
Some other things to know about this game:
WATCH THE QUARTERBACKS: Patterson ranks fourth nationally in passing yards per game even after a subpar outing against Alabama, and has the league's top two receivers in A.J. Brown and DaMarkus Lodge. Auburn's Jarrett Stidham has only 12 incompletions in the last three games. In the last two, Stidham has had seven passes go for at least 46 yards.
AUBURN BACKFIELD: Auburn's Johnson has run for eight touchdowns in the past two games, five against Missouri and three against Mississippi State. Those performances have helped the Tigers miss a healthy Kamryn Pettway (lower leg) much less. Pettway played some against the Bulldogs and lost a fumble. Malzahn said fellow tailback Kam Martin is also nursing an unspecified injury that kept him out of the last game.
MCGRIFF'S TIES: Ole Miss defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff was Auburn's co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach last season. Malzahn said that means McGriff is familiar with the Tigers' players, "but some of our guys have obviously improved since last year." Having a new offensive coordinator in Chip Lindsey reduces the carry over, too.
"The fact that Chip is calling the plays and we are different in a lot of ways, it's not like you would think," Malzahn said. "But he's definitely familiar."
REBELS AGAINST TOP 15: Ole Miss beat both No. 8 Texas A&M and No. 11 Georgia last season. The Rebels have nine wins over teams ranked in the top 15 over the last four years.
EARLY KICK: With the game kicking off at noon ET, the Rebels opted to fly to Alabama on Thursday. Ole Miss played an early game on Sept. 9 and beat Tennessee-Martin 45-23. "We've done it once before so I think that will help," Luke said.