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Auburn Vs. Ole Miss Preview: Half a Team vs. Something Less Than That

Ole Miss' offense makes the difference in a game decided more by who has some competency than by who has the most.

Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Auburn Tigers at Mississippi Rebels, 12:21 p.m. ET, SEC Network

If you had told me before the season that this game was going to be key to one of these teams' bowl hopes, I would have assumed you were talking about Auburn. Not because Ole Miss' 3-3 record is that surprising, but more because I would have assumed that the way the Rebels got that was going to be unimpressive. It was not.

To be clear, Ole Miss is still just half of a competent team. The offense is strong, even if it bumbles at times from inexperience and mistakes. That's not to lose sight of the fact that most of those yards have come against teams that are far from defensive juggernauts. And it's not to forget that the only really strong defense the Rebels have faced -- Alabama -- shut them down. But Alabama and Texas are the only teams to hold Ole Miss below 450 yards (and the Rebels churned out 399 yards against Texas), and Auburn's defense isn't as good as either of those teams.

In fact, Ole Miss having half a competent team might mean they have more of a competent team than Auburn. Kickoff return yardage per game is literally the only statistic tracked by the NCAA in which the Tigers rank in the top half of the SEC. And that could be a case of practice makes perfect; their scoring defense is ninth in the league, with opponents averaging 23.6 points per game against Auburn. An overtime win against Louisiana-Monroe is the only thing that stands between Auburn and a winless record. And if they can't stop Ole Miss' offense -- and I don't think they can -- it will remain the only thing.

Ole Miss 38, Auburn 24