Auburn and Ole Miss are two of the top contenders in the nation, ranking No.3 and No.4, respectively, in both the AP Top 25 and College Football Playoff Rankings. Even though the two teams are near the top of the polls, one will likely find itself out of the national championship hunt on Saturday night.
The Tigers and Rebels are set to meet in a pivotal SEC matchup in Mississippi. They both enter the contest with one loss in 2014, after Ole Miss lost to LSU last week. Auburn was defeated at Mississippi State on Oct. 11.
It comes as no surprise that Auburn is in this position. The team nearly beat Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and Florida State in last year’s BCS National Championship Game, and they began the year as one of the SEC favorites.
Ole Miss’s presence at the top of the rankings is much more of a surprise. The Rebels lost five games in 2013, but their defense has made them one of the best teams in the country.
Through eight games, Ole Miss has the best scoring defense in the country, allowing just 10.5 points per game. They haven’t allowed more than 20 points in a single game, and they’ve surrendered just 50 total point in five SEC matchups.
Auburn brings the No.15 scoring offense to Mississippi, averaging 39.3 points per game. They are led by quarterback Nick Marshall, who has 1,103 passing yards and 11 scores, as well as 581 yards on the ground and seven rushing touchdowns.
The battle between Auburn’s rushing attack and Ole Miss’ stout defense will probably determine the winner. Following LSU’s blueprint from last week could help Auburn pull off the upset, as they are two-point underdogs at most Las Vegas casinos. The over/under is 51 total points.
LSU ran the ball effectively, and forced quarterback Bo Wallace to make plays. Led by Leonard Fournette’s 113 yards, LSU compiled 264 yards on 55 carries against Auburn. They played so well that they were able to outlast Auburn, despite turning the ball over four times.
With Marshall’s ability to run and Cameron Artis-Payne’s 833 yards on the ground, Auburn could find a way to control the clock. Doing so and taking a lead could put the onus on Wallace.
Wallace answered many of his critics and came up big against Alabama, but his abilities are limited. He hasn’t thrown for 200 yards in his last three games, and he threw a late interception the cost the Rebels their last game.
Auburn has already proven that they can win big games on the road, winning at then-No.20 Kansas State. Last season, they beat then-No.7 Texas A&M on the road.
PREDICTION: Auburn over Ole Miss, 20-17