Ole Miss will try to reverse recent misfortune against Auburn to get to 7-0, while Mississippi State will try to bottle its home energy and play better on the road than it did in Baton Rouge.
The Daily Journal’s Parrish Alford predicts both Magnolia State Southeastern Conference games.
Auburn (3-3, 1-2 SEC) at No. 9 Ole Miss (6-0, 2-0 SEC)
Lane Kiffin on Monday called on Ole Miss fans to turn out and be loud the way they did against Kentucky.
He’s calling on his Rebels to play four quarters and not two.
Ole Miss has had trouble scoring in the second half in multiple games including Kentucky, but the Rebels flipped the script at Vanderbilt and had trouble scoring in the first half.
Part of that was a defensive problem.
The Rebels couldn’t get Vanderbilt off the field, and if not for a 48-yard pass to Jonathan Mingo to set up a touchdown in the final seconds, they would have trailed by two possessions at the break instead of 20-17.
While the first half was disturbing, the Rebels did have the confidence that comes from playing an opponent you’ve beaten often.
Not so this week.
Ole Miss wins against Auburn have been rare. There hasn’t been once since 2015, and Ole Miss is 4-18 in the series in the 2000s.
Last year the Rebels were perceived to have the better team but lost 31-20 anyway. It wasn’t one of Matt Corral’s better games. He was playing at less than full strength and eventually left the game early with an ankle injury.
None of that matters to Kiffin, who would say, “It’s the past.”
This Auburn team is different from its past.
Auburn is last in the SEC and No. 112 in America in scoring at 20.3 points a game.
The Tigers are 3-3 which sounds a whole lot better than 2-4, but I watched the finish of that Missouri game, and that still seems like an Auburn loss. It wasn’t, and the Tigers are 1-2 in conference play.
They’ve lost 21-17 to LSU and 42-10 to Georgia.
Auburn has been outscored 77-47 in the second halves.
There aren’t enough offensive stats to scare people in a picks column, but there are some things to note.
They seem to have settled on redshirt freshman Robby Ashford, once an Ole Miss commit, as QB1. Ashford (6-foot-3, 212 pounds) is mobile, and Ole Miss wasn’t able to tackle a mobile quarterback against Tulsa.
The Tigers have an experienced running back who has been hard to tackle in Tank Bigsby. At 57.5 rushing yards a game, it’s not his best season.
There aren’t a lot of offensive numbers to scare opponents.
Part of the problem has been ball possession. Auburn has 13 turnovers to rank No. 118 in most give-aways. They’re No. 128 in turnover margin.
Recent trends suggest the Rebels will find running lanes against the Tigers’ No. 92-ranked rushing defense.
Whatever problems Auburn has, it’s going to have more talent and depth than Vanderbilt.
Prediction: Ole Miss 28, Auburn 19
The Beat Guys: Theo DeRosa, Ole Miss; Michael Katz, Ole Miss.
No. 16 Mississippi State (5-1, 2-1 SEC) at No. 22 Kentucky (4-2, 1-2 SEC)
The Bulldogs’ streak of facing an opponent who’s missing a key playmaker probably ends, but it might not.
Kentucky quarterback Will Levis, a projected early first-round pick, missed last week’s game against South Carolina, and his absence was notable in the Wildcats’ 24-14 loss.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops calls Levis “day to day” this week.
John Clay of the Lexington Herald-Leader tells me he thought Levis would play last week.
I’ve seen speculation that Kentucky wants to make sure Levis is healthy for the Tennessee game on Oct. 29 after an open date.
I’m sure they’d like that, but this is a Kentucky team that was ranked in the top 10 and has now lost two straight. So they’re going to play it safe against No. 16 MSU? I don’t think so.
Levis will go if he can.
If Levis can’t go, redshirt freshman Kaiya Sheron will likely make his second start, but the Bulldogs will also see four-star freshman Destin Wade, the running QB, who didn’t play last week.
Sheron threw two touchdown passes last week, but the second didn’t come until the Cats were down 24-7 with 2:49 left.
Most of the night the offense lacked consistency, and Kentucky generated just 299 yards.
Levis makes the team different, but the other great challenge will be running back Chris Rodriguez.
In his first game back after a four-game suspension he was good for a half against Ole Miss, but the Rebels contained him in the second half. He was better for the duration against South Carolina going for 126 yards on 22 carries.
He had 34 yards on eight carries in Starkville last year as the Bulldogs won 31-17.
State’s last road game didn’t go so well, a 31-16 loss at LSU.
They’ve played much better at home the last three weeks, which is kind of how college football goes.
Texas A&M was missing athletic wide receiver Ainias Smith, and Arkansas was without starting quarterback KJ Jefferson.
Neither of those players would have made up the gap against the Bulldogs who beat A&M by 18 and Arkansas at 23, but the games would have been closer.
It’s hard to find much fault with how the Bulldogs have played the last two weeks, but Arkansas receivers running free in the secondary was concerning.
If State plays like it did the last two weeks — sans the receivers running free that Arkansas had — it will not only win in Lexington but will create a lot of excitement — and hope — for a trip to Tuscaloosa the next week.
Prediction: MSU 35, Kentucky 24
The Beat Guys: DeRosa, MSU; Katz, Kentucky.
Elsewhere in college football
Last week: Parrish 6-3, Theo 6-3, Michael 6-3
Overall: Theo 43-9, Parrish 40-12, Michael 39-13
Penn State at Michigan
NC State at Syracuse
Clemson at Florida State
Alabama at Tennessee
Oklahoma State at TCU
LSU at Florida
USC at Utah
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.