Auburn vs Mississippi State

Auburn's JaTarvious Whitlow runs with the ball during the Tigers' win over Mississippi State earlier this season in Auburn. (Greg McWilliams/For the O-A News)

Whitlow and Williams together: Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn noted this week that leading rusher JaTarvious Whitlow still isn’t at 100-percent and will be limited Saturday against Ole Miss, but he will play, just as he did against LSU after a speedy recovery from his injury in the Florida game. With him limited last Saturday, freshman running back D.J. Williams put together a breakout performance against LSU. As Whitlow grows closer to full strength, Auburn could have a balancing act on its hands in trying to use them both to the best of their abilities — and fans could have something exciting to look forward to in seeing the two of them work in tandem. Williams was hurt for much of the early season when Whitlow carried most of the weight, and returned to strength just before Whitlow got hurt.

Back at home again: Auburn’s been a different team at home this season — and the Ole Miss game starts Auburn’s chance heading down the stretch of the season to prove that it simply didn’t play like itself in frustrating road losses at The Swamp and in Death Valley, especially on offense. For the rest of the regular season, Auburn is in Jordan-Hare Stadium, where the Tigers roar their loudest and where Auburn is at its most comfortable. After the Ole Miss, Auburn hits a bye before facing Georgia, then Samford and then Alabama. Two years ago in 2017, the last time Auburn’s two greatest rivals came to Jordan-Hare, Auburn looked just about unbeatable in wins over then-No. 1 Georgia and then-No. 1 Alabama. Auburn’s heard all the talk about The Swamp and Death Valley rattling the Tigers’ offense and proving to be some of the most difficult places to play in college football. Now the fans in Jordan-Hare have their turn, starting against Ole Miss.​

With championship hopes dashed, does AU respond?: The team’s second loss of the season ends any realistic hopes of a trip to the SEC Championship game this season and with that any College Football Playoff hopes. The Tigers now face the unenviable spot of playing for pride and playing the spoiler. A big win over Ole Miss would be a good statement for Bo Nix if he can find a rhythm in front of his home fans and get some momentum with Georgia coming to town in two weeks and the Iron Bowl two weeks after that. Beating Alabama and denying them a chance at the College Football Playoff would be a nice way to end the regular season and begin the buildup to 2020, but first things first, beating Ole Miss starts that ball rolling.

Bo Nix vs. the reeling Rebels’ secondary: Auburn quarterback Bo Nix only completed 45.2 percent of his passes last week against LSU, but luckily the true freshman has a chance to bounce back in a big way. Ole Miss has been abysmal in stopping the pass in 2019, giving up nearly 285 yards through the air per game to rank among the worst 10 teams at the FBS level. If there was ever a game that set Nix up well to wow with his arm, it would be a home game against Ole Miss.

Auburn pass rush returns to form: The Auburn defense did a solid job of getting after Joe Burrow last week – even with several should-have-been holding penalties not called – and ended up with three sacks. Still, the no-calls and Burrow’s big day through the air left the Tigers wanting more. Auburn ranks just outside the top 25 in the country as far as sacks per game, and they’re facing an Ole Miss team that has given up a little over two per game. The Rebels gave up three in their loss to Texas A&M on Oct. 19.

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