Auburn Football 12

Auburn offensive lineman Patrick Miller (51) blocks Kyle Bolstad during practice on Tuesday, April 1, 2014, in Auburn, Ala.

The Auburn offensive line has been a group that has found success this season — but many times the personnel has shifted from week to week.

The most recent switch in personnel has come due to the injury to junior Patrick Miller, who hasn’t played since Louisiana Tech due to a lower leg injury.

However, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn insists that if he needed Miller could jump back in to the rotation.

“Well, the good thing is that we're getting a little healthier, and that means we have more depth,” Malzahn said. “The good thing is that we got the win last week, and then Pat is getting healthier. You’re always thinking about depth this time of year, too.”

Miller warmed up, but did not play, against Mississippi State. Last week against South Carolina, he was listed as the backup right tackle to sophomore Avery Young. This week, he and Young are both listed as possible starters against Ole Miss.

“He's started games, and we have a lot of confidence in him,” Malzahn said. “We know he can play at any time. And, matter of fact, if he needs to start, we feel like he could start. We feel really good about it.”

Though he has not seen action since Sept. 27, Malzahn insists that his starting spot has not been taken away.

“He hasn't lost the job yet,” the second-year coach said. “It was because of injury. He still could play this week. He's handled everything well, and he's a big part of what he's doing.

Dr. Bo in the house

While the defense of Ole Miss is the focal points of the No. 7 (No. 4 CFP) team in the country, No. 4 (No. 3 CFP) Auburn can’t sleep on the Rebels’ senior quarterback, Bo Wallace.

“This year I've seen a lot of consistency (from him),” Auburn defensive back Robensen Therezie said. “Despite the first game he had, I've seen a lot of good decision making, but we still think he's the same guy as last year. Just they probably have more good receivers that can run around and makes him more comfortable to throw the ball. That's about it."

The game Therezie was referring to was Ole Miss’ win over Boise State, when Wallace threw three interceptions — a single-game high for him this season. But even in that game, he was 25-of-36 for 387 yards and four touchdowns.

In all, “Dr. Bo” has thrown for 2,075 yards on 151-of-242 passes and 18 touchdowns this season. He averages 259.4 yards per game, ranking him fourth in the Southeastern Conference in passing yards per contest.

“He's a veteran guy,” Malzahn said. “I think he's protected the football better, he's made good decisions. He's a lot better runner than people think, and he's the leader of that team."

Against Auburn last season, Wallace threw for 336 yards on a 25-of-48 passing night. The Tigers were able to pick him off twice and sack him six times.

Coming down to the defense

When playing a team like Ole Miss, the possibility is very real that it could come down to a battle of the defenses. Just last week, the Rebels lost their first game of the season — a 10-7 setback in which the defense allowed its fewest yards of the season (313 total).

Auburn has only had one game this year that has resembled a defensive struggle, but in that game, the Tigers got the win on the road, 20-14 against Kansas State.

In that game, Auburn held the Wildcats to 285 yards of total offense. Auburn also forced Kansas State into three turnovers.

Though that game and Saturday’s against the Rebels might not end up in a defensive tug-of-war, it’s surely possible, which Malzahn is ready for.

“You coach long enough and you experience a lot of different things,” Malzahn said. “You just have to get a feel for the game and once you get a feel for the game you just do the best you can to give your players the best chance of winning and being successful. They are a very good defense.”

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