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A spirit that is not afraid

Players to watch, keys to victory against Ole Miss

Auburn players pray in the end zone before a game against Georgia in Sanford Stadium on Oct. 8, 2022.
Auburn players pray in the end zone before a game against Georgia in Sanford Stadium on Oct. 8, 2022.

On Saturday, Auburn will travel to Oxford, Mississippi, to fight for its fourth win of the season  against the Ole Miss Rebels coming off consecutive losses in conference play. 

Additionally, Auburn (3-3) is hoping for their first win against a ranked opponent against No. 9, undefeated Ole Miss. 

In contrast, Ole Miss is fighting to keep its spot in the top 10 and redeem themselves after a slow start against Vanderbilt last week. The Rebels have been working up the ranks since the beginning of the season, starting at No. 21 in the pre-season rankings.  Now, with a 6-0 record, they broke the top 10 and have proven to be a team that finishes strong.

"Well, they were pretty good last year. They are better (this year)," said head coach Bryan Harsin. "Again, they have made improvements. You can see the guys are playing with confidence. They've got momentum, and I think that impacts really the whole team."

Regarding the coaching, Bryan Harsin is in desperate need of a win to provide some momentum to his team and to cool down the hot seat he appears to be in, especially after the back-to-back SEC losses and last-minute overtime win versus Missouri that proceeded the win against San Jose State. 

After beating the Spartans to get off to a 2-0 start, the Tigers have not been able to put up over 17 points in a game.

Since joining the Rebels, head coach Lane Kiffin has not yet beaten the Tigers. Last year, No. 10 Ole Miss fell to a No. 18 Auburn team, despite having numerous opportunities to take the lead.

“Huge game coming up – a team that has beat us twice and has really good players,” Kiffin said.

Last Saturday, nothing seemed to be working for the Tiger offense; Auburn totaled 110 rushing yards and 165 in passing, leading to its solo touchdown in the fourth quarter. 

Running back Tank Bigsby ran only for 19 yards on 10 attempts, averaging 1.9 yards, in contrast to his 45 yards and 12 carries against LSU.

Players to watch


Jarquez Hunter (RB)

In last week’s game, he was Auburn's leading receiver with three receptions for 73 yards and Auburn’s solo touchdown. Additionally, he was the second leading rusher, behind quarterback Robby Ashford. He has consistently shown he is tough to bring down running the ball. His hands are pretty sure too, making him a dual threat and hard to cover.

Oscar Chapman (P)

With the Tigers struggling to move the ball, Chapman has punted 28 times this season, averaging 41.9-yards a punt to put the opposing offense deep in their own territory on a consistent basis. Currently, he is ranked third in the SEC in punting and has been a help to the defense and Auburn in winning the field position battle. 

Robby Ashford (QB)

Ashford led the team in rushing and passing yards last week and has shown he can be an offensive threat through both. He can scramble once the pocket collapses and is quick to run for a gain. Ole Miss has the number one tackling defense in the SEC, so the threat of Ashford being a running quarterback will be crucial for positive yardage plays. 

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Moreover, if he connects with the receivers down the field, it will open more opportunities for him to run, since the defense will be spread out.


Jonathan Mingo (WR)

Mingo leads the SEC in receiving yards, and last week against Vanderbilt, he had the most receiving yards in a single game by any college football player this season. He racked up nine receptions for 247 yards. Once he is open he is a reliable target, so if the Tiger secondary gets caught sleeping, Mingo will make explosive plays for long gains.

AJ Finley (S)

For the season, the Mobile, AL. native is tied for the most tackles on Ole Miss (45) and is ranked seventh overall in the SEC for tackles. He maintains tight coverage and has one interception against Kentucky. He also has a forced fumble and a fumble recovery this season. He might be crucial against a turnover-prone Auburn team.

Running backs 

Also from Alabama, freshman starting running back Quinshon Judkins is second overall in the SEC for rushing yards with a total of 581 yards this season, averaging 6.1 yards per attempt and 96.8 yards per game. He has been explosive since his collegiate debut against Troy, when he had 87 yards and a two-yard TD off the bench. 

Behind Judkins is junior running back from Houston, Texas, Zach Evans. Against Vanderbilt, he led the team in rushing with 80 yards on 11 carries and a TD. Evans gives the Rebels a strong, experienced backup, and he has proven to be a playmaker in big games.

Keys to Victory 


For Auburn to win, it will need to give Ashford more time in the pocket. Ashford is a young QB who needs the time to create plays and go over every option, and that will be a concern against Ole Miss, who's third in the SEC in sacks (16).

With that being said, the Tigers need to develop a pass game. Auburn has proven to have a strong run game with two reliable running backs and a mobile QB, but Ole Miss’s defense will defend the run game. Running more passing plays will cause the defense to spread out and then the running backs can find holes and get into the secondary. 

“I think (we need to run) the ball, but you have got to be able to balance it out to by throwing it," Harsin said. "You don't want to get one-dimensional. You still have got to throw it and still need to be able to hit some easy throws. You have got to be able to hit some big plays."

Ole Miss

Ole Miss needs to play a defensive game and win time of possession. If Auburn establishes a run game, then it could be a threat. 

Additionally, the defense needs to overwhelm Ashford and the Auburn QBs. When the pocket collapses, Ashford is forced to throw out of bounds or attempt to run, and that is when he is prone to fumble. Ashford has six fumbles in three SEC starts thus far. 

Offensively, the Rebels need to utilize Mingo and burn Auburn on long passes. The senior can outrun the cornerbacks, and it will be difficult for the Tigers to slow down QB Jaxson Dart and the Rebel passing game. 

Auburn has shown they are more a first-half team this year, jumping out to early lead but only scoring 10 second-half points in its three SEC games this season, and if Ole Miss keeps the intensity up and moves fast the whole game, that trend might continue in week seven.

The game will kick off at 11 A.M. from Oxford, Miss. on Saturday and will be broadcast on ESPN.

"They (Ole Miss) have a lot of things going on. They're feeling it right now. They’re a very good opponent," Harsin said. "It is going to be a challenge for us as we get ready for these guys to go on the road and again handle the noise, handle the travel. We haven’t handled all those things.”

Amanda Davidson | Sports Writer

Amanda Davidson is a sophomore at Auburn, majoring in journalism and minoring in marketing and studio arts. From LaGrange, Ga., she started with The Plainsman in fall 2022.

Twitter: @Manny1Davidson

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