Auburn's Head on Chopping Block



by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

Be careful what you ask for...because becoming the #1 college football team in the country has apparently become a very difficult burden to bear.

You're already well aware of the Goliaths (Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma) that have fallen to Davids (South Carolina, Wisconsin, and Missouri) the past few weeks. What has to be said is that South Carolina, Wisconsin, and Missouri ARE PRETTY STRONG TEAMS TO BE CONSIDERED DAVIDS! The three 'underdogs' are all capable of winning their conferences this season...and could all be featured in high profile bowl games this January.

UCLA was a David against Oregon's Goliath. Almost anyone in the WAC is a David against Boise State's Goliath. The key to finding underdogs capable of pulling shockers is to determine how much talent is really there. You know the motivation is going to be there. Will Ole Miss this Saturday have enough talent to derail Auburn's bid for history? Let's take a closer look.

Last week we talked in depth about Auburn while previewing their big TV game with LSU. There's no reason to run through all of that again. And, let's remind you that Auburn was actually MORE impressive in that game than the final score made it sound. They had a monster yardage edge, and firmly established that they are a legitimately great team. Maybe not best in the nation. Maybe not even best in the loaded SEC West, because Alabama will have something to say about that. They belong in the BCS championship discussion until somebody knocks them off.

Ole Miss, can you knock them off?

Total Yardage: Ole Miss 243, Alabama 319
Rushing Yardage: Ole Miss 133, Alabama 100
Passing Stats: Ole Miss 18-40-1-110, Alabama 17-25-0-219
Turnovers: Ole Miss 1, Alabama 1
Third Downs: Ole Miss 42%, Alabama 33%
Vegas Line: Alabama by 20, total of 53
Comments: Not a poor result when you consider it was a road game...against a great team in a bounce back spot...and the Vegas spread was 20 points. Ole Miss out rushed Alabama in Tuscaloosa! They had big troubles moving the ball in the air though on the great Tide defense. And, frankly, they never really scared Alabama. The Tide seemed more demoralized off the loss to South Carolina than fired up for a bounce back. Ole Miss did a good job of hanging within the number. We'd have to call it a decent performance for the Rebels. You certainly couldn't rule out a potential upset of Auburn with this boxscore. Is it in the class of South Carolina, Wisconsin, and Missouri? Who's to say it isn't? This game was two weeks ago. Let's see what happened last week.

Total Yardage: Ole Miss 512, Arkansas 464
Rushing Yardage: Ole Miss 185, Arkansas 197
Passing Stats: Ole Miss 21-36-0-327, Arkansas 16-29-1-267
Turnovers: Ole Miss 2, Arkansas 2
Third Downs: Ole Miss 24%, Arkansas 27%
Vegas Line: Arkansas by 10, total of 56
Comments: The good news for Ole Miss is that this game was closer than the final score made it sound. Arkansas had a kick return TD to help pad their lead. The bad news is that the raw stats are warped a bit because Ole Miss had a huge edge in time of possession. One way to hang with Arkansas is to keep them off the field. Ole Miss did that, yet STILL allowed 464 yards and a ton of points. This probably should have been another decent road cover for the Rebels...and would have been if not for the special teams score. Still, you have to be concerned about a defense that allowed big plays to Arkansas...when they're about to run into a big play offense in Auburn. Ole Miss is definitely better now than they were during a very shaky start to the 2010 season back in September. That doesn't mean they're ready to beat a #1 team!

In Ole Miss's favor in our opinion:

*This is a home game rather than a road game...and they deserve credit for hanging tough on the road vs. top quality opposition.

*Auburn will be feeling the pressure of #1 for the first time ever within this coaching regime and player collection. You saw how that pressure messed up Oklahoma and Ohio State the past two weeks...programs who are used to the spotlight.

*Auburn had a very big game with LSU last week...much like Alabama had with Florida before visiting South Carolina. Auburn would have been physically drained from that even without the added drama of a #1 ranking.

*Auburn is playing its 9th game in nine weeks without a bye. The last three were very intense too...with a 37-34 nailbiter at Kentucky...a 65-43 shootout with Arkansas on national TV...and a 24-17 win over LSU on national TV. This is likely to be a TIRED team that has trouble playing at a peak level. Now, Ole Miss is tired too based on their last two weeks. But, fatigue has a way of being an equalizer. That favors the dog.

*Auburn has been relying on Cam Newton for a significant hunk of their offense. Rushing quarterbacks are more prone to fatigue games than passing quarterbacks are. This may be a down week for Newton.

All that sounds great. What about the other side of the coin?

Counting against Ole Miss in our opinion:

*They're just not that good! They're capable of playing well, but not automatic to play well. We wouldn't consider them the equal of South Carolina, Wisconsin, or Missouri right now...though they're having individual games where they're up in that league.

*The defense is prone to allowing big plays...and Auburn is good at busting long runs.

*This isn't a particularly scary home field any more. Jacksonville State (!!) and Vanderbilt (!) have won here already this year. Kentucky scored 35 points in a loss.

All things considered, we'll have to think about the OVER! We'll have two tired defenses...two offenses who don't mind playing in shootouts. Unless weather becomes an issue, we could see quite an up-and-down game.

We always try to preview the high profile college games for you every weekend, even if it turns out JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK won't have a play in that game. We think Auburn/Ole Miss is the most important of the day action. We'll be back with you Saturday morning to talk about Oregon/Southern Cal in the prime time ABC game. Auburn is #1 in the BCS rankings. Oregon is #1 in the wire service polls. Either is capable of getting stunned on the road this week. Either is capable of calming down BCS Chaos with a comfortable win.

Will we have major releases in either? You'll have to sign up to find out!

Seasonal packages and game day releases are always available online. Show up a few hours before kickoff to get your plays. Don't forget about our WEEKEND PASS program that gets you club releases from our BLUE RIBBON, TOUCHDOWN, and CLOSED CIRCUIT services for just $99.

We'll build our bankrolls tonight with West Virginia/Connecticut in the Big East on ESPN2...then really hit the board hard on Saturday with at least one GAME OF THE YEAR caliber selection. If you have any questions about packages or big play availability, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Other college games of interest for us Saturday:
Michigan State at Iowa
Missouri at Nebraska
Florida vs. Georgia in Jacksonville
Utah at Air Force
Tulsa at Notre Dame
Michigan at Penn State
Baylor at Texas
Louisville at Pittsburgh

Maybe the rocky ride for #1 teams continues this weekend. Maybe the headlines will come from elsewhere on the card. DON'T MAKE A MOVE UNTL YOU HEAR WHAT JIM HURLEY HAS TO SAY!

This article is part of the VSM MASTERS SERIES presented by and For more information on JIM HURLEY'S handicapping packages, call 1-800-323-4453.


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