No. 13 Ole Miss has healthy respect for Auburn

The oddsmakers say No. 13 Ole Miss is a 6 1/2-point favorite Saturday night at Auburn for their Southeastern Conference matchup.

Rebels coach Lane Kiffin is wary.

“I think we’ve, as a program, won once there in 20 years,” he said. “New challenge to go try win on the road there. This year, like a lot of years, they’re a different team at home.”

The numbers back Kiffin up. The Tigers (3-3, 0-3) are 2-1 in Jordan-Hare Stadium this year, with the loss a 27-20 squeaker to No. 1 Georgia, which required a late touchdown to escape with a win.

Conversely, Auburn is 1-2 on the road, with the only win a 14-10 nailbiter at Cal. Last week, the Tigers were routed 48-18 at then-No. 22 LSU, falling behind 17-0 in the first quarter and allowing 563 total yards for the game.

Auburn came within 3 rushing yards by LSU’s Logan Diggs of permitting a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver. LSU gained an average of more than 8 1/2 yards every snap in administering its second-most lopsided beatdown of Auburn since the series began 122 years ago.

Auburn coach Hugh Freeze said a slow start really affected the game’s texture.

“We looked like zombies a bit on the sideline after that, and it kind of snowballed,” he said. “I didn’t think we showed up with the right energy and drive and competitive spirit. And that lies in my lap. And that’s disappointing.”

The Tigers’ problems went beyond defense in Baton Rouge. They managed just 18 points and 293 total yards against an LSU defense that has been torched for big numbers by Florida State, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Missouri. Auburn has only managed to top 100 passing yards against a Power 5 opponent once.

But Freeze said not to expect major changes on offense and also said that both Payton Thorne and Robby Ashford would get action at quarterback on Saturday.

“We consider everything and everybody,” Freeze said.

The Rebels (5-1, 2-1) have no such problems under center, where Jaxson Dart is completing 64.1 percent of his passes through six games for 1,638 yards with 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He’s also on pace to rush for more than 600 yards.

Dart’s contributions to a 27-20 win two weeks ago over Arkansas were modest — 153 yards, one touchdown and 33 rushing yards — but he committed no turnovers. That was crucial because the defense came up with two big interceptions that helped secure a win.

But Dart might have to play minus his leading receiver this week. Jordan Watkins, who has 36 catches for 536 yards in six games, was injured in practice during the bye week last week. The specific injury has not been disclosed, and Kiffin didn’t have much to say about it on Monday.

“We anticipate him playing,” the coach said. “That’s all I got.”

Auburn holds a 35-12 lead in the all-time series, including a 17-3 mark at home. Ole Miss took a 48-34 win last year in Oxford.

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