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Four Downs: Auburn

In this week’s edition of Four Downs, The Daily Mississippian football beat writers Bennett Hipp and Matt Sigler, sports editor David Collier and managing editor Austin Miller answer four questions regarding the week’s matchup.

 
1. How does Ole Miss respond after a heartbreaking loss a week ago?
 
Bennett Hipp (@bennetthipp): I think Ole Miss will respond very well. The attitude this week around the team has portrayed a group that has moved on from the loss and is eager to get that elusive Southeastern Conference win. I’m expecting Ole Miss to play well.
 
Matt Sigler (@SigNewton_2): I think Ole Miss will respond well. This is a hungry team who really wants to get a conference win under their belts, and I see the Rebels coming out with a great effort and passion this week.
 
David Collier (@DavidLCollier): Since the beginning of the season, the Ole Miss coaches have said to not let the same game beat them twice. I think you’ll see a determined Rebel team come out on Saturday looking to take that next step in the rebuilding process with a conference win. The attitudes appear to be good throughout the team, so there shouldn’t be any lulls. 
 
Austin Miller (@austinkmiller): The coaches and players have been saying all the right things this week, and I think Ole Miss takes the next step in the process and snap its 16-game SEC losing streak on Saturday. There were a lot of positives to take away from the Texas A&M loss, and it looks like Ole Miss is playing with a lot of confidence.
 
2. Does Vince Sanders and Ja-Mes Logan’s expanded role in the offense the past two games result in a big day for Donte Moncrief?
 
Hipp: I think Moncrief has a good game, but I don’t know how much Sanders and Logan will have to do with it. One of Auburn’s top corners, Chris Davis, is questionable due to an injury. If he can’t go, it’ll make the task of covering Moncrief even tougher for the Tigers. Potentially getting Korvic Neat back in the slot to open up the middle of the field could provide just as much help in propelling Moncrief to a big game.
 
Sigler: I think Moncrief will have a big day regardless. He is a top-notch receiver, and despite being keyed on by defenses, he has been able to make plays down the stretch for Ole Miss. Sanders and Logan stepping up is definitely a huge help for him as well since they cannot be forgotten about.
 
Collier: For this Ole Miss offense to be as effective as it can be, Sanders and Logan have to continue to be productive. Moncrief will get extra attention no matter how well anyone else is playing, but having other players step up certainly couldn’t hurt. If the Rebels can continue to run the ball effectively, Moncrief will have plenty of success when Hugh Freeze decides to air it out.
 
Miller: Between Jeff Scott growing his role as an every-down running back, the return of Korvic Neat in the slot and the emergence of Sanders and Logan, the Ole Miss offense has become a lot more balanced, and it’s by design. The offense looks for mismatches, and if Auburn does not devote double coverage or a safety over the top to Moncrief’s side, he can have a big day against the Auburn defense.
 
3. How does the Ole Miss defense react to the different looks they will see from the Auburn offense?
 
Hipp: The defense should react well because Auburn has struggled to move the ball no matter what offensive style it has been in so far. Auburn offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler spoke this week about wanting the Tigers to get back to running the football and using play-action to open up the passing game. Knowing that, expect Ole Miss to fill the box, try to stop the run early and force either Clint Moseley or Kiehl Frazier to beat them through the air.
 
Sigler: I think it will be a challenge early on and adjustments will have to be made during the game. However, I think the defense responds well. The strength of the defense has been against the running game so far this season, so I think the big question mark will be whether or not they can stop the pass.
 
Collier: Much like in weeks past, the Ole Miss defense will give up a couple of big plays, but the Auburn offense has too many issues to do much damage. This is an opportunity for the Rebel defense to really gain some confidence with a dominant performance against an SEC opponent. 
 
Miller: Auburn has been woefully inconsistent on offense, whether it’s Kiehl Frazier or Clint Moseley at quarterback, so I look for Auburn to try and establish the run to take pressure off the quarterback. Ole Miss will load up to stop the run, and if it gets a lead, turn the dogs loose and get after the quarterback to take advantage of a shaky offensive line that gave up eight sacks against Arkansas this past week.
 
4. Does Ole Miss end its 16-game SEC losing streak on Saturday?
 
Hipp: Yes. While Auburn has some talent on both sides of the ball, it’s a team that hasn’t played good defense and has been downright awful offensively. Looking at their season so far, it’s easy to say they should be 0-5 heading into this game. It’s a matchup of two programs headed in drastically different directions. Ole Miss still has a ways to go but is improving and is hungry for its first Southeastern Conference win since 2010.
 
On the other hand, Auburn is still playing hard for Gene Chizik, but how long that continues to happen is anyone’s guess. There are just too many things pointing in Ole Miss’ direction to pick anyone other than the Rebels in Saturday’s game.
 
Sigler: I believe they do. This is a completely different team, and I believe they get over the hump this weekend and get the win.
 
Collier: I think Ole Miss wins the game, and if they come to play and eliminate mistakes, this could be a game in which the Rebels take out their frustrations from the last two seasons on their way to their first conference win in two years. 
 
Miller: Yes. Ole Miss and Auburn are two programs headed in two different directions. Ole Miss is playing with a lot of confidence, despite back-to-back losses, while it looks like Auburn quit on the season this past week. Yes, Auburn might rally around Gene Chizik to save his job, but to me, it looks like that ship sank against Arkansas.