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Beat Reporter’s Take: Five Question For’s Tom Green

In this week’s edition of Beat Reporter’s Take, Tom Green of joined us to talk Ole Miss-Auburn. Green covers the Tigers and provided some interesting insight on the state of this Auburn team that has had a tough couple of weeks. You can follow Tom on Twitter (@Tomas_Verde) and read his coverage here.

  1. It’s sounds like it has been a tumultuous couple of weeks for this Auburn team after back-to-back losses. What do you think the mental state of this team is and is the dissension among the admin and fan base with regards to Gus Malzahn as severe as it is perceived?

There’s always going to be some building disappointment when a team like Auburn — which entered the year with SEC championship and College Football Playoff aspirations — falls as flat as it has in recent weeks. Frustration builds, especially as the losses pile up, but to Auburn’s credit, the players have said all the right things publicly about sticking together, weathering the storm and trying to make the most of the remainder of the season. As for the administration, Auburn athletics director Allen Greene gave a very diplomatic response this week when asked about Malzahn, and while he didn’t exactly give him a vote of confidence, he didn’t throw the Tigers’ coach under the bus either. Malzahn knows what’s expected of him, and he and Greene meet every Monday to go over things and the state of the program, so both sides are cognizant of the other’s views. The fans, on the other hand, are displeased, to say the least. Many seem to be jumping ship—especially those who didn’t think Malzahn’s extension was a good idea to begin with.

2. The Auburn offense is struggling and seems like it has not run the football with much consistent success this season. What do you think the root cause of the offensive struggles are in general and also specifically the running game?

It all starts with that offensive line, which has been the biggest weakness of the offense and the root of all its struggles. The unit had to replace four starters from last year’s team, including an All-American in Braden Smith. While there’s some returning experience up front, the unit lacks depth — which is a result of multiple years of misses on the recruiting trail paired with some poor talent development in recent seasons — and just hasn’t been able to put together a cohesive performance in any game really this season. Auburn has talent in the backfield, but when the offensive line can’t execute the main concepts of this offense and create separation off the ball, you’re not going to have much success running the ball, particularly between the tackles.

3. The Ole Miss defense has not stopped anyone at all this year. Do you think facing this defense could be just what the doctor ordered for Auburn and how important do you think the start of this game is for the Tiger offense (and really the team in general) in terms of its psyche and confidence?

It could be a short-term remedy for the offense, but until this group can consistently execute for more than two or three drives at a time, I won’t be convinced. The issues on this offense are what they are at this point; Auburn isn’t going to magically remedy the offensive line overnight, and if those guys can’t execute up front, the offense is going to continue to stall. As for a fast start, that would undoubtedly be huge for the Tigers on the road — though they had a quick start on offense against Tennessee last week, and we know how that game played out.

4. Auburn is really talented and really good on defense. The Ole Miss offense can be explosive, but hasn’t been good against top tier defenses so far this year. Is there an area in particular area or matchup on defense the Tigers will have success with? Conversely, is there a matchup you think the Rebels could potentially exploit?

Auburn’s defense was very good through the first five games, but the last two games have seen the unit get exploited in a couple of areas. Two weeks ago, it was Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald gashing the Tigers on designed quarterback runs. Last week, it was Tennessee’s Jarrett Guarantano throwing for a career-high 328 yards, including 188 on 11-of-14 passing on third downs. It’ll be interesting to see how Auburn bounces back against Ole Miss’ Jordan Ta’amu, who is capable of beating a team with his arm and his legs. I can see Auburn having success against the run in general, but I think the Rebels’ receiving corps — even without D.K. Metcalf — could give the Tigers some issues, especially if the 50/50 balls go in Ole Miss’ favor.

5. I don’t know about you, but I am struggling to get any sort of feel for this game. How do you think it plays out and what’s your score prediction?

Yeah, this game seems hard to gauge just because it’s strength vs. strength (Auburn defense vs. Ole Miss offense) and weakness vs. weakness (Auburn offense vs. Ole Miss defense). I was personally surprised when Auburn opened as a slight road favorite last week, and while I can see the Tigers bouncing back to snap their two-game skid, I’m leaning toward the Rebels until Auburn can show me it has righted the ship. Give me Ole Miss, 24-20.

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