AUBURN | Auburn’s 2017 football schedule includes two tough road games in September, three more in October and two big November rivalry games at home.
Today, we continue an early look at each opponent with a second-straight home game against an SEC West team.
WHO: Ole Miss (5-7 last season, 2-6 SEC West)
WHEN: Oct. 7
WHERE: Jordan-Hare Stadium (87,451)
WHAT’S NEW: Ole Miss has self-imposed a bowl ban this season and could face further sanctions from the NCAA as early as this fall. Head coach Hugh Freeze hired five new coaches for the 2017 season including Auburn secondary coach Wesley McGriff as the Rebels’ defensive coordinator and Sam Houston State’s Phil Longo as offensive coordinator. Freeze also hired California’s Jacob Peeler as wide receiver coach, LSU’s Bradley Dale Peveto as linebacker and special teams coach and Alabama’s Freddie Roach as defensive line coach.
WHO TO WATCH, OFFENSE: The No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the 2016 class, Shea Patterson stepped in for an injured Chad Kelly the final three games last fall completing 72-of-132 passes (54.8 percent) for 880 yards and six touchdowns with three interceptions. He also rushed for 169 yards.
WHO TO WATCH, DEFENSE: Defensive end Marquis Haynes returns for his senior season after compiling 36.5 tackles-for-loss and 24.5 sacks over the past three seasons. When healthy, Haynes is one of the most dangerous edge rushers in the country.
OUTLOOK: Patterson will work behind one of the most talented offensive lines in the SEC, which includes sophomore left tackle Greg Little, junior left guard Javon Patterson and junior right guard Jordan Sims. The o-line is not very deep, however, and can’t afford any major injuries. Patterson will also have an impressive group of receivers to throw to including A.J. Brown, Van Jefferson and D.K. Metcalf. The Rebels were 12th in the SEC in rushing offense last season but that could improve with the return of Jordan Wilkins (academics) and Eric Swinney (injury), who both missed all of last season.
The Landshark defense got carved up and used for bait last season, finishing last in the SEC in scoring, 13th in total and last in rushing. It has a chance to improve with the return of Haynes, Breeland Speaks and Beneto Jones on the defensive line. The Rebels should have a pretty good secondary led by safety Myles Hartsfield and cornerback Jaylon Jones.
Like Missouri and Mississippi State, Ole Miss is a team with a potentially explosive offense and a suspect defense that Auburn must face in the first half of the season. With two new coordinators and no chance for postseason play, it’s hard to know what to expect from this Rebel team but Auburn should have a pretty good idea after the first five weeks of the season.
AUBURN CONNECTION: Former Auburn graduate assistant Ishmael Aristide is a graduate assistant at Ole Miss. Wilkins is a former Auburn commit.