Auburn running back Tre Mason has rushed for 338 yards through the Tigers' first four games of 2013. That's 64 more yards than he totaled in Auburn's first four games of 2012, when Mason ultimately rushed for just over 1000 yards. He will add to his 2013 total significantly Saturday night when the Tigers run all over the Ole Miss Rebels.
Auburn's running-game advantage over Ole Miss is easy to see when we look at the performances of the Tigers' rushing offense and the Rebels' rushing defense in the first third of the season.
In the Rebels' three games against FBS opponents they have given up, on average, 168 yards rushing per game. How does this performance look when we take into account who the Rebels have played? In addition to SE Missouri State (FCS), Ole Miss has played Vanderbilt, Texas and Alabama. Those three teams together are averaging 170.8 yards rushing per game. So, the Rebels have done about as well—but not significantly better—than everyone else at stopping their opponents' rushing attacks.
The comparable analysis of Auburn's rushing offense against their opponents' rushing defenses yields considerably different results.
The Tigers are rushing for 232.3 yards per game, while their opponents—Washington State, Arkansas State, Mississippi State and LSU—are giving up, on average, only 157.9 yards rushing per game. So, the Tigers are notably outperforming the competition relative to their opponents' success in stopping the run.
The Tigers' best rushing performance against an SEC opponent was in their most recent game—two weeks ago—against LSU. While Les Miles' Tigers are giving up only 148.2 rushing yards per game, the Auburn Tigers were able to rush for 213 yards at Baton Rouge.
The latest performance by the Ole Miss rushing defense also inspires confidence—or, at least, it should inspire confidence in Auburn fans. The Rebels gave up 254 yards rushing to Alabama, who is averaging only 162.5 yards rushing per game (70th-best in the country).
The Auburn rushing attack will look much the same against Ole Miss as it did at Baton Rouge—Tre Mason will carry the bulk of the load, while Corey Grant and Cameron Artis-Payne will perform well as situational backs to complement Mason's effectiveness.
So long as Auburn avoids the mistakes that cost them the game against LSU, running all over the
Rebels will produce an important conference win for the Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday night.
Josh Dowdy is a contributor to Bleacher Report and the author of Orange Is Our Color: The Tuberville Years through Navy-tinted Glasses.