Right off the bat, let me clarify that I don't think Houston Nutt is dishonest or a person not to be trusted.
I'm just wondering if he can be trusted to coach his team to the levels—or lack thereof—that they have exhibited in this season so far or at least prior to the game with Arkansas.
I believe that the Nutt program had promise at the beginning of the season but fell prey to some disciplinary issues early on.
But, the two shockers that followed the start of the season were amazing, even with the players lost to suspension.
Ole Miss should have beaten BYU and Vanderbilt by all rights, but the Rebel balloon just seemed to burst, and the team couldn't get a running game going in either; their offense as a whole was basically non-existent.
Against BYU they had 208 yards and with Vandy they had 234.
Things didn't get any better in the Georgia game, as the Rebels actually put up less offense than against BYU at 183 yards, which was the second lowest of the season thus far for them. Their lowest came against Alabama at 141 total yards.
Defensively, they're allowing an average 442 yards per game at this point in the season, although that average is probably skewed due to the 615 yards allowed against Alabama.
Their performance has only shown some glimmer of hope in the last game against Arkansas. Basically, the whole season is in need of an injection. It sounds like a time for some wizardry.
So, against Auburn, can Houston Nutt be trusted to be his usual, cagey and crafty offensive mind, all the while holding it together on defense, or can he be trusted to coach as he has the majority of the season thus far?
But, I hesitate to lay the entire season at the head coach's doorstep. You can coach and prepare just as you have in the past, but sometimes your players just don't execute.
Looking back at the two Ole Miss wins, it is interesting to note that Southern Illinois and Fresno State were not the kind of opponents that an SEC team typically loses to anyway, so a win was expected.
But, the Rebels still put up fewer offensive yards than either one of those opponents.
Fresno State put up 444 yards, while Ole Miss was close behind at 430, but So. Illinois outdid the Rebs by more than 100 yards, 420-to-315. This is a curious stat.
One thing that has been plaguing Ole Miss is turnovers.
There is only one game where they went without one, and that was in the Fresno State game, on the road I might add here.
This is an area the Auburn Tigers have been sorely deficient in as well, more so than the Rebels.
But, if Auburn can stay away from that statistic in their offense, and concentrate on some forced fumbles or interceptions on defense, that certainly will go a long way toward tipping the scale in the Tigers' favor.
But then there's the Arkansas game, wherein Ole Miss really lived up to what they should have been doing all season, at least in the first half.
Against a superior offense, the Rebels allowed 438 yards of total offense against the Hogs, but managed to muster 370 yards of their own.
They led the Hogs by 17 up until midway through the second quarter. That's when Arkansas woke up and put up 29 points; Ole Miss could only muster seven more points, but it may have launched the Rebels to believe again, and you could feel some momentum from them, even in the face of defeat.
Chizik specifically called out quarterback Randall Mackey and running back Jeff Scott as dynamic weapons for Ole Miss. In other words, they're talented and fast.
This win means a lot to both teams.
For Auburn, it would take their record to 6-3, and 4-2 in the SEC. It's a pivotal game on the season for the Tigers, for going to a bowl and for coming out with a respectable showing in the conference.
But for Ole Miss, it's a continuation of the momentum they got from a good showing against Arkansas, and salvaging a season with at least some respect on the other side, and momentum for the remainder of their season.
So, can Houston Nutt be trusted?
If you're Coach Chizik, you can trust Houston Nutt to be the same great head football coach he's always been, and prepare yourself for that crafty, cagey, brilliant Nutt.
The rest will be up to the teams, and the Auburn Tigers shouldn't take Ole Miss for granted, that's for sure.