Things are going great for Lane Kiffin here at Ole Miss as the Rebels are undefeated and ranked in the top 10. The same cannot be said for Bryan Harsin over at Auburn, in what many are saying is likely to be his last game at the helm.
Our friends over at College and Magnolia were kind enough to answer some of our serious and not so serious questions as the Rebs take on the Tigers tomorrow at 11 am in Vaught Hemingway Stadium.
1. Rank the following candidates to be the next head coach for Auburn: Urban Meyer, Matt Rhule, Hugh Freeze and give a wild card candidate.
Man, if you’re going to make me rank those three, then I have to say...
1. Wild Card Candidate (essentially the field): Jeff Grimes, OC at Baylor. Former OL coach at Auburn, recruited the 2013 AU offensive line and the 2019 LSU offensive line, has been pretty solid with his offense at BYU and now Baylor, and he knows what he’s dealing with at Auburn.
2. Matt Rhule, doesn’t have enormous personal baggage.
3. Hugh Freeze, only because I think some of our money folks are stupid enough to want him, and he does his own pub.
4. Urban Meyer, would be too expensive, PR would be awful and we’re not going to help ourselves in that area leading up to a hire anyway.
2. Auburn wins if.....
Auburn wins if Ole Miss literally coughs up the ball 5 times at their own 30. Our offense has scored a single second-half touchdown since like last year when playing P5 opponents, and we get markedly worse as the game goes on. Our defense will get tired of carrying the whole team, and we’ll have a couple of turnovers ourselves minimum. Actually, make that Ole Miss fumbling 7 times on their side of the field to make up for our turnovers.
3. What is the general feeling around the Auburn fanbase about how this season is going?
BAD. I’m sure you could find some fans who are like “awwwww, give Harsin the time he needs”, but they’re probably Boomers who got a pension working at the widget factory in 1968 and never held a different job. Harsin has never endeared himself to the Auburn people, but his height was probably beating Ole Miss last year, because Auburn still controlled its own destiny at that time. People don’t really trust the powers that be to make the right decision since basically everything has gone wrong from potentially firing Harsin in February, to waiting until the week of kickoff to get rid of Allen Greene. The staff isn’t recruiting right now because they know they’re going to get fired very soon, and we’re all just waiting around for that Sunday morning flash from Pete Thamel that says it’s finally happened.
Thank the heavens for Bruce Pearl and gymnastics recruiting.
4. Where has Auburn Jesus been this season when he’s needed now more than ever?
Auburn Jesus works in mysterious ways. He’s giving us clear signs to fire this guy, and much like many of the folks in the Bible, our people aren’t heeding those signs. We’ve seen many more pressing times for AJ though. Everyone is pretty much viewing this year as a punt due to the Potato Pals, and we’re hoping to save our good Auburn Jesus mojo for March.
5. Assuming TJ Finley doesn’t return, tell us more about Ashford and what to expect when he’s under center.
He’s extremely talented physically, but he doesn’t have some of the key components to be a top-tier SEC quarterback yet. He fastballs everything and his accuracy is suspect (he was 13-38 against Georgia). He’s inherited Bo Nix’s best trait of bailing out even before the protection breaks down because he’s so skittish after playing behind our line. However, he can run the ball very well, and he’s got a surprisingly good deep ball. We’re just not putting him in any sort of a position to succeed with the offensive scheme, and that’s a failure on the head coach, offensive coordinator, and everyone around him.
6. What is the most encouraging unit on the team and where is the biggest struggle happening?
Most encouraging unit is our defensive line. Derick Hall, Colby Wooden, Jayson Jones, Marcus Harris, Marcus Bragg, Eku Leota (when he was healthy)... those guys deserve to have an offense on the other side not making them play from behind and for so long. Hall and Wooden will likely be early round draft picks, and they’ve been good for a couple of years now. We knew that they’d be a solid unit coming into the year.
The biggest struggle is opposite them. Our offensive line is abysmal. I don’t know if you saw some of the clips from the Georgia game, but it wasn’t even getting beaten or out-talented. Our linemen just weren’t even engaging with the UGA defenders. They were just falling down, letting free rushers come through, it was bad. The offensive line play is the main culprit on why we’ve been so bad, and while it’s on Gus and his lack of recruiting from 2017-2020, Harsin has had plenty of time and opportunity with the transfer portal to fix it and he’s done nothing. Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter should be one of the top tailback duos in the league, but they can’t do anything back there. For example, Tank had 62 rushing yards after contact against Missouri, and 44 rushing yards total. What the hell, man.
7. Do the Tigers have some crazy Iron Bowl upset in them this year?
No, and honestly I don’t want us to do that unless we still fired Harsin. Best case scenario is that we can this dude after Lane puts up a 50-burger, and then interim coach and beloved alum Zac Etheridge leads us to the upset of the century in Tuscaloosa. Ain’t happening, though, we’ll probably lose to WKU.
8. Is there anything Harsin can do to save his job beyond this season?
If it was possible, he needs to blow out Ole Miss for starters, then win out, including a win over Bama in Tuscaloosa. I don’t think he’s getting the opportunity, though, and that win or lose this weekend, he’s going to get fired. We have the bye week coming up on the 22nd, and that’s the perfect time to get him out and let the interim figure things out.