Nix, defense power No. 18 Auburn past No. 10 Ole Miss, 31-20

Michael Chang/Getty Images
0 Comments

AUBURN, Ala. – When Bo Nix got close to the end zone, he mostly found a way to reach it either running or passing in the first half.

Matt Corral, normally quite adept at that himself, and Mississippi couldn’t cash in on any chances to muster a comeback after that.

Nix passed for 276 yards and a touchdown and ran for two more scores and No. 18 Auburn’s defense made a number of big stops in a 31-20 victory over 10th-ranked Mississippi on Saturday night.

“It was a huge statement game,” Nix said. “Beating a Top 10 team at home, there’s just nothing like it.”

The Tigers (6-2, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) remained the top challenger to No. 3 Alabama in the Western Division with Nix winning a quarterback duel with the Heisman candidate Corral.

The Rebels (6-2, 3-2) had their three-game winning streak end after squandering four second-half scoring chances, three with failed fourth down passes inside the 20. Plus Jaylin Simpson intercepted a pass in the end zone – only Corral’s second this season – midway through the fourth.

“That’s points. They’re not going to take points on special teams,” Auburn coach Bryan Harsin said. “They’re going to go for it and we get the ball back. You kind of think of that as a turnover.

“Those were critical moments in the game that we were able to win.”

Nix completed 22 of 30 passes and ran for 30 yards. Tank Bigsby ran for 140 yards and a touchdown for the Tigers.

Auburn led 28-17 at halftime and both teams only managed a field goal after that.

“Bo made a lot of plays for them, especially early on,” Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said. “I thought our defense after struggling early played especially well, gave us a bunch of chances offensively to win.

“That’s four times in the red zone with no points. That’s going to be hard to win.”

Corral had his 19-game streak with a touchdown pass end with a 21-of-37, 289-yard performance. He did run for a score, returning after getting carted to the locker room with an injury to his left ankle, previously hurt against Tennessee.

“It was the same thing that happened in the Tennessee game,” Corral said. “I couldn’t feel my ankle. I heard a pop, but honest to God, I don’t know what it was. I couldn’t feel it for like five minutes.”

But, he added: “No excuses for not executing.”

Walk-on Jahcour Pearson caught seven passes for 135 yards for the Rebels, who have been short-handed at wide receiver. The Western Kentucky transfer came in with 30 yards this season. Top receiver Dontario Drummond sustained an undisclosed injury in the game and Jonathan Mingo and Braylon Sanders already hurt.

Ole Miss stayed alive late with an Auburn fumble across midfield. But the comeback bid ended on a fourth-and-3 incompletion from the 18 when the Rebels also were flagged for two penalties.

THE TAKEAWAY

Mississippi: A team that had attempted and converted more fourth down plays than anybody in FBS lost its mojo in key situations. In their two losses, including to Alabama, the Rebels are 3 of 9.

Auburn: Has beaten two straight ranked SEC West teams to remain in control of its own destiny in the division. Nix has been superb against both Arkansas and Ole Miss after getting benched against Georgia State.

ZAKOBY’S BIG GAME

Auburn linebacker Zakoby McClain had 14 tackles, 10 solo, and two sacks. The Tigers also got back defenders Owen Pappoe and TD Moultry after missing multiple games.

“Owen, he’s a captain and he just brings the energy,” Simpson said. “He’s the heartbeat of the defense and I’m glad to have him out there.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Tigers should jump a few spots in the rankings. The Rebels’ first visit to the Top 10 since the final poll in 2015 was short-lived.

UP NEXT

Mississippi hosts Liberty and former Rebels coach Hugh Freeze on Nov. 6.

Auburn visits No. 14 Texas A&M on Nov. 6.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

florida gators
Donald Page/Getty Images
0 Comments

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.