OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi and Auburn are both winless this season in the Southeastern Conference.
Yet there's an unmistakable feeling that one program is finally clawing its way toward respectability while the other is sliding further into the league's bottom tier.
The Rebels (3-3, 0-2 SEC) are the ones with optimism. They'll host Auburn (1-4, 0-3) on Saturday afternoon in a game that could provide a much-needed confidence boost to the winner heading into the second half of the season.
Ole Miss is coming off a 30-27 loss to Texas A&M last week that was equal parts encouraging and demoralizing. The Rebels led for almost the entire game before blowing a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. It was the program's 16th straight SEC loss.
"The next step is not only getting to the fourth quarter in a highly contested game, but finding a way to win it," first-year Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said.
The Rebels will get another chance against Auburn, which is coming off a 24-7 loss to Arkansas and hasn't been able to muster much offense the entire season.
Freeze admitted earlier in the week that it's hard to figure out Auburn's offensive identity because the Tigers have had so many issues — especially at quarterback.
But a program that hasn't won an SEC game in more than two years isn't in a good position to take anyone lightly. Freeze said Auburn is still capable of playing good football.
"They've got a very talented defensive line that will give you problems — it keeps them in most games," Freeze said. "If their offense ever starts clicking, they're going to be a very good team in this conference regardless of what their record is. We all know that from being around this conference. Every team has enough players to scare you. They are certainly no exception."