Mississippi State Preview

The last time Auburn strolled into Starkville, it was 2008, Tony Franklin ran the offense, and Auburn left with 3 points and the win. As we all remember, the final score was 3-2, with Auburn even scoring the two points for the Bulldogs with a holding penalty in the endzone.

This time around, the two offenses look to be the obvious strengths. Auburn racked up 52 on Arkansas State, while Mississippi State scored 49 on Memphis. Both teams run some form of the spread. Gus Malzahn’s is a little more wacky than Mullen’s Meyer-spread, but both utilize 1-on-1 match-ups, zone-reads, and a quick style of play.

Mississippi State used a two-quarterback system against Memphis and plans to do the same against Auburn. Junior Chris Relf started the game, throwing a touchdown in the first quarter, but freshman Tyler Russell replaced him to throw for 256 yards and four touchdown passes. The final offensive stats were 569 total yards (197 rush/372 pass). The opponent was Memphis, but it definitely looks like Dan Mullen has his offense clicking in Starkville.

Cam Newton has brought even more excitement to an already heart-pumping offense. We’ve see the highlight reels, most of us, well some of us were there. The guy is a beast. There isn’t a linebacker in the country that wants to hit him. His mixture of speed, allusiveness, and his arm give him the ability to be one of the best quarterbacks in the nation.

As good as he is though, he couldn’t do most of what he does without the time that the offensive line gave him against Arkansas State. The veteran line should be able to hold off any D-line, especially State’s, to give Newton enough time to go through his reads, and if need be, run up the middle for a 15-yard gain.

The Auburn running back lineup, according to the coaches, will stay the same, but I’m beginning to believe that the starting spot may become a revolving door. It certainly didn’t mean too much on opening day, with Fannin only running the ball three times as the “starter”. My ideal lineup would be for Dyer to be the inside thunder, McCalebb to be the outside lightning, and Fannin to be the do-it-all guy who focuses on catching the ball out of the backfield. I don’t think anyone would disagree that this would be the best and most obvious situation for the running back rotation as long as all the pieces stay healthy and perform well.

The defense is obviously the major question for Auburn, but as I said in my Arkansas State Review, it’s probably not as bad as it seems. They gave up a lot of passing yards to the Red Wolves, but that was due to soft coverage. That can be changed with one call. Plus, not many teams are going to throw the ball 45+ times like ASU did. In terms of the defensive line, holding any team to eight more rushing yards than attempts (35 rushes, 42 yards) is always good, too.

Mississippi State runs more of a conventional offense in terms of the spread, which Auburn runs on their first day of practice before Malzahn starts getting all crazy. The Auburn defense should handle the standard spread a little bit better than the dink-and-dunk of Arkansas State and even Northwestern.

The Mississippi State defense, according to Kyle Veazey, should be one of the strengths of the team. The defensive line may be better, but again, the Auburn offensive line may prove to be one of the best in the country. Auburn rushed for 390 yards last year against the Bulldogs in what Chizik called a “vanilla” game plan. I don’t see the Tigers holding anything back in a tough Thursday night, SEC road game. The Mississippi State defense may have improved, but the Auburn offense has improved at least as much if not more.

Earlier this week, like most Auburn fans, I was very worried about this game. Not many away teams win on the ESPN Thursday night game, especially when the home team is the usual or obvious underdog. Dan Mullen has brought a new level of excitement to Starkville, and it with almost no negatives last week, they feel unbeatable.

For a few reasons, my worries went away a day or so ago. Who cares about cowbells? It’s a 50-something-thousand seat stadium with an open endzone. Chizik took his first Auburn team into 100,000+ seat Neyland Stadium and won. Plus, Auburn might be young, but that’s okay. A year ago, most of these guys were playing in high school stadiums that look just like Davis Wade Stadium.

Sorry, I was trying to keep this all analytical and based on stats, but I’m tired of everyone wishfully thinking that Mississippi State is on the rise and Auburn will be tremendously fortunate to get out of Starkville with a win. Every win is huge, and I’m not saying Auburn can walk in and play around and beat the Bulldogs, but Auburn should have no real trouble once the game settles down and the State fans’ arms get tired.

Mississippi State will get their 10-14 “pumped” points. Things will look bleak in the 1st quarter for the Tigers, but talent and Cam Newton will take over in the 2nd quarter, and put the ‘dogs to bed in the 2nd half.

Auburn 38, Mississippi State 20