Week Two: Auburn at Mississippi State Preview and Prediction


Contention in the West is up for grabs between Auburn and Mississippi State.

Who: Auburn Tigers at Mississippi State Bulldogs

When: 11:00 a.m. CT (ESPN)

Where: Starkville, Mississippi

All-Time Series Record: Auburn leads 60-23-2

Most Recent Meeting: Auburn 41, Mississippi State 34 (2011)

After a disappointing Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game loss to the #12 Clemson Tigers, Auburn must move on and face a tough Mississippi State team in Starkville. There is a lot on the line for both teams. Auburn can’t afford to start the season 0-2 or else 2012 could become a worse-than-expected season on the Plains. Dan Mullen, on the other hand, has yet to win a game against an SEC West team not named Ole Miss. A win here could see the Bulldogs gain enough momentum to enter the Alabama game undefeated.

Of course, there is the whole NCAA investigation surrounding Mississippi State and illegal benefits, and it doesn’t look good. There also isn’t much love lost between these two programs following the 2010 Cam Newton debacle, where Cam spurned MSU for Auburn, leading Auburn to a title while Mississippi State went 9-4, and MSU’s boosters became involved, and… well, yeah, we remember.

What are the keys to the game for the Tigers and Bulldogs?

Key for Auburn: For the second week in a row, DEFENSE. The defense showed some signs of improvement at some points in the Clemson game, but there were still horrible missed tackles, blown coverages, etc. Clemson rolled up 26 points, 28 first downs, 320 rushing yards and 528 yards of total offense. This week, they face an offense that doesn’t feature the likes of Tahj Boyd, Andre Ellington and DeAndre “Nuke” Hopkins. If the defensive line can continue to give a great pass rush and the defense as a whole improves their techniques such as tackling and covering receivers, then expect a complete turnaround in this game by the Tigers defense. Brian VanGorder and his mustache of justice won’t stand being torched two weeks in a row.

Key for Mississippi State: Stop the Auburn running attack. The Bulldogs gave up 109 rushing yards on 21 carries to Jackson State (5.2 yards per run), which isn’t bad, but it could be better considering it’s against an FCS opponent. Auburn ran for 180 yards against Clemson, but that number doesn’t accurately show how effective the run game was against the Tigers from South Carolina. Tre Mason ran for over 100 yards. Onterio McCalebb ran for almost 100 yards. Kiehl Frazier could see an expanded role as a runner in this game as well. If Mississippi State lets Auburn run wild in this game, they’re in trouble.

Auburn player to watch: Tre Mason. After an impressive 107-yard game against Clemson, Mason will be given more touches against Mississippi State this Saturday. With a powerful offensive line to run behind, keep an eye out on Tre Mason. He may have another big game. Of course, there are several offensive guys you could watch for here. Onterio McCalebb could have a big game. Kiehl Frazier may chunk the ball around, trying to redeem himself after a somewhat shaky passing performance against Clemson.

Mississippi State player to watch: Jonathan Banks. While there are some great cornerbacks in the SEC, Banks might be the best in the league. He’s second in Mississippi State history in interceptions. When Mississippi State’s defense has needed a big play in the passing game in recent years, Banks has been the guy to make the play. Kiehl Frazier will be looking to rebound from an 11-27 effort against Clemson, so Frazier may be looking to go downfield in this game. Be sure to watch out for how Banks handles, presumably, Emory Blake.

Auburn vs. Mississippi State edges:

Quarterback: Auburn

Running back: Auburn

Wide receiver: Auburn

Tight end: Auburn

Offensive line: Auburn

Defensive line: Auburn

Linebackers: Mississippi State

Cornerbacks: Mississippi State

Safeties: Auburn

Kicker: Auburn

Punter: Auburn

Coaching: Auburn

Interesting Facts: Dan Mullen is 0-3 vs. Auburn as Mississippi State’s head coach. He’s a combined 0-12 against Auburn, Alabama, LSU and Arkansas…. Auburn has won the past five games in Starkville and is 12-4-1 all-time at Mississippi State…. Auburn has won 10 of the last 11 games against Mississippi State. The only loss is a 19-14 defeat in 2007…. In Auburn’s last five trips to Mississippi State, the Tigers have won by a score of 139-44 (average score is about Auburn 28, Mississippi State 9)…. four of the past five games against Mississippi State have been decided by seven points or fewer…. This is the first time since 2009 that neither Auburn nor Mississippi State come into this game as a Top 25 team…. Mississippi State is an early 3-point favorite in this game, the second straight year Mullen has been favored over Chizik (excuse me for a second while I go laugh hysterically).

Prediction: This should be another tight game for the Auburn Tigers. I think Kiehl Frazier will be much more efficient in this game, and the running game will have another good day. The story of this game will be the defense, however. I see Brian VanGorder’s squad playing a very good game, tackling well in what could be stormy weather. It will be another close call, but in the end, the Tigers will be too much for the Bulldogs on both sides of the ball, winning a defensive battle. Dan Mullen will fall to 0-4 against Auburn and 0-13 against major SEC West teams. Ouch.

Auburn Tigers 21, Mississippi State Bulldogs 13

Other SEC predictions:

Missouri 27, #7 Georgia 24

#3 LSU 38, Washington 20

#24 Florida 24, Texas A&M 16

#9 South Carolina 41, East Carolina 17

#1 Alabama 37, Western Kentucky 10

#8 Arkansas 45, UL-Monroe 23

Vanderbilt 37, Northwestern 34

Tennessee 49, Georgia State 13

Ole Miss 35, UTEP 31

Kentucky 20, Kent State 13

Predictions for other notable games:

#2 USC 55, Syracuse 21

#16 Nebraska 52, UCLA 34

#18 Oklahoma State 41, Arizona 34

#21 Kansas State 17, Miami 9

#22 Notre Dame 36, Purdue 28

#13 Wisconsin 33, Oregon State 30 (OT)

Upset Special: Air Force 28, #19 Michigan 24

This Saturday’s Auburn-MSU game has been called the “biggest game Auburn’s played post-Cam Newton” by many, including Kevin Scarbinsky. These people would be right. Auburn needs this game extremely bad. It should be another good SEC affair in Davis-Wade Stadium.