#2 Auburn at #3 Mississippi State Preview and Predictions

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Oct 4, 2014; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers receiver Sammie Coats (18) avoids the tackle of LSU Tigers linebacker Kendell Beckwith (52) during the first half at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn’s Keys to Victory

1. The passing game must be effective. Mississippi State has been one of the best teams in college football this year and have earned their ranking and respect. One major weakness of the Bulldogs, however, is their secondary. Mississippi State’s defense is ranked 121st in the FBS against the pass, allowing 328 yards per game, which is not good, especially considering the teams they’ve played besides explosive Texas A&M are Southern Miss, UAB, South Alabama and LSU. Nick Marshall threw for a career-high 334 yards against the Bulldogs a year ago. Marshall’s passing is much improved this year, and he has an elite corp of wide receivers in Duke Williams, Sammie Coates, Ricardo Louis, Melvin Ray, Quan Bray, CJ Uzomah and Marcus Davis, among others. Mississippi State has a stout front seven (98 rushing yards allowed per game), so Auburn must take advantage of MSU’s secondary.

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2. Don’t start slowly. The game’s in Starkville, so the cowbells will be deafening. The hype around this game is huge. The Bulldogs will be energetic early. A slow start on offense or defense or both could be damning for the Tigers. Auburn started slowly against Kansas State in the first road game, failing to reach the end zone for most of the first half and scoring 10 points through three quarters. The Tigers did win the game, but Mississippi State is a better opponent than Kansas State, and they’ve shown they can jump on an opponent. The Bulldogs have won two consecutive games against then-top 10 opponents and capitalized on slow starts by their opponents, leading then-#8 LSU and #6 Texas A&M at halftime by a combined score of 45-13. Auburn can’t afford to start slowly.

3. Stop Dak Prescott from running. This is obviously easier said than done. Last season, Dak Prescott ran 22 times for 133 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Tigers. Of course, that was early in the season, and this isn’t last year’s Auburn defense. However, this isn’t last year’s Mississippi State, either. Dak Prescott has matured into an elite player and he has plenty of toys on offense to work with. The good news is that the Tigers have faced several dual-threat quarterbacks this year, notably Kansas State’s Jake Waters (who Auburn held to -7 rushing yards). Dak Prescott is a different animal, though. Auburn’s defense has their work cut out for them.