Auburn football: 3 keys to victory in regular season finale vs. Mississippi State

Auburn football at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. Auburn defeated Mississippi State 56-23.Jc Auburnmissstate 78
Auburn football at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. Auburn defeated Mississippi State 56-23.Jc Auburnmissstate 78 /

Auburn football has one last test before bowl season: a regular-season finale at Davis Wade Stadium. The War Eagle breaks down the Tigers’ 3 keys to victory vs. Mississippi State.

What a regular season it has been for Auburn football. That isn’t a positive statement, by the way.

In terms of an up and down season, the 2020 campaign has been mostly down for Gus Malzahn’s squad. While a 48-11 victory over the defending national champions usually registers as a season-defining win, the LSU Tigers have served as somewhat of a punching bag to the SEC–even losing to Auburn’s Saturday opponent, Mississippi State.

Now granted, the (lesser) Tigers from LSU easily handled the same South Carolina squad that somehow upset Auburn football Week 9…but Mississippi State occupies the lowest rung in the SEC West standings.

So a loss to them today would be…let’s not even focus on that. Here are 3 keys to victory the War Eagle is choosing to focus on instead:

1. Find a way to move the ball through the air

While Auburn football’s strength lies in the ground game–having Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby and Shaun Shivers will do that for your program–the Bulldogs are a stout defensive unit, particularly against the rush. They rank 22nd in the entire FBS in rushing defense.

Bo Nix hasn’t tried to win games with his arm this season, and that has been for the better. He has 10 touchdowns to seven interceptions, though he has completed a little above 60 percent of his passes.

He may need to step up, or rather arm up, and will the Tigers to victory through the air.

2. Halt Will Rogers’ momentum

Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers had himself a game last week in a 31-24 loss to the Ole Miss Rebels. He threw for 440 yards and scored three touchdowns, raising his total for the season to six.

That brought his touchdown total higher than his interception total, and because of Rogers’ dominant performance in the Egg Bowl, his completion percentage is now up to an impressive 73 percent.

Rogers isn’t nearly as dominant as he looked last week, and the Auburn defense has the chance to bring him back down to earth on Saturday.

3. Overpower the Bulldog offensive line

Mississippi State’s major weakness on offense is their pass protection, with the team giving up nearly three sacks per contest. Auburn is one of the few defenses that has produced multiple touchdowns this season, so if they can force pressure on Rogers consistently, perhaps they can up that total.

Given the freshman signal caller’s perpensity to make mistakes under pressure–Rogers gave up two interceptions against the middling Kentucky Wildcats defense–Kevin Steele has a good chance to control the game with a suffocating defensive strategy at Davis Wade Stadium tonight.

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