Auburn’s last visit wasn’t so great.
(Photo by Acid Reign.)
War Eagle, everybody! It’s time now for another Auburn opponent preview. On October 11th, Auburn continues its SEC schedule with a tough road trip to play Mississippi State in Starkville. I’ve seen some projections that both teams will be undefeated coming into this game, but I’m not so sure I’m buying that. The Bulldogs play LSU in Baton Rouge before playing Auburn, and under head coach Dan Mullen, they haven’t beaten a Top-25 opponent since taking out Florida in 2010. Mullen’s record against Top-25 opponents is just 2-22.
The Bulldogs open with home cupcakes Southern Mississippi and UAB, before traveling to Mobile to play South Alabama. Then, State is put to the test when they visit LSU in Baton Rouge on September 20th. A week to recuperate follows, then the Bulldogs host Texas A&M. Some folks think that without Johnny Manziel, the Aggies will be down. I’d caution such folk to look at Aggie coach Kevin Sumlin’s record. He’s lost good quarterbacks before, and keeps right on cranking out big numbers on offense. After Texas A&M, the Bulldogs host Auburn. The Tigers will have faced Arkansas and San Jose State at home, Kansas State on the road, Louisiana Tech for homecoming, then LSU. The concern for Auburn is the road trip to Starkville, right after a physical game with LSU.
Every preseason look at MSU focuses first on returning junior quarterback Dak Prescott. Some believe he’s the best returning signal-caller in the league. Prescott battled injury last season, but led some big wins that got the Bulldogs to a bowl game. Prescott’s rushing numbers were second only to Auburn’s Nick Marshall, but only finished 11th in the SEC in passer rating. There’s talent returning among the offensive skill players, but it’s important to recognize that MSU returns only 6 starters on offense, and they’ve had questions on the line this past spring. One of the more dangerous problems was one with bad snaps that cropped up. Shoring up the center position will be a prime focus in fall camp. The Bulldogs must also replace leading running back Ladarius Perkins.
On defense, the Bulldogs return 19 of 22 players on the two-deep depth chart, and most folks expect the Bulldogs to be tough on defense. Experience is a plus, and these guys last season held Auburn to 24, Alabama to 20 and Ole Miss to just 10 points. On the other hand, they allowed 59 to LSU, 51 to Texas A&M, and 34 to South Carolina, so it’s a mixed bag. Mississippi State held Auburn to just 120 rushing yards last season, and Tre Mason had just 34 yards on the ground. Look for the Bulldogs to again try to make Nick Marshall beat them with his arm.
Special teams are somewhat of a concern for the Bulldogs. They’ve had snap problems on kicks this spring, also. Last season, a trio of guys managed just 10 of 21 field goals. Mississippi State was just average on kickoffs and punts, and got very little out of the return game, even with the talented, speedy Jameon Lewis fielding both punts and kickoffs. Coverage, at least, was solid. Much like Auburn, MSU special teams are a work in progress.
Unit matchups, after the jump!