Into the Bulldog Den
Auburn should expect a noisy night in Starkville
(Photo by Acid Reign)
War Eagle, everybody! Saturday evening, the Auburn Tigers will embark on their first true road contest of the season at Mississippi State. Both teams come into this game as offensively damaged goods, and Auburn is a 4-point favorite. The Auburn offense was not impressive against either Arkansas or Southern Mississippi, despite 34–3 and 24–13 wins, respectively. The situation is even more dire for the MSU Bulldogs, who have only scored 13 total points in the last 2 weeks against Kentucky and Florida.
Auburn fans are quite familiar with the sort of woes that the Bulldogs are facing. We Tiger fans have seen shiny new offenses brought into Auburn, and then watched those offenses tank. It seems that lots of guys think they can bring 3- or 4-wide receiver formations into the SEC West and then try to run the ball. The only way those formations work in the SEC is if the quarterback can distribute the ball to the receivers successfully. If the receivers are not a threat, the defenses will put more defenders in the box than the offense can block. It’s as simple as that. MSU has had great difficulty threatening SEC defenses thus far.
Auburn has a significant offensive challenge in this game, as well. Mississippi State will field one of the best defensive fronts Auburn has seen this season, and the Tigers are ailing up front on offense. Both starting tackles had to leave the game due to knee injuries last week. Word is that the guys were at practice this week, but we have no idea if they will be ready Saturday evening. This coaching staff keeps injury information close to the vest, and it is unlikely that the true status of either player will be revealed before the Auburn offense takes the field.
Auburn should have a marked special teams advantage in this one as MSU has struggled both kicking and punting and returns have been nothing special for them. Auburn has shown explosive returns, good coverage and the ability to block punts. Auburn is struggling with place kicking, but the field goal misses have mostly been beyond 50 yards. Mississippi State kicker Jace Christmann has missed both of his attempts from beyond 40 yards.
I expect both teams to try to utilize some quick passes to try and back very tough defenses off the line of scrimmage. Auburn has been very stubborn in the past about running the ball up the middle on most 1st downs and then facing 2nd and 9. Mississippi State has tried to throw more than Auburn has. The last couple of weeks, it has not worked so well as quarterback Nick Fitzgerald has hit just 27 of 58 pass attempts, for 243 yards with no touchdowns and 1 interception. That works out to just 4.2 yards per pass. On the ground, Mississippi State managed just 56 yards against Kentucky and 104 against Florida. The Bulldogs are averaging only 2.7 yards per carry.
Weather should not be a factor in this game as high pressure is dominating the southeastern United States right now. Fans attending can expect mostly clear skies, warm temperatures and no significant chance of rain. It should be in the mid 80’s at kickoff, which will be 6:30 PM Central Time. The game will be televised on ESPN-2. We’ll have our usual open thread up for this game and a play-by-play at game time. I will be operating remotely off my laptop again this week.
A look at other SEC games this weekend after the jump!
In early games this week, Alabama is at Arkansas, and Missouri is at South Carolina. I don’t expect Alabama to have much trouble with last-place Arkansas, but the matchup in Columbia, South Carolina holds more interest. It will be interesting to see how Missouri stacks up against SEC competition. This is pretty much a must-win game for South Carolina, after having an easy game against Marshall cancelled followed by losses to Georgia and Kentucky. To get to 6 wins and bowl eligibility, Kentucky needs 4 more wins. USC’s remaining schedule is Mizzou, TAMU, Tennessee, at Ole Miss, at Florida, Chattanooga, and at Clemson. I figure that UT and Chattanooga will be wins, and Clemson and Florida will be losses. It’s going to be tough for the Gamecocks to take 2 wins out of Mizzou, TAMU and Ole Miss.
The CBS headliner game this week is LSU at Florida. I expect a low-scoring scrum of a game here, but I don’t think Florida is ready to win a slugfest of this magnitude, yet. The biggest thing about LSU this year is that they do not beat themselves. They know how to go into a hostile environment and play to win.
At 3:00 PM, Ole Miss hosts Louisiana Monroe. I figure Ole Miss will cruise in this game.
At 6:00 PM Kentucky visits Texas A&M. Kentucky has lined up in every game this season and just has been bigger and stronger than the other team. I think this will be the case again this week, although the Aggies have been surprisingly good at times.
At 6:30 PM Auburn is at Mississippi State, and Georgia hosts Vanderbilt. I don’t expect Vanderbilt to give Georgia much of a game while the Auburn/State tilt could be a low-scoring battle. Mississippi State is already pretty much out of the SEC West race, and Auburn could join them with a loss in Starkville.
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