Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium at Auburn
Line: Auburn by 6
Radio: 1070 AM, 100.5 FM
1. Bulldogs-turned-Tigers: Auburn’s coaching staff features four assistants who were once on Mississippi State’s staff. Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson was in the same role at MSU from 2004-07, while co-defensive coordinator Charlie Harbison was in charge of the Bulldogs’ secondary in 2007-08. J.B. Grimes, who coaches Auburn’s offensive line, did the same at MSU for five years (2004-08) and cornerbacks coach Melvin Smith had two different stints in Starkville, Miss. He worked with the Bulldogs’ wide receivers 1995-2001 and returned in 2006 to take over their cornerbacks before departing for Auburn at the end of last season.
2. 2-0 beginning bodes well for Tigers: Auburn’s victory over Arkansas State last week helped Auburn start 2-0 for the 71st time in program history. In the 70 previous seasons when the Tigers began 2-0, they ended with a winning record 59 times. In the other 11 instances, they had a losing record six times and finished at .500 five times.
3. Mullen piling up wins at MSU: Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen’s 51-7 victory against Alcorn State last week was historic in more ways than one. Not only did he reach 30 wins faster than any coach in the school’s modern era (covering 53 games), but he moved into fourth on the Bulldogs’ all-time victories list, breaking a tie with W.D. Chadwick, who led the Bulldogs from 1909-13. Mullen now trails only Jackie Sherrill (75 wins), Allyn McKeen (65 wins) and Emory Bellard (37 wins) in MSU’s coaching ranks.
4. Dak’s the way it’s done: With Tyler Russell sitting out to continue healing from a concussion he suffered in the season opener against Oklahoma State, Dak Prescott made his first start at quarterback for the Bulldogs last week. The sophomore completed 12 of 19 attempts for 174 yards and two touchdowns. Prescott also had four carries for 20 yards, which included the game’s first touchdown, an 11-yard score in the opening period.
Auburn running backs vs. Mississippi State front seven: The Tigers enter averaging 298 yards a game on the ground, second best in the SEC behind Arkansas’ 312 a contest. Auburn’s strength lies in its depth. Between Tre Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant, few teams in the country have as many capable ballcarriers. (That’s not even counting quarterback Nick Marshall, an elusive and dynamic open field runner in his own right.) Mississippi State had polar opposite performances against the run in its first two games this fall. In the season opener, Oklahoma State tallied 286 yards on the ground out of its option-based “diamond” formation, which caught the Bulldogs off-guard. Last week against Alcorn State, Mississippi State rebounded, allowing the Braves to gain just 28 yards. Tackles Chris Jones and Kaleb Eulls will be expected to lead the push up front, while all-everything linebacker Benardrick McKinney will try to track down the running backs who escape the backfield.
If the Bulldogs stack the box, Marshall will have to take to the air far more than he did in the season’s first two games. On the other side, Auburn’s defense has had problems getting opponents off the field in a timely manner. The question is, can the Bulldogs take advantage of it when they get in the red zone? Arkansas State couldn’t do so last week, settling for three field goals. If Dee Ford returns, it’s a major addition to the Tigers’ pass rush, which has only four sacks through two games. If Auburn can get pressure on Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell and knock him to the ground a few times, it will greatly enhance its chances at winning. Auburn will rush for fewer yards than it did in its two previous outings. However, the final result will be the same. ... Auburn 30, Mississippi State 21