MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS (3-1)
at AUBURN TIGERS (3-1)
Jordan-Hare Stadium – Auburn, AL
Kickoff: Saturday, 6:00 p.m. ET
Line: Auburn -9.0, Total: 50.5
#24 Mississippi State will be hoping to get back into the win column with a road upset over #13 Auburn on Saturday.
Mississippi State is coming off of an extremely disappointing performance against Georgia, as the team lost 31-3 as a 2.5-point underdog in that one. The Bulldogs were coming off of an impressive victory over LSU the week before, when they won 37-7 as 8.5-point home underdogs. We are still not quite sure which performance best represents this Mississippi State team, but it has become pretty clear that LSU is a bit overrated at this point in the season. That means that we’ll find out a lot about the Bulldogs this weekend, as it is yet another chance for them to prove they can beat an elite team. The Tigers went into Missouri last week and came away with a 51-14 victory as 18.5-point road favorites. They have now won two straight since losing 14-6 in Clemson in their second game of the year. One of those victories was, however, rather unimpressive, as they only beat Mercer 24-10 as 41-point home favorites on Sep. 16. They’ll need to be a lot better on Saturday if they are going to beat the Bulldogs. It’s worth noting that Mississippi State won 17-9 when the teams last met at Auburn. That game was on Sep. 26, 2015, and the teams have obviously experienced a lot of turnover since then. One trend that stands out when looking at this one is the fact that teams that have allowed 17 points or fewer in two straight games (Auburn) are 35-10 ATS over the past 10 seasons when facing an opponent that scored six or fewer points in its previous game.
The Bulldogs are going to need to turn things around quickly in order to get back into the win column this weekend. They’re facing an Auburn team that some would consider every bit as good as Georgia, so the offense needs to step things up and find a way to put points on the board. Scoring shouldn’t really be a problem for Mississippi State, as the team has one of the best quarterbacks in college football on its side. QB Nick Fitzgerald (626 yards, 7 TD, 3 INT) is not only a solid passer, but he is also an unbelievable runner. He has rushed for 287 yards and five touchdowns to start the season, and he’ll definitely use his legs as much as he can against Auburn here. Fitzgerald will, however, need to throw the ball better on Saturday than he did last week. He was just 14-for-29 for 83 yards against Georgia and he also threw two interceptions. If he can’t be efficient as a passer then his team has no chance to win this game. Defensively, the Bulldogs must be prepared for a tough game in the trenches. The Tigers are going to want to establish the run early, but Mississippi State can ensure that this game is kept somewhat close by limiting Auburn’s first-down productivity here.
Auburn was definitely hoping to be sitting here at 4-0, but the team was not able to come away with a win against Clemson early in the year. The Tigers now have little room for error if they want to somehow make it to the College Football Playoff, which is almost definitely the goal for this team. That means that Auburn can’t afford to lose a game like this one, so expect them to show up ready to go here. The defense is going to be counted on in a big way on Saturday, as the Tigers are not going to win if they can’t stop the run in this game. The Bulldogs can really dominate a game on the ground because of Fitzgerald, but Auburn knows that and will be planning accordingly. On offense, the Tigers will need a solid performance from QB Jarrett Stidham (846 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT) here. Stidham was one of the biggest names to transfer in the past few years, but he has been a tad disappointing for Auburn thus far. He threw for just 79 yards in the game against Clemson in the second week of the year, and he only threw for 218 yards in a blowout victory over Missouri last week. While Auburn likes to lean on guys like RB Kamryn Pettway (202 yards, 3 TD) and Kerryon Johnson (184 yards, 6 TD), Guz Malzahn was definitely hoping for the passing attack to take off with Stidham. Perhaps they’ll add some wrinkles in this one, as they’ll eventually need the sophomore to take the next step.