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Staff Picks - #7 Auburn vs Mississippi State

The Tigers look to polish up at home before a huge road trip!

NCAA Football: Advocare Classic-Auburn vs Oregon Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn’s 4-0, with a chance for another big win ahead of a huge road trip. Take the next two, and all bets are off for how good this season could be. First, however, we need to beat the Bulldogs. Too bad it’s at home and Ryan Sterritt doesn’t get to take his favorite SEC road trip to Starkville.

#7 Auburn (-10.5) vs Mississippi State (O/U 47.5)

SP+ would tell you this will be about a 6-7 point game, but that’s taking into account the State offense before Tommy Stevens went down. While the State offense isn’t inept with new QB Garrett Shrader, they are much more dependent on being able to run down your throats, something nobody has really done on Auburn this season. Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson have been as good as advertised, and with Tyrone Truesdell breaking out in a big way, this defensive line is monstrous against the run. If Moorhead leans into trying to establish the run with Shrader and SEC leading rusher Kylin Hill, it will be a long day against the Auburn front seven. On the flip side, if the CLANGA offense gets cute and tries to beat Auburn by throwing the ball, they’ll have to focus on winning 50/50 balls to Osirus Mitchell (6’5”, 220 lb). Shrader isn’t ever going to be confused with Kellen Mond in hitting those tight windows on intermediate routes, so I expect the Auburn secondary to win that battle.

So what does the Auburn offense need to do to win this one? I can see both offenses trying to keep the ball on the ground, so there probably won’t be a ton of overall possessions in the game. That means Bo needs to keep playing turnover-free football. The State defensive line is ranked 88th in stuff rate and 89th in sack rate, so hopefully we’ll see another performance from the offensive line similar to last weeks - not perfect by any means, but good enough that I wasn’t complaining about it.

Boobee puts up another hundred yards and a score. Nix hits at least one deep ball. JHS celebrates the best basketball team Auburn has ever produced. It’s a party. 34-14 Tigers.

-Ryan Sterritt

Auburn enters what outsiders might call a “trap game”, wedged firmly between top-10 road matchups. The notion that this would be a “trap game” didn’t really occur to me this week, though a win did feel like a foregone conclusion. Then Gus Malzahn’s Tuesday press conference happened. If there was ever a presser to listen to, it was Tuesday as Gus laid out how hyper-focused our team is, and absolutely should be after getting embarrassed in Starkville last season. And after it was over I was ready to suit up myself to kick State’s ass.

For the 5th straight week, a win or loss will be dictated by Auburn. We’re the better overall team here, with State rebuilding their defensive line and having a bit of a quarterback issue due to injury/quality of play. State’s biggest area of advantage is in the matchup of running backs, as Kylin Hill is the best back in the SEC that no one seems to be talking much about. He’s capable of punishing this defense.

Keys to victory:

Make sure defensive alignments are correct early in this game and trust your linebackers. Alignment was one of the primary reasons we got embarrassed last year in Starkville. Another was having a middle linebacker who didn’t have the lateral movement of his backup. Well now that backup is the starter, and is showing we can actually improve in the middle with a quickness that’s going to be needed in this game.


Rush for 150 yards. It sure would be nice if a vast majority of those yards came from our running backs between the tackles so I could feel a little better about the ground game outside of a big Schwartz play. It’s going to have to get better if we’re going to get to November with a chance.

For the first third of the season, it’s been ok that Bo Nix has played like a freshman. For the second third of the season we need Bo to play like a sophomore. Getting timing down with receivers this week needs to show on Saturday. We need to show that this team is getting better through the air. No better time than in the comfort of your own home at night. Find the open man, Bo. And then hit that target.

Tempting as it may be to blitz early and rattle a quarterback, trust your line to hurry throws and get to the quarterback. Let those linebackers play in space and force them off their script quickly.

I’m confident in an Auburn victory. This team embarrassed us a year ago, and we remember it. It’s time for a group of Bulldogs to enter Jordan-Hare Stadium on a Saturday night and be reminded of why losing to them is considered an embarrassment. Auburn 38 Mississippi State 16

-Josh Black

It’s a big weekend for Auburn, the Final Four basketball team is being honored, and Auburn Basketball is hosting the 3rd Ranked Recruit in America. Sorry my excitement for basketball got me carried away, back to football.

Last week was huge for Auburn and while it’s easy to look ahead to Auburn’s first trip to the Swamp in 12 years next Saturday, it’s quite evident there is none of that from the Auburn players and coaching staff. I went to the game in Starkville last year. And the nicest thing I can say about that game was.... It was bad. Really really bad.

Auburn has a little bit of payback to dish out this week and with Mississippi State still figuring out their QB situation, I look for Auburn’s defense to rise to the occasion. Auburn’s offense looked better last week at A&M and look for Bo Nix to hit a deep ball or two as he starts getting more comfortable. It’s the last home game until November and I think Auburn will take care of business and move to 5-0 on the season. Auburn 34 Mississippi State 14.

-Will McLaughlin

Big time win last Saturday. Home crowd under the lights Saturday night. Cowbells coming to town. The talking heads on the tube might say something about a hangover game. They might say something about a quarterback who hasn’t quite put it all together yet. They might say something about a dangerous Mississippi State team. But those talking heads aren’t paying attention to the right things. Auburn got embarrassed in 2018 by a Mississippi State team that wasn’t nearly as good as Auburn made them look. I don’t think that sat well with Gus Malzahn.

The key to the game will be slowing down the State rushing attack. Kylin Hill is one of the SEC’s best running backs. If Auburn can force passing situations early, the defensive line will punish whichever quarterback ends up playing. Derrick Brown is having himself a season so far. I wouldn’t be surprised with another multi-sack, multi-TFL performance from the future first round draft pick.

On the flip side, Auburn must rely on more than just big plays to its star receivers. Whitlow, Shivers, and Co. need to have another successful outing. The more Auburn carries for 8 yards on first down, the more comfortable our freshman quarterback will get running the offense.

Final note: I’m not sure when exactly the basketball team is getting honored, but I’d wager Auburn gets a big play right after it happens. That place is going to be juiced up. Auburn 35, Mississippi State 13.

-Josh Dub

Some might think I’m too confident in thinking Auburn is gonna wax Mississippi State, but I have not even begun to barn. We have a really good football team. We can’t get preoccupied on “can this team beat Georgia and Alabama?” Because we can’t beat them until November anyway. We can only beat the team we play THIS WEEK and for the last for weeks, Auburn has done just that. Auburn has won and covered. Now, Auburn looks at the first potential revenge tour victim. The Tigers can’t play Tennessee this year in order to avenge the most embarrassing loss of 2018, but they do play State. Auburn is going to grind the offensive line of the bulldogs into dust by the middle of the second quarter. This one will not be close at halftime you guys. Tigers 45 Clangs 18.

-Son of Crow

I think Auburn might have a pretty special team this year. This group is far from perfect and MUST get better if they wanna have a shot at some magic in November but so far this season, they have risen to every challenge. Mississippi State last season is the only time I can remember Kevin Steele being out schemed as Auburn’s defensive coordinator. There have been tough losses before & games where the opposing offenses had more success than you like to see but often it’s either because the opponent literally has more talent or they make some absolutely insane plays on 3rd & long. Rushing for 300+ yards using some of the same concepts Gus Malzahn has demolished defenses in the past with a QB incapable of completing a downfield pass was something entirely different.

But that’s honestly why I feel good about this game as the week has gone on. Some talking heads might call this a “trap game” but I don’t think the players see it as so. The defense especially wants redemption.

State had the best defense in the nation last year but gone are the leaders of that group (Jeffery Simmons, Montez Sweat & Jonathan Abrahm) plus State must sit two of their best defensive players (Lee Autry & Willie Gay) for 4 games this season due to a tutor scandal. It’s no guarantee either play this week. The Bulldog defense also has a tackling problem especially in open space. They have gone from a defense that provides some of the most pressure on QBs to one of the least havoc creating defense in the SEC. They do, however, force turnovers & get off the field on 3rd down.

Offensively, I think chances are good Auburn sees both QBs. When Tommy Stevens was healthy he gave the Bulldogs a legitimate passing threat and as a result SP+ ranked this offense #1 after the first 2 weeks. But he’s dealt with a multitude of upper body injuries resulting in the debut of freshman Garrett Shrader. Shrader is more in the Nick Fitzgerald mold where he’s not necessarily an elite passer but is a big bodied runner. He rushed 125 yards on 11 carries last week against Kentucky. Moorehead seemed optimistic that Stevens might be back this week and I doubt he wants Shrader’s first road start to be a night game in Jordan-Hare. Either way, staff must prepare for both. But the leader of this offense is Kylin Hill who leads the SEC in rushing but is also #2 in yards per carry. He’s not just getting yards because he gets lots of touches. He’s picking up chunk plays on those touches. Auburn must continue to tackle well.

For Auburn, if there were ever a time for the offense to really click this is the week. State does not have the same type of interior talent as Oregon or A&M (maybe even Tulane) which should give this OL a chance to open up some running lanes inside. But this weekend is when Bo Nix needs to prove he can hit some deep shots. For Gus’s offense to truly be great it needs that very real threat of PA pass going over your head for 50+ yards at any time. If Nix can start consistently connecting on those, this team becomes a legitimate elite calibre team.

I think heading into half this game is closer than we would like, something in the 17-7 area but an explosive 3rd quarter that includes Nix hitting a deep shot blows this game open and Auburn gets their sweet revenge. Auburn 41 State 10.

-AU Nerd

Everyone seems to think that Alpha Wolf Gus is back and that after his presser, Gus is going full John Woo on State for last year’s embarrassment of a football game. Well, I knew it would be this way after the A&M game, during the Auburn Football Review. Sure, he is only on that show for around 4 and a half minutes but when Andy brought up the State game, the look of disgust on Gus’s face was evident. State has not been tested in 3 of its games and when they were tested, against K State, they folded like a cheap suit. Auburn on the other hand has been tested against 2.75 good ball clubs and 2 of those away from home. The Tigers are now playing at home. Gimme Auburn and will set up the biggest Auburn-Florida matchup since 2006 and the biggest game at Florida in the series since 1994.

Auburn and the OVER. Auburn 42-13.

-Drew Mac

Ever been both confident and worried? Well I’m worried about how confident I am. If you only look at the surface, you see a tough MSU team that has moved the ball well facing an Auburn team with a great defense but an inconsistent offense. That would lean towards a low scoring game where the cover is made late (either a “backdoor” score by MSU to make it look closer or a “frontdoor” score by Auburn to put the game away).

That said, there are so many reasons to be confident. Auburn has played tougher defensive lines and covered. Auburn has played more dynamic offenses and covered. State may be starting a true freshman QB at night in Jordan-Hare. In State’s last trip over, they committed about 12 false start penalties in route to a 49-10 mauling. While I don’t think it will be that bad, I think Auburn controls this game at the line of scrimmage, and begins to pull away in the 3rd quarter. Don’t be surprised if we have to settle for a few FG tries, but I still think there will be enough scoring opportunities to turn this into a cover.

Auburn 37, MSU 17 (Auburn covers, OVER)

-James Jones

This could backfire on me, but I really have zero respect for Mississippi State. Like none. Auburn is gonna put it all together this weekend.

Auburn 42 - Starkville 10

-AU Chief

The last time that Auburn started 4-0 and lost the fifth game was 1988. I don’t think the Tigers are losing this one, so that streak will go on a little longer. What do we know about this team? They run the ball, but not particularly well against good defenses, and they have trouble stopping the run. When Auburn is able to move the ball on the ground, Bo Nix has been more efficient. It’s pretty simple in my eyes, and I think after a solid (and not dramatic) win over the Aggies on the road, we’re not going to get a letdown at home tomorrow night.

This Auburn team is focused since we got the stuffing knocked out of us last year in Starkville, and now it’s time to return the favor. I don’t quite envision the fast start like Arkansas 2016, but it could be close. I think we hit the ground running, and everyone feels good heading to Gainesville next week. Auburn 41, Mississippi State 14.

-Jack Condon