No. 22 Auburn Tigers (1-0, 0-1 ATS) at Mississippi State Bulldogs (1-0, 1-0 ATS), Week 2 College Foots, Thursday September 9th, 7:30PM Eastern. Davis Wade Stadium Starkville, M.S.
By Jay Horne of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Aub -3/MSU +3
Primetime SEC action gets underway this Thursday night when the no. 22 ranked Auburn Tigers travel to Starkville to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The game marks the first contest between SEC opponents which of course has been the most prestigious conference in the nation over the past few years. The Auburn Tigers are poised to make a run in the SEC West this season, but many are waiting to see how they will stack up against a Bulldogs team that just completely demolished Memphis last week 49-7.
The Bulldogs are entering year number 2 under Dan Mullen (former Florida Gators offensive coordinator) and are continuously improving on both sides of the football. The Bulldogs put together some top notch performances against both Florida and LSU last season but fell just short of milestone type upsets. However, they will get their chance at scoring their biggest win under the Mullen era again this Thursday night.
Auburn is a team predicted by many to challenge Alabama in the west this season as they return a ton of talent at the skill positions. The Tigers are also in their 2nd season of a new era under Gene Chizik. Remember the Tigers were vastly improved at the end of last season and nearly knocked off Alabama in the season finale. The Tigers are led by QB Cam Newton who previously transferred over from the Florida Gators. Newton completed 9 of 14 passes for 186 yards and 3 touchdowns in last weeks’ 52-26 victory over Arkansas State.
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However, it was Newton’s legs that really stood out as the dual threat quarterback also led the Tigers with another 171 yards on the ground for two additional touchdowns. Coach Gene Chizik actually called Newton’s performance “the best I have ever witnessed.” Now I’m sure that may be quite a stretch. However, Newton is still a guy that fits into offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn’s system perfectly and gives the Tigers plenty of dangerous approaches offensively. Outside of Newton, WR Darvin Adams may be the most skilled player on the team. Adams was rather quiet last week with just 2 catches for 58 yards, but expect him to be a much bigger factor as the season rolls along.
On defense, the Tigers still have some lingering concerns especially after cupcake Arkansas State managed to rack up 26 points. The concerns entering the season where in the Auburn secondary and that secondary was rattled last week as they gave up 323 passing yards against Arkansas State. Considering how well the Bulldogs offense spreads the ball around in the air, there has to be major concern for the Auburn pass defense. They must step up and play better. More importantly for the Tigers, they must get help from their talented defensive front. Auburn must be able to get pressure up front defensively allowing Bulldogs QB Tyler Russell minimum time to throw the football. If that happens the Tigers secondary may not have their backs turned all afternoon.
As for the Bulldogs, Russell completed 13 of 16 passing last week for 256 yards and 4 touchdowns. Six different receivers caught passes in the game while Brandon Heavens and Chad Bumphis both eclipsed the 100 yard receiving marks in the contest. Bumphis is the leader among the receivers but the entire receiving core has plenty of talent. Also, do not be surprised for QB Chris Relf to get into the quarterback rotation as well. Relf has improved his consistency throwing the football and gives a running threat when behind center as well. Despite which ever quarterback that gets the most snaps, they will both be looking to make some big plays against that questionable Auburn pass defense.
The Bulldogs defense is eerie similar to the Auburn defense. Pernell McPhee is the top pass rusher among a dominant defensive line. However, the Bulldogs defense also has concerns in the pass defense. If that is the case, Cam Newton could have another big game behind center for the Tigers. However with so much talent on the offensive side of the ball for both teams, fireworks could be expected when both teams battle in front of a nationally televised audience on Thursday night.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Spread: I’m staying away from the side here because I would not be surprised to see either team prevail. However, due to the offenses on the field do not be surprised to see a total get released near the 50 mark more closer to game time. If that happens, make a strong consideration on the under because SEC openers are historically lower scored games. While offensive sparks are expected, I see this one being more of a grudge match that goes back and forth. When that happens things will get conservative and keep scoring lower than expected.