Auburn Tigers (3-2 SU, 4-1 ATS) vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-2 SU, 2-2 ATS)
College Football Week 6
Date/Time: Saturday, October 8th, 12:00PM (EST)
Where: Davis Wade Stadium Starkville, M.S.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: AUB -2.5/MSU +2.5
Over/Under Total: TBA
SEC West foes collide this Saturday in Starkville when the Mississippi State Bulldogs attempt to make a home stand against the Auburn Tigers. Surprisingly the Bulldogs have won the last two meetings over the Tigers and 3 of the last 4 meetings over the last 4 seasons. The Tigers have not won in Starkville since 2010 and despite a victory against LSU; Coach Malzahn is still in the coaching hot seat. Perhaps a win this Saturday over Mississippi State could finally get Malzahn in the clear but road wins in the SEC do not come easy and that will be the task Auburn faces this weekend.
Not only will Mississippi State return to the friendly confines of Davis Wade Stadium on Saturday but they also had an extra week of preparation due to last weeks bye. Bye weeks are normally a good thing because they give teams some extra time to rest and prepare. However, other times it can be a momentum breaker. I kind of felt like sophomore quarterback Nick Fitzgerald was starting to get into a good rhythm in recent weeks since taking over the starting position against South Carolina in week 2. Since becoming the starter, Fitzgerald has hit 62% passing for 5 touchdowns and just 1 pick.
If you throw out the first half of the LSU game, his numbers are even better. He has also rushed for more than 300 yards during that 3 game stretch as well and leads the entire Bulldog offense in rushing. If Fitzgerald can pick up where he left off, this Mississippi State team has the tools to compete with any other group in the SEC with the possible exception of Alabama. WR Fred Ross is a big time receiver that can make big plays and someone the offense can lean on if they need to. Ross has caught 25 passes for 288 yards with 4 touchdowns through the first 4 games of the season and I expect his production to increase with the continued emergence of Fitzgerald behind center.
If the Bulldogs defense can shake off some consistency issues, this team would be very solid on both sides of the ball. We have seen strong periods of play from the Mississippi State defense but they have also given up several big plays especially against the run where Auburn will attack this Saturday. The Bulldogs have relinquished 174 yards per game on the ground and 4.27 yards per attempt. Auburns offense has been one of the better teams in the SEC in rushing with 196 yards per game on the ground and average 4.35 yards per rush.
Therefore as you can see in the numbers, Mississippi States biggest concern this Saturday is stopping the run against the Tigers. Auburn sophomore running back Kerryon Johnson has become a big threat out of the Auburn backfield and is averaging just over 100 yards per game with 6 total touchdowns on the season. We all know that Auburn struggles to throw the football as they are currently in year 3 of a quarterback carousel. Currently, Sean White leads the quarterback parade but he remains largely ineffective down the field.
As a result, Auburns bread and butter remains between the tackles. Outside of Johnson, Kamryn Pettway has also been very effective running the football as well. Pettway has racked up 336 yards and 1 score in just 3 games of action. Pettway was held out of last weeks blowout over Louisiana Monroe due to a quadriceps injury. Pettway has been banged up but he should be back in the rotation this Saturday and if that is the case it will only give Auburn more firepower to attack this vulnerable Mississippi State run defense.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I think this game is very evenly matched but I think Mississippi State will right the ship on defense this Saturday. Once that happens, I expect the Bulldogs to prevail behind the arm of Nick Fitzgerald. Take Mississippi State +2.5
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