After five straight at home, Gus Malzahn and the Tigers are in Starkville for an early afternoon matchup against Mississippi State on Saturday.
Kickoff is still hours away, but I can already hear those annoying cowbells. I think we can agree that it doesn’t get more irritating than a road game inside Davis Wade Stadium.
Sitting at 3-2, Auburn is looking to build on its Week 5 win over Louisiana-Monroe and establish itself as a contender in Week 6. Mississippi State, on the other hand, is fighting to stay alive at 2-2—which makes Dan Mullen’s team extremely dangerous.
I think this game will be determined by the play of its quarterbacks. Auburn fans should focus their attention on Sean White and Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald in this one.
While Fitzgerald is no Dak Prescott, the sophomore quarterback has stepped in this season and proven to be a worthy successor. He isn’t the playmaker Prescott was, but the first-year starter leads the Bulldogs in both passing yards (603) and rushing yards (329) which shows that he’s enough of a duel-threat to keep Kevin Steele’s defense guessing, and a multi-talented player in his own right.
Running quarterbacks historically have given Auburn trouble, so I’m expecting Fitzgerald to be the catalyst behind some big plays for Mississippi State. However, I don’t think he’s good enough to go out and beat the Tigers single-handedly like Prescott had in previous meetings between these programs.
If Auburn can find a way to contain Fitzgerald and limit Mississippi State’s deep stable of running backs, there won’t be much left for the Tigers to worry about other than veteran receiver Fred Ross — who won’t get many opportunities anyway if Fitzgerald is under pressure. Steele says that Auburn’s defense is “due” for more turnovers, and Saturday, that unit should create some chaos.
These two teams have put up similar numbers offensively through five games, but in this matchup, I think that Sean White and the Tigers will benefit from having a few more weapons at their disposal — which is an advantage they’ll rarely have as SEC play continues.
When the dust settles, I think Auburn will take care of business on the road and come away with a 24-14 win.