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Coach's Corner: Auburn vs Mississippi State.....

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Coach’s Corner: Auburn vs Mississippi State….

Auburn (3-2, 1-1 SEC) goes on the road for the first time in 2016, heading to Starkville, Miss. to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-2, 1-1 SEC). The game is set for 11 AM Central Time at Davis Wade Stadium (61,337).

State’s season got off to a surprising start, as they fell to South Alabama, 21-20. They bounced back from that loss with a win over South Carolina at home. The only common opponent State and Auburn have played this season is LSU, with Auburn winning theirs 18-13 at home, while State mounted a strong comeback in the second half before losing 23-20 in Baton Rouge.

Head Coach Dan Mullen is in his 8th year at the helm. Mullen has the second-highest winning percentage in MSU history. A long time assistant to Urban Myer (Bowling Green, Utah, Florida), Mullen’s specialty is offense and quarterbacks. Although Auburn holds a 61-26-2 advantage in the series with State, MSU has won the last two, and three of the last four. State won the game 17-9 at Jordan-Hare last season.

MSU Offense:

State put up a season-high 598 yards of offense in their last game, a 47-35 win over UMass, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. In that game, QB Nick Fitzgerald (6-5, 230, Soph) became the second QB in school history to record over 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in a game. Fitzgerald was Dak Prescott’s primary backup last year. Against South Carolina, in only his second career start, he set the school record for rushing yards by a QB, running 17 times for 195 yards. At this point in the season, Fitzgerald leads the team in both rushing and passing, averaging 7 yards per rushing attempt and 82 rushing yards per game. He’s completed 57 of 95 pass attempts (60%) for 603 yards and 5 TD’s with one interception. Backup QB Damian Williams (6-1, 229, Jr.) engineered the MSU comeback against LSU. He’s completed 25 of 36 (69.4%) pass attempts, and appears very capable of running the Bulldog offense.

Other than Fitzgerald at QB, the most dangerous weapon on the field when MSU has the ball is probably wide receiver Fred Ross (6-2, 205, Sr.). Ross is currently the #6 receiver in the SEC, averaging 6.3 catches per game. He had 8 for 126 yards in the Dogs’ last game at UMass. He’s recorded 17 career touchdowns, including 14 receiving, 1 rushing, 1 via punt return, and 1 passing.
Wide receiver Donald Gray (5-10, 193, Jr.) has 18 receptions this season, averaging 17.9 yards per catch Gray had 86 yards on three catches against LSU. Redshirt freshman tight end Farrod Green (6-3, 232) is gradually being worked into the passing game, and had three receptions in the Mass game, including one for his first career TD.

Brandon Holloway (5-8, 165, Sr.) has started the last 12 games at running back. He’s carried the ball 41 times in 4 games, averaging 4.7 ypc. Ashton Shumpert (6-2, 218, Sr.) has 26 carries, averaging 5.5. Shumpert got a career-high 12 carries in MSU’s last game.
The offensive line is anchored by three seniors. Left guard Devon Dester (6-4, 305, 19 starts), center Jamaal Claiborne (6-4, 315, 16 starts) and right tackle Justin Senior (6-5, 310, 30 starts) are joined by sophomores at right guard and left tackle.

When looking at the State offense, a couple of things to keep in mind: Dan Mullen was with Urban Meyer when they implemented their so-called “spread option” attack at Bowling Green and then at Utah, with quarterback Alex Smith. Also, Mullen has a good history of adapting his offense to the players he has available. This year, although they are roughly 60-40 run-to-pass, they utilize the skills of their athletic QB and the talents of wide receivers Fred Ross and Donald Gray.

MSU Defense:

Defensive Coordinator Peter Sirmons is the sixth defensive coordinator in Mullen’s eight seasons at State. Sirmons, who spent 6 seasons as a linebacker with the Tennessee Titans of the NFL, was most recently the linebacker coach at Southern Cal, hired there by former coach Steve Sarkisian. Prior to that, he’d been LB coach at Washington, and for a season at Tennessee with Derek Dooley.

State uses a version of the 3-4, although they’ll almost certainly be in a 3-3 or 4-2 against Auburn’s typical formations. They’ve been decent against the run, giving up an average of 3.5 yards per rushing attempt. Against the pass, they give up 6.7 yards per attempt, and they’ve been hurt more by passing than by running.

Senior DE A.J. Jefferson (6-3, 280) leads the SEC in tackles for loss, including 3 sacks. Nose tackle Nelson Adams (6-3, 305, Sr.) has been a perennial backup, playing in 42 games over his career with 7 starts. Sophomore DT Corey Thomas (6-5, 313) is in his first year as a starter, and has a very respectable 13 tackles in 4 games.Richie Brown The strength of the State defense is linebacker Richie Brown (6-2, 240, Sr.). Brown leads the team with 28 tackles, and is a grad student pursuing an MBA. State’s version of the hybrid DE/LB in their 3-4 scheme is called “Viper”, and that position is played by senior Jonathan Calvin (6-3, 272). Calvin had 9 tackles in the Mass game, with 3 TFL, a sack, and an interception.

The secondary returns two starters in free safety Kivon Coman (6-3, 205, Sr. ) and strong safety Brandon Bryant (6-0, 215, Soph.). Bryant sports a “reported” 4.24 40-yard dash.
In addition to a new defensive coordinator, State has a new DL coach and a new cornerbacks coach.

Special Teams:

Kicker Westin Graves (6-0, 160, Jr.) is 8-of-10 on field goals for the season, with a long of 48. Punter Logan Cooke (6-5, 224, Jr.) returns as the starter, and is averaging 40.6. He’s had one punt blocked.

Running back Brandon Holloway and wide receiver Fred Ross are the kickoff and punt returners respectively. Holloway is averaging 20.6 per kickoff return; Ross is averaging 6.9 on 9 punts returned.

How Will They Play It?

I will be somewhat surprised if Auburn’s defensive front doesn’t prove to be too much for State’s running game. To me, that means State will lean toward option plays and throwing the football. Ross is an especially athletic wide receiver, and very good after the catch. Donald Gray is a deep threat. I’d also expect Mullen to bring some throws to his running back, trying to get the ball to a playmaker in space. If State does emphasize the option game, Auburn will need to play good assignment football, which I frankly expect this particular AU defense to do fairly well.

It will be important to keep Fitzgerald from getting outside, while maintaining discipline in staying in rush lanes to prevent Fitzgerald from taking off. While he is certainly a capable runner, Fitzgerald is not an athlete the caliber of Deshaun Watson, so the Auburn defense should be able to generate some pass rush.

Defensively, I think State’s linebackers, particularly Brown, are talented and experienced enough to execute their run fits well against the AU offense. For that reason, execution by the offensive line…..making the combination blocks effective, then climbing to the second level….will be critical to the running game. I expect State’s front to be focused enough on Auburn’s running game that the linebackers and strong safety will struggle to do their part on pass defense. That, of course, means AU has to stay out of third and long or other obvious passing situations. I think Auburn can run the ball vs the State defense, but if the plays are predictable, State will be prepared enough to hold up well. A good mix of run/pass on first downs will likely be problematic for State.

Mulllen has won two in a row and three of the last four against Auburn. Like him or not, his teams are well coached and well prepared. He likes to bring a trick play or two, and has a good knack for calling those at the right time. I think Auburn has superior talent in this game, and enough of that to win. It’s been a full two weeks now since Malzahn handed over the offensive planning and play-calling to Lashlee and Hand. As expected, we didn’t see much different in the offense last week, but this is a critical game for both teams, and we should get a good look at the direction Lashlee and Hand are taking the offense. Just a subtle change here and there can make a world of difference.

Starkville, although not one of the gigantic stadiums in college football, is not an easy place to play. The cowbells will be there in force. But Auburn knows that, and should be prepared to deal with it. Early game or not, it’s important to start fast, play hard to the end, and be stronger at the end than at the beginning. This is an SEC game that Auburn needs to win. I see no reason that shouldn’t happen.
Coach's Corner: Auburn vs Mississippi State....

Auburn (3-2, 1-1 SEC) goes on the road for the first time in 2016, heading to Starkville, Miss. to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-2, 1-1 SEC). The game is set for 11 AM Central Time at Davis Wade Stadium (61,337).
State’s season got off to a surprising start, as they fell to South Alabama, 21-20. They bounced back from that loss with a win over South Carolina at home. The only common opponent State and Auburn have played this season is LSU, with Auburn winning theirs 18-13 at home, while State mounted a strong comeback in the second half before losing 23-20 in Baton Rouge.

Head Coach Dan Mullen is in his 8th year at the helm. Mullen has the second-highest winning percentage in MSU history. A long time assistant to Urban Myer (Bowling Green, Utah, Florida), Mullen’s specialty is offense and quarterbacks. Although Auburn holds a 61-26-2 advantage in the series with State, MSU has won the last two, and three of the last four. State won the game 17-9 at Jordan-Hare last season.

MSU Offense:

State put up a season-high 598 yards of offense in their last game, a 47-35 win over UMass, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. In that game, QB Nick Fitzgerald (6-5, 230, Soph) became the second QB in school history to record over 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in a game. Fitzgerald was Dak Prescott’s primary backup last year. Against South Carolina, in only his second career start, he set the school record for rushing yards by a QB, running 17 times for 195 yards. At this point in the season, Fitzgerald leads the team in both rushing and passing, averaging 7 yards per rushing attempt and 82 rushing yards per game. He’s completed 57 of 95 pass attempts (60%) for 603 yards and 5 TD’s with one interception. Backup QB Damian Williams (6-1, 229, Jr.) engineered the MSU comeback against LSU. He’s completed 25 of 36 (69.4%) pass attempts, and appears very capable of running the Bulldog offense.

Other than Fitzgerald at QB, the most dangerous weapon on the field when MSU has the ball is probably wide receiver Fred Ross (6-2, 205, Sr.). Ross is currently the #6 receiver in the SEC, averaging 6.3 catches per game. He had 8 for 126 yards in the Dogs’ last game at UMass. He’s recorded 17 career touchdowns, including 14 receiving, 1 rushing, 1 via punt return, and 1 passing.
Wide receiver Donald Gray (5-10, 193, Jr.) has 18 receptions this season, averaging 17.9 yards per catch Gray had 86 yards on three catches against LSU. Redshirt freshman tight end Farrod Green (6-3, 232) is gradually being worked into the passing game, and had three receptions in the Mass game, including one for his first career TD.

Brandon Holloway (5-8, 165, Sr.) has started the last 12 games at running back. He’s carried the ball 41 times in 4 games, averaging 4.7 ypc. Ashton Shumpert (6-2, 218, Sr.) has 26 carries, averaging 5.5. Shumpert got a career-high 12 carries in MSU’s last game.
The offensive line is anchored by three seniors. Left guard Devon Dester (6-4, 305, 19 starts), center Jamaal Claiborne (6-4, 315, 16 starts) and right tackle Justin Senior (6-5, 310, 30 starts) are joined by sophomores at right guard and left tackle.

When looking at the State offense, a couple of things to keep in mind: Dan Mullen was with Urban Meyer when they implemented their so-called “spread option” attack at Bowling Green and then at Utah, with quarterback Alex Smith. Also, Mullen has a good history of adapting his offense to the players he has available. This year, although they are roughly 60-40 run-to-pass, they utilize the skills of their athletic QB and the talents of wide receivers Fred Ross and Donald Gray.


MSU Defense:

Defensive Coordinator Peter Sirmons is the sixth defensive coordinator in Mullen’s eight seasons at State. Sirmons, who spent 6 seasons as a linebacker with the Tennessee Titans of the NFL, was most recently the linebacker coach at Southern Cal, hired there by former coach Steve Sarkisian. Prior to that, he’d been LB coach at Washington, and for a season at Tennessee with Derek Dooley.
State uses a version of the 3-4, although they’ll almost certainly be in a 3-3 or 4-2 against Auburn’s typical formations. They’ve been decent against the run, giving up an average of 3.5 yards per rushing attempt. Against the pass, they give up 6.7 yards per attempt, and they’ve been hurt more by passing than by running.
Senior DE A.J. Jefferson (6-3, 280) leads the SEC in tackles for loss, including 3 sacks. Nose tackle Nelson Adams (6-3, 305, Sr.) has been a perennial backup, playing in 42 games over his career with 7 starts. Sophomore DT Corey Thomas (6-5, 313) is in his first year as a starter, and has a very respectable 13 tackles in 4 games.Richie Brown The strength of the State defense is linebacker Richie Brown (6-2, 240, Sr.). Brown leads the team with 28 tackles, and is a grad student pursuing an MBA. State’s version of the hybrid DE/LB in their 3-4 scheme is called “Viper”, and that position is played by senior Jonathan Calvin (6-3, 272). Calvin had 9 tackles in the Mass game, with 3 TFL, a sack, and an interception.
The secondary returns two starters in free safety Kivon Coman (6-3, 205, Sr. ) and strong safety Brandon Bryant (6-0, 215, Soph.). Bryant sports a “reported” 4.24 40-yard dash.
In addition to a new defensive coordinator, State has a new DL coach and a new cornerbacks coach.


Special Teams:

Kicker Westin Graves (6-0, 160, Jr.) is 8-of-10 on field goals for the season, with a long of 48. Punter Logan Cooke (6-5, 224, Jr.) returns as the starter, and is averaging 40.6. He’s had one punt blocked.
Running back Brandon Holloway and wide receiver Fred Ross are the kickoff and punt returners respectively. Holloway is averaging 20.6 per kickoff return; Ross is averaging 6.9 on 9 punts returned.


How Will They Play It?

I will be somewhat surprised if Auburn’s defensive front doesn’t prove to be too much for State’s running game. To me, that means State will lean toward option plays and throwing the football. Ross is an especially athletic wide receiver, and very good after the catch. Donald Gray is a deep threat. I’d also expect Mullen to bring some throws to his running back, trying to get the ball to a playmaker in space. If State does emphasize the option game, Auburn will need to play good assignment football, which I frankly expect this particular AU defense to do fairly well.
It will be important to keep Fitzgerald from getting outside, while maintaining discipline in staying in rush lanes to prevent Fitzgerald from taking off. While he is certainly a capable runner, Fitzgerald is not an athlete the caliber of Deshaun Watson, so the Auburn defense should be able to generate some pass rush.

Defensively, I think State’s linebackers, particularly Brown, are talented and experienced enough to execute their run fits well against the AU offense. For that reason, execution by the offensive line…..making the combination blocks effective, then climbing to the second level….will be critical to the running game. I expect State’s front to be focused enough on Auburn’s running game that the linebackers and strong safety will struggle to do their part on pass defense. That, of course, means AU has to stay out of third and long or other obvious passing situations. I think Auburn can run the ball vs the State defense, but if the plays are predictable, State will be prepared enough to hold up well. A good mix of run/pass on first downs will likely be problematic for State.

Mulllen has won two in a row and three of the last four against Auburn. Like him or not, his teams are well coached and well prepared. He likes to bring a trick play or two, and has a good knack for calling those at the right time. I think Auburn has superior talent in this game, and enough of that to win. It’s been a full two weeks now since Malzahn handed over the offensive planning and play-calling to Lashlee and Hand. As expected, we didn’t see much different in the offense last week, but this is a critical game for both teams, and we should get a good look at the direction Lashlee and Hand are taking the offense. Just a subtle change here and there can make a world of difference.
Starkville, although not one of the gigantic stadiums in college football, is not an easy place to play. The cowbells will be there in force. But Auburn knows that, and should be prepared to deal with it. Early game or not, it’s important to start fast, play hard to the end, and be stronger at the end than at the beginning. This is an SEC game that Auburn needs to win. I see no reason that shouldn’t happen.
Auburn (3-2, 1-1 SEC) goes on the road for the first time in 2016, heading to Starkville, Miss. to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-2, 1-1 SEC). The game is set for 11 AM Central Time at Davis Wade Stadium (61,337).
State’s season got off to a surprising start, as they fell to South Alabama, 21-20. They bounced back from that loss with a win over South Carolina at home. The only common opponent State and Auburn have played this season is LSU, with Auburn winning theirs 18-13 at home, while State mounted a strong comeback in the second half before losing 23-20 in Baton Rouge.

Head Coach Dan Mullen is in his 8th year at the helm. Mullen has the second-highest winning percentage in MSU history. A long time assistant to Urban Myer (Bowling Green, Utah, Florida), Mullen’s specialty is offense and quarterbacks. Although Auburn holds a 61-26-2 advantage in the series with State, MSU has won the last two, and three of the last four. State won the game 17-9 at Jordan-Hare last season.

MSU Offense:

State put up a season-high 598 yards of offense in their last game, a 47-35 win over UMass, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. In that game, QB Nick Fitzgerald (6-5, 230, Soph) became the second QB in school history to record over 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in a game. Fitzgerald was Dak Prescott’s primary backup last year. Against South Carolina, in only his second career start, he set the school record for rushing yards by a QB, running 17 times for 195 yards. At this point in the season, Fitzgerald leads the team in both rushing and passing, averaging 7 yards per rushing attempt and 82 rushing yards per game. He’s completed 57 of 95 pass attempts (60%) for 603 yards and 5 TD’s with one interception. Backup QB Damian Williams (6-1, 229, Jr.) engineered the MSU comeback against LSU. He’s completed 25 of 36 (69.4%) pass attempts, and appears very capable of running the Bulldog offense.

Other than Fitzgerald at QB, the most dangerous weapon on the field when MSU has the ball is probably wide receiver Fred Ross (6-2, 205, Sr.). Ross is currently the #6 receiver in the SEC, averaging 6.3 catches per game. He had 8 for 126 yards in the Dogs’ last game at UMass. He’s recorded 17 career touchdowns, including 14 receiving, 1 rushing, 1 via punt return, and 1 passing.
Wide receiver Donald Gray (5-10, 193, Jr.) has 18 receptions this season, averaging 17.9 yards per catch Gray had 86 yards on three catches against LSU. Redshirt freshman tight end Farrod Green (6-3, 232) is gradually being worked into the passing game, and had three receptions in the Mass game, including one for his first career TD.

Brandon Holloway (5-8, 165, Sr.) has started the last 12 games at running back. He’s carried the ball 41 times in 4 games, averaging 4.7 ypc. Ashton Shumpert (6-2, 218, Sr.) has 26 carries, averaging 5.5. Shumpert got a career-high 12 carries in MSU’s last game.
The offensive line is anchored by three seniors. Left guard Devon Dester (6-4, 305, 19 starts), center Jamaal Claiborne (6-4, 315, 16 starts) and right tackle Justin Senior (6-5, 310, 30 starts) are joined by sophomores at right guard and left tackle.

When looking at the State offense, a couple of things to keep in mind: Dan Mullen was with Urban Meyer when they implemented their so-called “spread option” attack at Bowling Green and then at Utah, with quarterback Alex Smith. Also, Mullen has a good history of adapting his offense to the players he has available. This year, although they are roughly 60-40 run-to-pass, they utilize the skills of their athletic QB and the talents of wide receivers Fred Ross and Donald Gray.


MSU Defense:

Defensive Coordinator Peter Sirmons is the sixth defensive coordinator in Mullen’s eight seasons at State. Sirmons, who spent 6 seasons as a linebacker with the Tennessee Titans of the NFL, was most recently the linebacker coach at Southern Cal, hired there by former coach Steve Sarkisian. Prior to that, he’d been LB coach at Washington, and for a season at Tennessee with Derek Dooley.
State uses a version of the 3-4, although they’ll almost certainly be in a 3-3 or 4-2 against Auburn’s typical formations. They’ve been decent against the run, giving up an average of 3.5 yards per rushing attempt. Against the pass, they give up 6.7 yards per attempt, and they’ve been hurt more by passing than by running.
Senior DE A.J. Jefferson (6-3, 280) leads the SEC in tackles for loss, including 3 sacks. Nose tackle Nelson Adams (6-3, 305, Sr.) has been a perennial backup, playing in 42 games over his career with 7 starts. Sophomore DT Corey Thomas (6-5, 313) is in his first year as a starter, and has a very respectable 13 tackles in 4 games.Richie Brown The strength of the State defense is linebacker Richie Brown (6-2, 240, Sr.). Brown leads the team with 28 tackles, and is a grad student pursuing an MBA. State’s version of the hybrid DE/LB in their 3-4 scheme is called “Viper”, and that position is played by senior Jonathan Calvin (6-3, 272). Calvin had 9 tackles in the Mass game, with 3 TFL, a sack, and an interception.
The secondary returns two starters in free safety Kivon Coman (6-3, 205, Sr. ) and strong safety Brandon Bryant (6-0, 215, Soph.). Bryant sports a “reported” 4.24 40-yard dash.
In addition to a new defensive coordinator, State has a new DL coach and a new cornerbacks coach.


Special Teams:

Kicker Westin Graves (6-0, 160, Jr.) is 8-of-10 on field goals for the season, with a long of 48. Punter Logan Cooke (6-5, 224, Jr.) returns as the starter, and is averaging 40.6. He’s had one punt blocked.
Running back Brandon Holloway and wide receiver Fred Ross are the kickoff and punt returners respectively. Holloway is averaging 20.6 per kickoff return; Ross is averaging 6.9 on 9 punts returned.


How Will They Play It?

I will be somewhat surprised if Auburn’s defensive front doesn’t prove to be too much for State’s running game. To me, that means State will lean toward option plays and throwing the football. Ross is an especially athletic wide receiver, and very good after the catch. Donald Gray is a deep threat. I’d also expect Mullen to bring some throws to his running back, trying to get the ball to a playmaker in space. If State does emphasize the option game, Auburn will need to play good assignment football, which I frankly expect this particular AU defense to do fairly well.
It will be important to keep Fitzgerald from getting outside, while maintaining discipline in staying in rush lanes to prevent Fitzgerald from taking off. While he is certainly a capable runner, Fitzgerald is not an athlete the caliber of Deshaun Watson, so the Auburn defense should be able to generate some pass rush.

Defensively, I think State’s linebackers, particularly Brown, are talented and experienced enough to execute their run fits well against the AU offense. For that reason, execution by the offensive line…..making the combination blocks effective, then climbing to the second level….will be critical to the running game. I expect State’s front to be focused enough on Auburn’s running game that the linebackers and strong safety will struggle to do their part on pass defense. That, of course, means AU has to stay out of third and long or other obvious passing situations. I think Auburn can run the ball vs the State defense, but if the plays are predictable, State will be prepared enough to hold up well. A good mix of run/pass on first downs will likely be problematic for State.

Mulllen has won two in a row and three of the last four against Auburn. Like him or not, his teams are well coached and well prepared. He likes to bring a trick play or two, and has a good knack for calling those at the right time. I think Auburn has superior talent in this game, and enough of that to win. It’s been a full two weeks now since Malzahn handed over the offensive planning and play-calling to Lashlee and Hand. As expected, we didn’t see much different in the offense last week, but this is a critical game for both teams, and we should get a good look at the direction Lashlee and Hand are taking the offense. Just a subtle change here and there can make a world of difference.
Starkville, although not one of the gigantic stadiums in college football, is not an easy place to play. The cowbells will be there in force. But Auburn knows that, and should be prepared to deal with it. Early game or not, it’s important to start fast, play hard to the end, and be stronger at the end than at the beginning. This is an SEC game that Auburn needs to win. I see no reason that shouldn’t happen.
Coach’s Corner: Auburn vs Mississippi State….

Auburn (3-2, 1-1 SEC) goes on the road for the first time in 2016, heading to Starkville, Miss. to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-2, 1-1 SEC). The game is set for 11 AM Central Time at Davis Wade Stadium (61,337).
State’s season got off to a surprising start, as they fell to South Alabama, 21-20. They bounced back from that loss with a win over South Carolina at home. The only common opponent State and Auburn have played this season is LSU, with Auburn winning theirs 18-13 at home, while State mounted a strong comeback in the second half before losing 23-20 in Baton Rouge.

Head Coach Dan Mullen is in his 8th year at the helm. Mullen has the second-highest winning percentage in MSU history. A long time assistant to Urban Myer (Bowling Green, Utah, Florida), Mullen’s specialty is offense and quarterbacks. Although Auburn holds a 61-26-2 advantage in the series with State, MSU has won the last two, and three of the last four. State won the game 17-9 at Jordan-Hare last season.

MSU Offense:

State put up a season-high 598 yards of offense in their last game, a 47-35 win over UMass, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. In that game, QB Nick Fitzgerald (6-5, 230, Soph) became the second QB in school history to record over 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in a game. Fitzgerald was Dak Prescott’s primary backup last year. Against South Carolina, in only his second career start, he set the school record for rushing yards by a QB, running 17 times for 195 yards. At this point in the season, Fitzgerald leads the team in both rushing and passing, averaging 7 yards per rushing attempt and 82 rushing yards per game. He’s completed 57 of 95 pass attempts (60%) for 603 yards and 5 TD’s with one interception. Backup QB Damian Williams (6-1, 229, Jr.) engineered the MSU comeback against LSU. He’s completed 25 of 36 (69.4%) pass attempts, and appears very capable of running the Bulldog offense.

Other than Fitzgerald at QB, the most dangerous weapon on the field when MSU has the ball is probably wide receiver Fred Ross (6-2, 205, Sr.). Ross is currently the #6 receiver in the SEC, averaging 6.3 catches per game. He had 8 for 126 yards in the Dogs’ last game at UMass. He’s recorded 17 career touchdowns, including 14 receiving, 1 rushing, 1 via punt return, and 1 passing.
Wide receiver Donald Gray (5-10, 193, Jr.) has 18 receptions this season, averaging 17.9 yards per catch Gray had 86 yards on three catches against LSU. Redshirt freshman tight end Farrod Green (6-3, 232) is gradually being worked into the passing game, and had three receptions in the Mass game, including one for his first career TD.

Brandon Holloway (5-8, 165, Sr.) has started the last 12 games at running back. He’s carried the ball 41 times in 4 games, averaging 4.7 ypc. Ashton Shumpert (6-2, 218, Sr.) has 26 carries, averaging 5.5. Shumpert got a career-high 12 carries in MSU’s last game.
The offensive line is anchored by three seniors. Left guard Devon Dester (6-4, 305, 19 starts), center Jamaal Claiborne (6-4, 315, 16 starts) and right tackle Justin Senior (6-5, 310, 30 starts) are joined by sophomores at right guard and left tackle.

When looking at the State offense, a couple of things to keep in mind: Dan Mullen was with Urban Meyer when they implemented their so-called “spread option” attack at Bowling Green and then at Utah, with quarterback Alex Smith. Also, Mullen has a good history of adapting his offense to the players he has available. This year, although they are roughly 60-40 run-to-pass, they utilize the skills of their athletic QB and the talents of wide receivers Fred Ross and Donald Gray.


MSU Defense:

Defensive Coordinator Peter Sirmons is the sixth defensive coordinator in Mullen’s eight seasons at State. Sirmons, who spent 6 seasons as a linebacker with the Tennessee Titans of the NFL, was most recently the linebacker coach at Southern Cal, hired there by former coach Steve Sarkisian. Prior to that, he’d been LB coach at Washington, and for a season at Tennessee with Derek Dooley.
State uses a version of the 3-4, although they’ll almost certainly be in a 3-3 or 4-2 against Auburn’s typical formations. They’ve been decent against the run, giving up an average of 3.5 yards per rushing attempt. Against the pass, they give up 6.7 yards per attempt, and they’ve been hurt more by passing than by running.
Senior DE A.J. Jefferson (6-3, 280) leads the SEC in tackles for loss, including 3 sacks. Nose tackle Nelson Adams (6-3, 305, Sr.) has been a perennial backup, playing in 42 games over his career with 7 starts. Sophomore DT Corey Thomas (6-5, 313) is in his first year as a starter, and has a very respectable 13 tackles in 4 games.Richie Brown The strength of the State defense is linebacker Richie Brown (6-2, 240, Sr.). Brown leads the team with 28 tackles, and is a grad student pursuing an MBA. State’s version of the hybrid DE/LB in their 3-4 scheme is called “Viper”, and that position is played by senior Jonathan Calvin (6-3, 272). Calvin had 9 tackles in the Mass game, with 3 TFL, a sack, and an interception.
The secondary returns two starters in free safety Kivon Coman (6-3, 205, Sr. ) and strong safety Brandon Bryant (6-0, 215, Soph.). Bryant sports a “reported” 4.24 40-yard dash.
In addition to a new defensive coordinator, State has a new DL coach and a new cornerbacks coach.


Special Teams:

Kicker Westin Graves (6-0, 160, Jr.) is 8-of-10 on field goals for the season, with a long of 48. Punter Logan Cooke (6-5, 224, Jr.) returns as the starter, and is averaging 40.6. He’s had one punt blocked.
Running back Brandon Holloway and wide receiver Fred Ross are the kickoff and punt returners respectively. Holloway is averaging 20.6 per kickoff return; Ross is averaging 6.9 on 9 punts returned.


How Will They Play It?

I will be somewhat surprised if Auburn’s defensive front doesn’t prove to be too much for State’s running game. To me, that means State will lean toward option plays and throwing the football. Ross is an especially athletic wide receiver, and very good after the catch. Donald Gray is a deep threat. I’d also expect Mullen to bring some throws to his running back, trying to get the ball to a playmaker in space. If State does emphasize the option game, Auburn will need to play good assignment football, which I frankly expect this particular AU defense to do fairly well.
It will be important to keep Fitzgerald from getting outside, while maintaining discipline in staying in rush lanes to prevent Fitzgerald from taking off. While he is certainly a capable runner, Fitzgerald is not an athlete the caliber of Deshaun Watson, so the Auburn defense should be able to generate some pass rush.

Defensively, I think State’s linebackers, particularly Brown, are talented and experienced enough to execute their run fits well against the AU offense. For that reason, execution by the offensive line…..making the combination blocks effective, then climbing to the second level….will be critical to the running game. I expect State’s front to be focused enough on Auburn’s running game that the linebackers and strong safety will struggle to do their part on pass defense. That, of course, means AU has to stay out of third and long or other obvious passing situations. I think Auburn can run the ball vs the State defense, but if the plays are predictable, State will be prepared enough to hold up well. A good mix of run/pass on first downs will likely be problematic for State.

Mulllen has won two in a row and three of the last four against Auburn. Like him or not, his teams are well coached and well prepared. He likes to bring a trick play or two, and has a good knack for calling those at the right time. I think Auburn has superior talent in this game, and enough of that to win. It’s been a full two weeks now since Malzahn handed over the offensive planning and play-calling to Lashlee and Hand. As expected, we didn’t see much different in the offense last week, but this is a critical game for both teams, and we should get a good look at the direction Lashlee and Hand are taking the offense. Just a subtle change here and there can make a world of difference.
Starkville, although not one of the gigantic stadiums in college football, is not an easy place to play. The cowbells will be there in force. But Auburn knows that, and should be prepared to deal with it. Early game or not, it’s important to start fast, play hard to the end, and be stronger at the end than at the beginning. This is an SEC game that Auburn needs to win. I see no reason that shouldn’t happen.
Coach’s Corner: Auburn vs Mississippi State….

Auburn (3-2, 1-1 SEC) goes on the road for the first time in 2016, heading to Starkville, Miss. to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-2, 1-1 SEC). The game is set for 11 AM Central Time at Davis Wade Stadium (61,337).
State’s season got off to a surprising start, as they fell to South Alabama, 21-20. They bounced back from that loss with a win over South Carolina at home. The only common opponent State and Auburn have played this season is LSU, with Auburn winning theirs 18-13 at home, while State mounted a strong comeback in the second half before losing 23-20 in Baton Rouge.

Head Coach Dan Mullen is in his 8th year at the helm. Mullen has the second-highest winning percentage in MSU history. A long time assistant to Urban Myer (Bowling Green, Utah, Florida), Mullen’s specialty is offense and quarterbacks. Although Auburn holds a 61-26-2 advantage in the series with State, MSU has won the last two, and three of the last four. State won the game 17-9 at Jordan-Hare last season.

MSU Offense:

State put up a season-high 598 yards of offense in their last game, a 47-35 win over UMass, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. In that game, QB Nick Fitzgerald (6-5, 230, Soph) became the second QB in school history to record over 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in a game. Fitzgerald was Dak Prescott’s primary backup last year. Against South Carolina, in only his second career start, he set the school record for rushing yards by a QB, running 17 times for 195 yards. At this point in the season, Fitzgerald leads the team in both rushing and passing, averaging 7 yards per rushing attempt and 82 rushing yards per game. He’s completed 57 of 95 pass attempts (60%) for 603 yards and 5 TD’s with one interception. Backup QB Damian Williams (6-1, 229, Jr.) engineered the MSU comeback against LSU. He’s completed 25 of 36 (69.4%) pass attempts, and appears very capable of running the Bulldog offense.

Other than Fitzgerald at QB, the most dangerous weapon on the field when MSU has the ball is probably wide receiver Fred Ross (6-2, 205, Sr.). Ross is currently the #6 receiver in the SEC, averaging 6.3 catches per game. He had 8 for 126 yards in the Dogs’ last game at UMass. He’s recorded 17 career touchdowns, including 14 receiving, 1 rushing, 1 via punt return, and 1 passing.
Wide receiver Donald Gray (5-10, 193, Jr.) has 18 receptions this season, averaging 17.9 yards per catch Gray had 86 yards on three catches against LSU. Redshirt freshman tight end Farrod Green (6-3, 232) is gradually being worked into the passing game, and had three receptions in the Mass game, including one for his first career TD.

Brandon Holloway (5-8, 165, Sr.) has started the last 12 games at running back. He’s carried the ball 41 times in 4 games, averaging 4.7 ypc. Ashton Shumpert (6-2, 218, Sr.) has 26 carries, averaging 5.5. Shumpert got a career-high 12 carries in MSU’s last game.
The offensive line is anchored by three seniors. Left guard Devon Dester (6-4, 305, 19 starts), center Jamaal Claiborne (6-4, 315, 16 starts) and right tackle Justin Senior (6-5, 310, 30 starts) are joined by sophomores at right guard and left tackle.

When looking at the State offense, a couple of things to keep in mind: Dan Mullen was with Urban Meyer when they implemented their so-called “spread option” attack at Bowling Green and then at Utah, with quarterback Alex Smith. Also, Mullen has a good history of adapting his offense to the players he has available. This year, although they are roughly 60-40 run-to-pass, they utilize the skills of their athletic QB and the talents of wide receivers Fred Ross and Donald Gray.


MSU Defense:

Defensive Coordinator Peter Sirmons is the sixth defensive coordinator in Mullen’s eight seasons at State. Sirmons, who spent 6 seasons as a linebacker with the Tennessee Titans of the NFL, was most recently the linebacker coach at Southern Cal, hired there by former coach Steve Sarkisian. Prior to that, he’d been LB coach at Washington, and for a season at Tennessee with Derek Dooley.
State uses a version of the 3-4, although they’ll almost certainly be in a 3-3 or 4-2 against Auburn’s typical formations. They’ve been decent against the run, giving up an average of 3.5 yards per rushing attempt. Against the pass, they give up 6.7 yards per attempt, and they’ve been hurt more by passing than by running.
Senior DE A.J. Jefferson (6-3, 280) leads the SEC in tackles for loss, including 3 sacks. Nose tackle Nelson Adams (6-3, 305, Sr.) has been a perennial backup, playing in 42 games over his career with 7 starts. Sophomore DT Corey Thomas (6-5, 313) is in his first year as a starter, and has a very respectable 13 tackles in 4 games.Richie Brown The strength of the State defense is linebacker Richie Brown (6-2, 240, Sr.). Brown leads the team with 28 tackles, and is a grad student pursuing an MBA. State’s version of the hybrid DE/LB in their 3-4 scheme is called “Viper”, and that position is played by senior Jonathan Calvin (6-3, 272). Calvin had 9 tackles in the Mass game, with 3 TFL, a sack, and an interception.
The secondary returns two starters in free safety Kivon Coman (6-3, 205, Sr. ) and strong safety Brandon Bryant (6-0, 215, Soph.). Bryant sports a “reported” 4.24 40-yard dash.
In addition to a new defensive coordinator, State has a new DL coach and a new cornerbacks coach.


Special Teams:

Kicker Westin Graves (6-0, 160, Jr.) is 8-of-10 on field goals for the season, with a long of 48. Punter Logan Cooke (6-5, 224, Jr.) returns as the starter, and is averaging 40.6. He’s had one punt blocked.
Running back Brandon Holloway and wide receiver Fred Ross are the kickoff and punt returners respectively. Holloway is averaging 20.6 per kickoff return; Ross is averaging 6.9 on 9 punts returned.


How Will They Play It?

I will be somewhat surprised if Auburn’s defensive front doesn’t prove to be too much for State’s running game. To me, that means State will lean toward option plays and throwing the football. Ross is an especially athletic wide receiver, and very good after the catch. Donald Gray is a deep threat. I’d also expect Mullen to bring some throws to his running back, trying to get the ball to a playmaker in space. If State does emphasize the option game, Auburn will need to play good assignment football, which I frankly expect this particular AU defense to do fairly well.
It will be important to keep Fitzgerald from getting outside, while maintaining discipline in staying in rush lanes to prevent Fitzgerald from taking off. While he is certainly a capable runner, Fitzgerald is not an athlete the caliber of Deshaun Watson, so the Auburn defense should be able to generate some pass rush.

Defensively, I think State’s linebackers, particularly Brown, are talented and experienced enough to execute their run fits well against the AU offense. For that reason, execution by the offensive line…..making the combination blocks effective, then climbing to the second level….will be critical to the running game. I expect State’s front to be focused enough on Auburn’s running game that the linebackers and strong safety will struggle to do their part on pass defense. That, of course, means AU has to stay out of third and long or other obvious passing situations. I think Auburn can run the ball vs the State defense, but if the plays are predictable, State will be prepared enough to hold up well. A good mix of run/pass on first downs will likely be problematic for State.

Mulllen has won two in a row and three of the last four against Auburn. Like him or not, his teams are well coached and well prepared. He likes to bring a trick play or two, and has a good knack for calling those at the right time. I think Auburn has superior talent in this game, and enough of that to win. It’s been a full two weeks now since Malzahn handed over the offensive planning and play-calling to Lashlee and Hand. As expected, we didn’t see much different in the offense last week, but this is a critical game for both teams, and we should get a good look at the direction Lashlee and Hand are taking the offense. Just a subtle change here and there can make a world of difference.
Starkville, although not one of the gigantic stadiums in college football, is not an easy place to play. The cowbells will be there in force. But Auburn knows that, and should be prepared to deal with it. Early game or not, it’s important to start fast, play hard to the end, and be stronger at the end than at the beginning. This is an SEC game that Auburn needs to win. I see no reason that shouldn’t happen.
Coach’s Corner: Auburn vs Mississippi State….

Auburn (3-2, 1-1 SEC) goes on the road for the first time in 2016, heading to Starkville, Miss. to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-2, 1-1 SEC). The game is set for 11 AM Central Time at Davis Wade Stadium (61,337).
State’s season got off to a surprising start, as they fell to South Alabama, 21-20. They bounced back from that loss with a win over South Carolina at home. The only common opponent State and Auburn have played this season is LSU, with Auburn winning theirs 18-13 at home, while State mounted a strong comeback in the second half before losing 23-20 in Baton Rouge.

Head Coach Dan Mullen is in his 8th year at the helm. Mullen has the second-highest winning percentage in MSU history. A long time assistant to Urban Myer (Bowling Green, Utah, Florida), Mullen’s specialty is offense and quarterbacks. Although Auburn holds a 61-26-2 advantage in the series with State, MSU has won the last two, and three of the last four. State won the game 17-9 at Jordan-Hare last season.

MSU Offense:

State put up a season-high 598 yards of offense in their last game, a 47-35 win over UMass, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. In that game, QB Nick Fitzgerald (6-5, 230, Soph) became the second QB in school history to record over 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in a game. Fitzgerald was Dak Prescott’s primary backup last year. Against South Carolina, in only his second career start, he set the school record for rushing yards by a QB, running 17 times for 195 yards. At this point in the season, Fitzgerald leads the team in both rushing and passing, averaging 7 yards per rushing attempt and 82 rushing yards per game. He’s completed 57 of 95 pass attempts (60%) for 603 yards and 5 TD’s with one interception. Backup QB Damian Williams (6-1, 229, Jr.) engineered the MSU comeback against LSU. He’s completed 25 of 36 (69.4%) pass attempts, and appears very capable of running the Bulldog offense.

Other than Fitzgerald at QB, the most dangerous weapon on the field when MSU has the ball is probably wide receiver Fred Ross (6-2, 205, Sr.). Ross is currently the #6 receiver in the SEC, averaging 6.3 catches per game. He had 8 for 126 yards in the Dogs’ last game at UMass. He’s recorded 17 career touchdowns, including 14 receiving, 1 rushing, 1 via punt return, and 1 passing.
Wide receiver Donald Gray (5-10, 193, Jr.) has 18 receptions this season, averaging 17.9 yards per catch Gray had 86 yards on three catches against LSU. Redshirt freshman tight end Farrod Green (6-3, 232) is gradually being worked into the passing game, and had three receptions in the Mass game, including one for his first career TD.

Brandon Holloway (5-8, 165, Sr.) has started the last 12 games at running back. He’s carried the ball 41 times in 4 games, averaging 4.7 ypc. Ashton Shumpert (6-2, 218, Sr.) has 26 carries, averaging 5.5. Shumpert got a career-high 12 carries in MSU’s last game.
The offensive line is anchored by three seniors. Left guard Devon Dester (6-4, 305, 19 starts), center Jamaal Claiborne (6-4, 315, 16 starts) and right tackle Justin Senior (6-5, 310, 30 starts) are joined by sophomores at right guard and left tackle.

When looking at the State offense, a couple of things to keep in mind: Dan Mullen was with Urban Meyer when they implemented their so-called “spread option” attack at Bowling Green and then at Utah, with quarterback Alex Smith. Also, Mullen has a good history of adapting his offense to the players he has available. This year, although they are roughly 60-40 run-to-pass, they utilize the skills of their athletic QB and the talents of wide receivers Fred Ross and Donald Gray.


MSU Defense:

Defensive Coordinator Peter Sirmons is the sixth defensive coordinator in Mullen’s eight seasons at State. Sirmons, who spent 6 seasons as a linebacker with the Tennessee Titans of the NFL, was most recently the linebacker coach at Southern Cal, hired there by former coach Steve Sarkisian. Prior to that, he’d been LB coach at Washington, and for a season at Tennessee with Derek Dooley.
State uses a version of the 3-4, although they’ll almost certainly be in a 3-3 or 4-2 against Auburn’s typical formations. They’ve been decent against the run, giving up an average of 3.5 yards per rushing attempt. Against the pass, they give up 6.7 yards per attempt, and they’ve been hurt more by passing than by running.
Senior DE A.J. Jefferson (6-3, 280) leads the SEC in tackles for loss, including 3 sacks. Nose tackle Nelson Adams (6-3, 305, Sr.) has been a perennial backup, playing in 42 games over his career with 7 starts. Sophomore DT Corey Thomas (6-5, 313) is in his first year as a starter, and has a very respectable 13 tackles in 4 games.Richie Brown The strength of the State defense is linebacker Richie Brown (6-2, 240, Sr.). Brown leads the team with 28 tackles, and is a grad student pursuing an MBA. State’s version of the hybrid DE/LB in their 3-4 scheme is called “Viper”, and that position is played by senior Jonathan Calvin (6-3, 272). Calvin had 9 tackles in the Mass game, with 3 TFL, a sack, and an interception.
The secondary returns two starters in free safety Kivon Coman (6-3, 205, Sr. ) and strong safety Brandon Bryant (6-0, 215, Soph.). Bryant sports a “reported” 4.24 40-yard dash.
In addition to a new defensive coordinator, State has a new DL coach and a new cornerbacks coach.


Special Teams:

Kicker Westin Graves (6-0, 160, Jr.) is 8-of-10 on field goals for the season, with a long of 48. Punter Logan Cooke (6-5, 224, Jr.) returns as the starter, and is averaging 40.6. He’s had one punt blocked.
Running back Brandon Holloway and wide receiver Fred Ross are the kickoff and punt returners respectively. Holloway is averaging 20.6 per kickoff return; Ross is averaging 6.9 on 9 punts returned.


How Will They Play It?

I will be somewhat surprised if Auburn’s defensive front doesn’t prove to be too much for State’s running game. To me, that means State will lean toward option plays and throwing the football. Ross is an especially athletic wide receiver, and very good after the catch. Donald Gray is a deep threat. I’d also expect Mullen to bring some throws to his running back, trying to get the ball to a playmaker in space. If State does emphasize the option game, Auburn will need to play good assignment football, which I frankly expect this particular AU defense to do fairly well.
It will be important to keep Fitzgerald from getting outside, while maintaining discipline in staying in rush lanes to prevent Fitzgerald from taking off. While he is certainly a capable runner, Fitzgerald is not an athlete the caliber of Deshaun Watson, so the Auburn defense should be able to generate some pass rush.

Defensively, I think State’s linebackers, particularly Brown, are talented and experienced enough to execute their run fits well against the AU offense. For that reason, execution by the offensive line…..making the combination blocks effective, then climbing to the second level….will be critical to the running game. I expect State’s front to be focused enough on Auburn’s running game that the linebackers and strong safety will struggle to do their part on pass defense. That, of course, means AU has to stay out of third and long or other obvious passing situations. I think Auburn can run the ball vs the State defense, but if the plays are predictable, State will be prepared enough to hold up well. A good mix of run/pass on first downs will likely be problematic for State.

Mulllen has won two in a row and three of the last four against Auburn. Like him or not, his teams are well coached and well prepared. He likes to bring a trick play or two, and has a good knack for calling those at the right time. I think Auburn has superior talent in this game, and enough of that to win. It’s been a full two weeks now since Malzahn handed over the offensive planning and play-calling to Lashlee and Hand. As expected, we didn’t see much different in the offense last week, but this is a critical game for both teams, and we should get a good look at the direction Lashlee and Hand are taking the offense. Just a subtle change here and there can make a world of difference.
Starkville, although not one of the gigantic stadiums in college football, is not an easy place to play. The cowbells will be there in force. But Auburn knows that, and should be prepared to deal with it. Early game or not, it’s important to start fast, play hard to the end, and be stronger at the end than at the beginning. This is an SEC game that Auburn needs to win. I see no reason that shouldn’t happen.
Coach’s Corner: Auburn vs Mississippi State….

Auburn (3-2, 1-1 SEC) goes on the road for the first time in 2016, heading to Starkville, Miss. to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-2, 1-1 SEC). The game is set for 11 AM Central Time at Davis Wade Stadium (61,337).
State’s season got off to a surprising start, as they fell to South Alabama, 21-20. They bounced back from that loss with a win over South Carolina at home. The only common opponent State and Auburn have played this season is LSU, with Auburn winning theirs 18-13 at home, while State mounted a strong comeback in the second half before losing 23-20 in Baton Rouge.

Head Coach Dan Mullen is in his 8th year at the helm. Mullen has the second-highest winning percentage in MSU history. A long time assistant to Urban Myer (Bowling Green, Utah, Florida), Mullen’s specialty is offense and quarterbacks. Although Auburn holds a 61-26-2 advantage in the series with State, MSU has won the last two, and three of the last four. State won the game 17-9 at Jordan-Hare last season.

MSU Offense:

State put up a season-high 598 yards of offense in their last game, a 47-35 win over UMass, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. In that game, QB Nick Fitzgerald (6-5, 230, Soph) became the second QB in school history to record over 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in a game. Fitzgerald was Dak Prescott’s primary backup last year. Against South Carolina, in only his second career start, he set the school record for rushing yards by a QB, running 17 times for 195 yards. At this point in the season, Fitzgerald leads the team in both rushing and passing, averaging 7 yards per rushing attempt and 82 rushing yards per game. He’s completed 57 of 95 pass attempts (60%) for 603 yards and 5 TD’s with one interception. Backup QB Damian Williams (6-1, 229, Jr.) engineered the MSU comeback against LSU. He’s completed 25 of 36 (69.4%) pass attempts, and appears very capable of running the Bulldog offense.

Other than Fitzgerald at QB, the most dangerous weapon on the field when MSU has the ball is probably wide receiver Fred Ross (6-2, 205, Sr.). Ross is currently the #6 receiver in the SEC, averaging 6.3 catches per game. He had 8 for 126 yards in the Dogs’ last game at UMass. He’s recorded 17 career touchdowns, including 14 receiving, 1 rushing, 1 via punt return, and 1 passing.
Wide receiver Donald Gray (5-10, 193, Jr.) has 18 receptions this season, averaging 17.9 yards per catch Gray had 86 yards on three catches against LSU. Redshirt freshman tight end Farrod Green (6-3, 232) is gradually being worked into the passing game, and had three receptions in the Mass game, including one for his first career TD.

Brandon Holloway (5-8, 165, Sr.) has started the last 12 games at running back. He’s carried the ball 41 times in 4 games, averaging 4.7 ypc. Ashton Shumpert (6-2, 218, Sr.) has 26 carries, averaging 5.5. Shumpert got a career-high 12 carries in MSU’s last game.
The offensive line is anchored by three seniors. Left guard Devon Dester (6-4, 305, 19 starts), center Jamaal Claiborne (6-4, 315, 16 starts) and right tackle Justin Senior (6-5, 310, 30 starts) are joined by sophomores at right guard and left tackle.

When looking at the State offense, a couple of things to keep in mind: Dan Mullen was with Urban Meyer when they implemented their so-called “spread option” attack at Bowling Green and then at Utah, with quarterback Alex Smith. Also, Mullen has a good history of adapting his offense to the players he has available. This year, although they are roughly 60-40 run-to-pass, they utilize the skills of their athletic QB and the talents of wide receivers Fred Ross and Donald Gray.


MSU Defense:

Defensive Coordinator Peter Sirmons is the sixth defensive coordinator in Mullen’s eight seasons at State. Sirmons, who spent 6 seasons as a linebacker with the Tennessee Titans of the NFL, was most recently the linebacker coach at Southern Cal, hired there by former coach Steve Sarkisian. Prior to that, he’d been LB coach at Washington, and for a season at Tennessee with Derek Dooley.
State uses a version of the 3-4, although they’ll almost certainly be in a 3-3 or 4-2 against Auburn’s typical formations. They’ve been decent against the run, giving up an average of 3.5 yards per rushing attempt. Against the pass, they give up 6.7 yards per attempt, and they’ve been hurt more by passing than by running.
Senior DE A.J. Jefferson (6-3, 280) leads the SEC in tackles for loss, including 3 sacks. Nose tackle Nelson Adams (6-3, 305, Sr.) has been a perennial backup, playing in 42 games over his career with 7 starts. Sophomore DT Corey Thomas (6-5, 313) is in his first year as a starter, and has a very respectable 13 tackles in 4 games.Richie Brown The strength of the State defense is linebacker Richie Brown (6-2, 240, Sr.). Brown leads the team with 28 tackles, and is a grad student pursuing an MBA. State’s version of the hybrid DE/LB in their 3-4 scheme is called “Viper”, and that position is played by senior Jonathan Calvin (6-3, 272). Calvin had 9 tackles in the Mass game, with 3 TFL, a sack, and an interception.
The secondary returns two starters in free safety Kivon Coman (6-3, 205, Sr. ) and strong safety Brandon Bryant (6-0, 215, Soph.). Bryant sports a “reported” 4.24 40-yard dash.
In addition to a new defensive coordinator, State has a new DL coach and a new cornerbacks coach.


Special Teams:

Kicker Westin Graves (6-0, 160, Jr.) is 8-of-10 on field goals for the season, with a long of 48. Punter Logan Cooke (6-5, 224, Jr.) returns as the starter, and is averaging 40.6. He’s had one punt blocked.
Running back Brandon Holloway and wide receiver Fred Ross are the kickoff and punt returners respectively. Holloway is averaging 20.6 per kickoff return; Ross is averaging 6.9 on 9 punts returned.


How Will They Play It?

I will be somewhat surprised if Auburn’s defensive front doesn’t prove to be too much for State’s running game. To me, that means State will lean toward option plays and throwing the football. Ross is an especially athletic wide receiver, and very good after the catch. Donald Gray is a deep threat. I’d also expect Mullen to bring some throws to his running back, trying to get the ball to a playmaker in space. If State does emphasize the option game, Auburn will need to play good assignment football, which I frankly expect this particular AU defense to do fairly well.
It will be important to keep Fitzgerald from getting outside, while maintaining discipline in staying in rush lanes to prevent Fitzgerald from taking off. While he is certainly a capable runner, Fitzgerald is not an athlete the caliber of Deshaun Watson, so the Auburn defense should be able to generate some pass rush.

Defensively, I think State’s linebackers, particularly Brown, are talented and experienced enough to execute their run fits well against the AU offense. For that reason, execution by the offensive line…..making the combination blocks effective, then climbing to the second level….will be critical to the running game. I expect State’s front to be focused enough on Auburn’s running game that the linebackers and strong safety will struggle to do their part on pass defense. That, of course, means AU has to stay out of third and long or other obvious passing situations. I think Auburn can run the ball vs the State defense, but if the plays are predictable, State will be prepared enough to hold up well. A good mix of run/pass on first downs will likely be problematic for State.

Mulllen has won two in a row and three of the last four against Auburn. Like him or not, his teams are well coached and well prepared. He likes to bring a trick play or two, and has a good knack for calling those at the right time. I think Auburn has superior talent in this game, and enough of that to win. It’s been a full two weeks now since Malzahn handed over the offensive planning and play-calling to Lashlee and Hand. As expected, we didn’t see much different in the offense last week, but this is a critical game for both teams, and we should get a good look at the direction Lashlee and Hand are taking the offense. Just a subtle change here and there can make a world of difference.
Starkville, although not one of the gigantic stadiums in college football, is not an easy place to play. The cowbells will be there in force. But Auburn knows that, and should be prepared to deal with it. Early game or not, it’s important to start fast, play hard to the end, and be stronger at the end than at the beginning. This is an SEC game that Auburn needs to win. I see no reason that shouldn’t happen.
Coach’s Corner: Auburn vs Mississippi State….
 
  Auburn (3-2, 1-1 SEC) goes on the road for the first time in 2016, heading to Starkville, Miss. to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-2, 1-1 SEC). The game is set for 11 AM Central Time at Davis Wade Stadium (61,337).
  State’s season got off to a surprising start, as they fell to South Alabama, 21-20. They bounced back from that loss with a win over South Carolina at home. The only common opponent State and Auburn have played this season is LSU, with Auburn winning theirs 18-13 at home, while State mounted a strong comeback in the second half before losing 23-20 in Baton Rouge.
 
  Head Coach Dan Mullen is in his 8th year at the helm. Mullen has the second-highest winning percentage in MSU history. A long time assistant to Urban Myer (Bowling Green, Utah, Florida), Mullen’s specialty is offense and quarterbacks. Although Auburn holds a 61-26-2 advantage in the series with State, MSU has won the last two, and three of the last four. State won the game 17-9 at Jordan-Hare last season.
 
MSU Offense:
 
  State put up a season-high 598 yards of offense in their last game, a 47-35 win over UMass, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. In that game, QB Nick Fitzgerald (6-5, 230, Soph) became the second QB in school history to record over 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in a game. Fitzgerald was Dak Prescott’s primary backup last year.  Against South Carolina, in only his second career start, he set the school record for rushing yards by a QB, running 17 times for 195 yards. At this point in the season, Fitzgerald leads the team in both rushing and passing, averaging 7 yards per rushing attempt and 82 rushing yards per game. He’s completed 57 of 95 pass attempts (60%) for 603 yards and 5 TD’s with one interception. Backup QB Damian Williams (6-1, 229, Jr.) engineered the MSU comeback against LSU. He’s completed 25 of 36 (69.4%) pass attempts, and appears very capable of running the Bulldog offense.
 
  Other than Fitzgerald at QB, the most dangerous weapon on the field when MSU has the ball is probably wide receiver Fred Ross (6-2, 205, Sr.). Ross is currently the #6 receiver in the SEC, averaging 6.3 catches per game. He had 8 for 126 yards in the Dogs’ last game at UMass. He’s recorded 17 career touchdowns, including 14 receiving, 1 rushing, 1 via punt return, and 1 passing.
  Wide receiver Donald Gray (5-10, 193, Jr.) has 18 receptions this season, averaging 17.9 yards per catch Gray had 86 yards on three catches against LSU. Redshirt freshman tight end Farrod Green (6-3, 232) is gradually being worked into the passing game, and had three receptions in the Mass game, including one for his first career TD.
 
  Brandon Holloway (5-8, 165, Sr.) has started the last 12 games at running back. He’s carried the ball 41 times in 4 games, averaging 4.7 ypc. Ashton Shumpert (6-2, 218, Sr.) has 26 carries, averaging 5.5. Shumpert got a career-high 12 carries in MSU’s last game.
  The offensive line is anchored by three seniors. Left guard Devon Dester (6-4, 305, 19 starts), center Jamaal Claiborne (6-4, 315, 16 starts) and right tackle Justin Senior (6-5, 310, 30 starts) are joined by sophomores at right guard and left tackle.
 
  When looking at the State offense, a couple of things to keep in mind: Dan Mullen was with Urban Meyer when they implemented their so-called “spread option” attack at Bowling Green and then at Utah, with quarterback Alex Smith. Also, Mullen has a good history of adapting his offense to the players he has available. This year, although they are roughly 60-40 run-to-pass, they utilize the skills of their athletic QB and the talents of wide receivers Fred Ross and Donald Gray.
 
 
MSU Defense:
 
  Defensive Coordinator Peter Sirmons is the sixth defensive coordinator in Mullen’s eight seasons at State. Sirmons, who spent 6 seasons as a linebacker with the Tennessee Titans of the NFL, was most recently the linebacker coach at Southern Cal, hired there by former coach Steve Sarkisian. Prior to that, he’d been LB coach at Washington, and for a season at Tennessee with Derek Dooley.
  State uses a version of the 3-4, although they’ll almost certainly be in a 3-3 or 4-2 against Auburn’s typical formations. They’ve been decent against the run, giving up an average of 3.5 yards per rushing attempt. Against the pass, they give up 6.7 yards per attempt, and they’ve been hurt more by passing than by running.
  Senior DE A.J. Jefferson (6-3, 280) leads the SEC in tackles for loss, including 3 sacks. Nose tackle Nelson Adams (6-3, 305, Sr.) has been a perennial backup, playing in 42 games over his career with 7 starts. Sophomore DT Corey Thomas (6-5, 313) is in his first year as a starter, and has a very respectable 13 tackles in 4 games.Richie Brown  The strength of the State defense is linebacker Richie Brown (6-2, 240, Sr.). Brown leads the team with 28 tackles, and is a grad student pursuing an MBA. State’s version of the hybrid DE/LB in their 3-4 scheme is called “Viper”, and that position is played by senior Jonathan Calvin (6-3, 272). Calvin had 9 tackles in the Mass game, with 3 TFL, a sack, and an interception.
  The secondary returns two starters in free safety Kivon Coman (6-3, 205, Sr. ) and strong safety Brandon Bryant (6-0, 215, Soph.). Bryant sports a “reported” 4.24 40-yard dash.
  In addition to a new defensive coordinator, State has a new DL coach and a new cornerbacks coach.
 
 
Special Teams:
 
  Kicker Westin Graves (6-0, 160, Jr.) is 8-of-10 on field goals for the season, with a long of 48. Punter Logan Cooke (6-5, 224, Jr.) returns as the starter, and is averaging 40.6. He’s had one punt blocked.
  Running back Brandon Holloway and wide receiver Fred Ross are the kickoff and punt returners respectively. Holloway is averaging 20.6 per kickoff return; Ross is averaging 6.9 on 9 punts returned.
 
 
How Will They Play It?
 
  I will be somewhat surprised if Auburn’s defensive front doesn’t prove to be too much for State’s running game. To me, that means State will lean toward option plays and throwing the football. Ross is an especially athletic wide receiver, and very good after the catch. Donald Gray is a deep threat. I’d also expect Mullen to bring some throws to his running back, trying to get the ball to a playmaker in space. If State does emphasize the option game, Auburn will need to play good assignment football, which I frankly expect this particular AU defense to do fairly well.
It will be important to keep Fitzgerald from getting outside, while maintaining discipline in staying in rush lanes to prevent Fitzgerald from taking off. While he is certainly a capable runner, Fitzgerald is not an athlete the caliber of Deshaun Watson, so the Auburn defense should be able to generate some pass rush.
 
  Defensively, I think State’s linebackers, particularly Brown, are talented and experienced enough to execute their run fits well against the AU offense. For that reason, execution by the offensive line…..making the combination blocks effective, then climbing to the second level….will be critical to the running game. I expect State’s front to be focused enough on Auburn’s running game that the linebackers and strong safety will struggle to do their part on pass defense. That, of course, means AU has to stay out of third and long or other obvious passing situations. I think Auburn can run the ball vs the State defense, but if the plays are predictable, State will be prepared enough to hold up well. A good mix of run/pass on first downs will likely be problematic for State.
 
  Mulllen has won two in a row and three of the last four against Auburn. Like him or not, his teams are well coached and well prepared. He likes to bring a trick play or two, and has a good knack for calling those at the right time. I think Auburn has superior talent in this game, and enough of that to win. It’s been a full two weeks now since Malzahn handed over the offensive planning and play-calling to Lashlee and Hand. As expected, we didn’t see much different in the offense last week, but this is a critical game for both teams, and we should get a good look at the direction Lashlee and Hand are taking the offense. Just a subtle change here and there can make a world of difference.
  Starkville, although not one of the gigantic stadiums in college football, is not an easy place to play. The cowbells will be there in force. But Auburn knows that, and should be prepared to deal with it. Early game or not, it’s important to start fast, play hard to the end, and be stronger at the end than at the beginning. This is an SEC game that Auburn needs to win. I see no reason that shouldn’t happen.
Coach’s Corner: Auburn vs Mississippi State….
 
  Auburn (3-2, 1-1 SEC) goes on the road for the first time in 2016, heading to Starkville, Miss. to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-2, 1-1 SEC). The game is set for 11 AM Central Time at Davis Wade Stadium (61,337).
  State’s season got off to a surprising start, as they fell to South Alabama, 21-20. They bounced back from that loss with a win over South Carolina at home. The only common opponent State and Auburn have played this season is LSU, with Auburn winning theirs 18-13 at home, while State mounted a strong comeback in the second half before losing 23-20 in Baton Rouge.
 
  Head Coach Dan Mullen is in his 8th year at the helm. Mullen has the second-highest winning percentage in MSU history. A long time assistant to Urban Myer (Bowling Green, Utah, Florida), Mullen’s specialty is offense and quarterbacks. Although Auburn holds a 61-26-2 advantage in the series with State, MSU has won the last two, and three of the last four. State won the game 17-9 at Jordan-Hare last season.
 
MSU Offense:
 
  State put up a season-high 598 yards of offense in their last game, a 47-35 win over UMass, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. In that game, QB Nick Fitzgerald (6-5, 230, Soph) became the second QB in school history to record over 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in a game. Fitzgerald was Dak Prescott’s primary backup last year.  Against South Carolina, in only his second career start, he set the school record for rushing yards by a QB, running 17 times for 195 yards. At this point in the season, Fitzgerald leads the team in both rushing and passing, averaging 7 yards per rushing attempt and 82 rushing yards per game. He’s completed 57 of 95 pass attempts (60%) for 603 yards and 5 TD’s with one interception. Backup QB Damian Williams (6-1, 229, Jr.) engineered the MSU comeback against LSU. He’s completed 25 of 36 (69.4%) pass attempts, and appears very capable of running the Bulldog offense.
 
  Other than Fitzgerald at QB, the most dangerous weapon on the field when MSU has the ball is probably wide receiver Fred Ross (6-2, 205, Sr.). Ross is currently the #6 receiver in the SEC, averaging 6.3 catches per game. He had 8 for 126 yards in the Dogs’ last game at UMass. He’s recorded 17 career touchdowns, including 14 receiving, 1 rushing, 1 via punt return, and 1 passing.
  Wide receiver Donald Gray (5-10, 193, Jr.) has 18 receptions this season, averaging 17.9 yards per catch Gray had 86 yards on three catches against LSU. Redshirt freshman tight end Farrod Green (6-3, 232) is gradually being worked into the passing game, and had three receptions in the Mass game, including one for his first career TD.
 
  Brandon Holloway (5-8, 165, Sr.) has started the last 12 games at running back. He’s carried the ball 41 times in 4 games, averaging 4.7 ypc. Ashton Shumpert (6-2, 218, Sr.) has 26 carries, averaging 5.5. Shumpert got a career-high 12 carries in MSU’s last game.
  The offensive line is anchored by three seniors. Left guard Devon Dester (6-4, 305, 19 starts), center Jamaal Claiborne (6-4, 315, 16 starts) and right tackle Justin Senior (6-5, 310, 30 starts) are joined by sophomores at right guard and left tackle.
 
  When looking at the State offense, a couple of things to keep in mind: Dan Mullen was with Urban Meyer when they implemented their so-called “spread option” attack at Bowling Green and then at Utah, with quarterback Alex Smith. Also, Mullen has a good history of adapting his offense to the players he has available. This year, although they are roughly 60-40 run-to-pass, they utilize the skills of their athletic QB and the talents of wide receivers Fred Ross and Donald Gray.
 
 
MSU Defense:
 
  Defensive Coordinator Peter Sirmons is the sixth defensive coordinator in Mullen’s eight seasons at State. Sirmons, who spent 6 seasons as a linebacker with the Tennessee Titans of the NFL, was most recently the linebacker coach at Southern Cal, hired there by former coach Steve Sarkisian. Prior to that, he’d been LB coach at Washington, and for a season at Tennessee with Derek Dooley.
  State uses a version of the 3-4, although they’ll almost certainly be in a 3-3 or 4-2 against Auburn’s typical formations. They’ve been decent against the run, giving up an average of 3.5 yards per rushing attempt. Against the pass, they give up 6.7 yards per attempt, and they’ve been hurt more by passing than by running.
  Senior DE A.J. Jefferson (6-3, 280) leads the SEC in tackles for loss, including 3 sacks. Nose tackle Nelson Adams (6-3, 305, Sr.) has been a perennial backup, playing in 42 games over his career with 7 starts. Sophomore DT Corey Thomas (6-5, 313) is in his first year as a starter, and has a very respectable 13 tackles in 4 games.Richie Brown  The strength of the State defense is linebacker Richie Brown (6-2, 240, Sr.). Brown leads the team with 28 tackles, and is a grad student pursuing an MBA. State’s version of the hybrid DE/LB in their 3-4 scheme is called “Viper”, and that position is played by senior Jonathan Calvin (6-3, 272). Calvin had 9 tackles in the Mass game, with 3 TFL, a sack, and an interception.
  The secondary returns two starters in free safety Kivon Coman (6-3, 205, Sr. ) and strong safety Brandon Bryant (6-0, 215, Soph.). Bryant sports a “reported” 4.24 40-yard dash.
  In addition to a new defensive coordinator, State has a new DL coach and a new cornerbacks coach.
 
 
Special Teams:
 
  Kicker Westin Graves (6-0, 160, Jr.) is 8-of-10 on field goals for the season, with a long of 48. Punter Logan Cooke (6-5, 224, Jr.) returns as the starter, and is averaging 40.6. He’s had one punt blocked.
  Running back Brandon Holloway and wide receiver Fred Ross are the kickoff and punt returners respectively. Holloway is averaging 20.6 per kickoff return; Ross is averaging 6.9 on 9 punts returned.
 
 
How Will They Play It?
 
  I will be somewhat surprised if Auburn’s defensive front doesn’t prove to be too much for State’s running game. To me, that means State will lean toward option plays and throwing the football. Ross is an especially athletic wide receiver, and very good after the catch. Donald Gray is a deep threat. I’d also expect Mullen to bring some throws to his running back, trying to get the ball to a playmaker in space. If State does emphasize the option game, Auburn will need to play good assignment football, which I frankly expect this particular AU defense to do fairly well.
It will be important to keep Fitzgerald from getting outside, while maintaining discipline in staying in rush lanes to prevent Fitzgerald from taking off. While he is certainly a capable runner, Fitzgerald is not an athlete the caliber of Deshaun Watson, so the Auburn defense should be able to generate some pass rush.
 
  Defensively, I think State’s linebackers, particularly Brown, are talented and experienced enough to execute their run fits well against the AU offense. For that reason, execution by the offensive line…..making the combination blocks effective, then climbing to the second level….will be critical to the running game. I expect State’s front to be focused enough on Auburn’s running game that the linebackers and strong safety will struggle to do their part on pass defense. That, of course, means AU has to stay out of third and long or other obvious passing situations. I think Auburn can run the ball vs the State defense, but if the plays are predictable, State will be prepared enough to hold up well. A good mix of run/pass on first downs will likely be problematic for State.
 
  Mulllen has won two in a row and three of the last four against Auburn. Like him or not, his teams are well coached and well prepared. He likes to bring a trick play or two, and has a good knack for calling those at the right time. I think Auburn has superior talent in this game, and enough of that to win. It’s been a full two weeks now since Malzahn handed over the offensive planning and play-calling to Lashlee and Hand. As expected, we didn’t see much different in the offense last week, but this is a critical game for both teams, and we should get a good look at the direction Lashlee and Hand are taking the offense. Just a subtle change here and there can make a world of difference.
  Starkville, although not one of the gigantic stadiums in college football, is not an easy place to play. The cowbells will be there in force. But Auburn knows that, and should be prepared to deal with it. Early game or not, it’s important to start fast, play hard to the end, and be stronger at the end than at the beginning. This is an SEC game that Auburn needs to win. I see no reason that shouldn’t happen.
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Thanks...MSU has been sort of an unknown team to me ....mostly knew of Dak when he was there but the talent level has always seemed to be at the bottom half of the SEC..maybe I've misjudged them....but appears they have over-achieved against AU.    MSU is not the kind of team that we should have lost to in 3 of the last 4 meetings....JMO

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MSU lost a lot of talent other than Prescott.   They also lost their best WR. Also lost some good defenders plus their last DC. They go through more DCs than we do. If MSU's last recruiting class is an indicator, it would seem that they are running out of momentum. They also just lost a 5* WR from Starkville to Ole Miss which was a big blow. I'm not really sure why Mullen is hanging around. 

Should be interesting how we attack their hefty QB. Based on talent alone, we should win easily but then again, we can't get our offense off the ground. 

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Thanks @JMR!  As always very informative and nice write-up.  What are your thoughts around their OL and how they will stack against our DL?

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Just now, lkeel75 said:

Thanks @JMR!  As always very informative and nice write-up.  What are your thoughts around their OL and how they will stack against our DL?

Ikeel, their OL is usually well-coached, and they  do have three pretty experienced guys there. But unless our DL plays worse than they have all season, they should be a major factor in our favor.  I'm a guy who always finds something to worry about, though, and the best I can come up with this week is the possibility of Mullen working up some kind of scheme to move the ball on us. I don't like the guy, but he's very clever on the offensive side of the ball.

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I think the only thing I'm worried about for Auburn is this being the first road game of the season. We don't know how they will handle being away from JHS so this is a good first test.  Hopefully the travel, the change in venue/routines, and the cowbells don't cause too many issues.

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1 hour ago, JMR said:

Ikeel, their OL is usually well-coached, and they  do have three pretty experienced guys there. But unless our DL plays worse than they have all season, they should be a major factor in our favor.  I'm a guy who always finds something to worry about, though, and the best I can come up with this week is the possibility of Mullen working up some kind of scheme to move the ball on us. I don't like the guy, but he's very clever on the offensive side of the ball.

Thanks again @JMR!  It is sometimes hard for me to take the O&B glasses off, but our DL seems to be as strong and deep as anybody in the country.  I always worry with a mobile QB because rush lanes are so important.  I think that is one of the reasons that Lawson has not had the sacks that everyone thought because he is playing team ball and maintaining his containment.  I was really hoping that the MS OL would be young and inexperienced and we could just T-off on them, but looks like another week of lane management and LB's making the plays.

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1 minute ago, lkeel75 said:

  I always worry with a mobile QB because rush lanes are so important.

It's easier said than done but if the interior D line can push the line back while the DE's contain, then we will have the DT quaterbacks right where we want them. LSU put on a clinic with this when they played Manziel both times. When our DL forgets their gap responsibilities because they think they have a clear shot at the QB is when these lanes open up.

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If I had to rank the must win games remaining I would put this one at the top with Arky and UGA.  Lose this one we should win and the heat is definately going to be on the HC and staff.  I look for a good strong win but Mullen has been trouble for us the past few years so I'm counting on it probably being closer than it should be.  Of course, Prescott had a lot to do with those recent losses, along with that big receiver Wilson they had and they are both gone.  

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After the way our D contained Watson in the Clemson game, I'm not too worried about this QB. As long we don't give up big plays we should be fine on D. Love to see the offense put up 30 points and put this thing away early. 

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41 minutes ago, weagl1 said:

If I had to rank the must win games remaining I would put this one at the top with Arky and UGA.  Lose this one we should win and the heat is definately going to be on the HC and staff.  I look for a good strong win but Mullen has been trouble for us the past few years so I'm counting on it probably being closer than it should be.  Of course, Prescott had a lot to do with those recent losses, along with that big receiver Wilson they had and they are both gone.  

I think Gus can go 4-4 in the SEC and keep his job.  7 wins isn't exciting with all this talent we've accumulated...but I guess I mean to say that I don't think Arkansas is a must win.  We've got to beat MSU, Vandy, and UGA.  Beating OM and Arkansas is icing.

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That's sad when someone writes that's icing when it comes to winning games.   It should show everyone that the talent and coaching AU has is equal to almost everyone in the SEC, save vandy 

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1 hour ago, aujeff11 said:

It's easier said than done but if the interior D line can push the line back while the DE's contain, then we will have the DT quaterbacks right where we want them. LSU put on a clinic with this when they played Manziel both times. When our DL forgets their gap responsibilities because they think they have a clear shot at the QB is when these lanes open up.

Completely agree that it is easier said than done.  That is why I appreciate the effort we have had against the DT QBs we have played.  So far this year the team has done a great job on managing the running of the QB in those games.  I hope it continues Saturday!

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I agree this game is a must win to continue to build confidence for this young team and to keep the heat off the coaching staff. I think if we best State we should have momentum going into the off week and Arkansas. I don't think there is a team we can't beat if we continue to improve on offense.( I should  mention that  I am a very optimistic person!"

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22 hours ago, JMR said:
Coach’s Corner: Auburn vs Mississippi State….
[huge snip]
I think Auburn has superior talent in this game, and enough of that to win. It’s been a full two weeks now since Malzahn handed over the offensive planning and play-calling to Lashlee and Hand. As expected, we didn’t see much different in the offense last week, but this is a critical game for both teams, and we should get a good look at the direction Lashlee and Hand are taking the offense. Just a subtle change here and there can make a world of difference.
Coach's Corner: Auburn vs Mississippi State....

Auburn (3-2, 1-1 SEC) goes on the road for the first time in 2016, heading to Starkville, Miss. to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-2, 1-1 SEC). The game is set for 11 AM Central Time at Davis Wade Stadium (61,337).
State’s season got off to a surprising start, as they fell to South Alabama, 21-20. They bounced back from that loss with a win over South Carolina at home. The only common opponent State and Auburn have played this season is LSU, with Auburn winning theirs 18-13 at home, while State mounted a strong comeback in the second half before losing 23-20 in Baton Rouge.

Head Coach Dan Mullen is in his 8th year at the helm. Mullen has the second-highest winning percentage in MSU history. A long time assistant to Urban Myer (Bowling Green, Utah, Florida), Mullen’s specialty is offense and quarterbacks. Although Auburn holds a 61-26-2 advantage in the series with State, MSU has won the last two, and three of the last four. State won the game 17-9 at Jordan-Hare last season.

MSU Offense:

State put up a season-high 598 yards of offense in their last game, a 47-35 win over UMass, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. In that game, QB Nick Fitzgerald (6-5, 230, Soph) became the second QB in school history to record over 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in a game. Fitzgerald was Dak Prescott’s primary backup last year. Against South Carolina, in only his second career start, he set the school record for rushing yards by a QB, running 17 times for 195 yards. At this point in the season, Fitzgerald leads the team in both rushing and passing, averaging 7 yards per rushing attempt and 82 rushing yards per game. He’s completed 57 of 95 pass attempts (60%) for 603 yards and 5 TD’s with one interception. Backup QB Damian Williams (6-1, 229, Jr.) engineered the MSU comeback against LSU. He’s completed 25 of 36 (69.4%) pass attempts, and appears very capable of running the Bulldog offense.

Other than Fitzgerald at QB, the most dangerous weapon on the field when MSU has the ball is probably wide receiver Fred Ross (6-2, 205, Sr.). Ross is currently the #6 receiver in the SEC, averaging 6.3 catches per game. He had 8 for 126 yards in the Dogs’ last game at UMass. He’s recorded 17 career touchdowns, including 14 receiving, 1 rushing, 1 via punt return, and 1 passing.
Wide receiver Donald Gray (5-10, 193, Jr.) has 18 receptions this season, averaging 17.9 yards per catch Gray had 86 yards on three catches against LSU. Redshirt freshman tight end Farrod Green (6-3, 232) is gradually being worked into the passing game, and had three receptions in the Mass game, including one for his first career TD.

Brandon Holloway (5-8, 165, Sr.) has started the last 12 games at running back. He’s carried the ball 41 times in 4 games, averaging 4.7 ypc. Ashton Shumpert (6-2, 218, Sr.) has 26 carries, averaging 5.5. Shumpert got a career-high 12 carries in MSU’s last game.
The offensive line is anchored by three seniors. Left guard Devon Dester (6-4, 305, 19 starts), center Jamaal Claiborne (6-4, 315, 16 starts) and right tackle Justin Senior (6-5, 310, 30 starts) are joined by sophomores at right guard and left tackle.

When looking at the State offense, a couple of things to keep in mind: Dan Mullen was with Urban Meyer when they implemented their so-called “spread option” attack at Bowling Green and then at Utah, with quarterback Alex Smith. Also, Mullen has a good history of adapting his offense to the players he has available. This year, although they are roughly 60-40 run-to-pass, they utilize the skills of their athletic QB and the talents of wide receivers Fred Ross and Donald Gray.


MSU Defense:

Defensive Coordinator Peter Sirmons is the sixth defensive coordinator in Mullen’s eight seasons at State. Sirmons, who spent 6 seasons as a linebacker with the Tennessee Titans of the NFL, was most recently the linebacker coach at Southern Cal, hired there by former coach Steve Sarkisian. Prior to that, he’d been LB coach at Washington, and for a season at Tennessee with Derek Dooley.
State uses a version of the 3-4, although they’ll almost certainly be in a 3-3 or 4-2 against Auburn’s typical formations. They’ve been decent against the run, giving up an average of 3.5 yards per rushing attempt. Against the pass, they give up 6.7 yards per attempt, and they’ve been hurt more by passing than by running.
Senior DE A.J. Jefferson (6-3, 280) leads the SEC in tackles for loss, including 3 sacks. Nose tackle Nelson Adams (6-3, 305, Sr.) has been a perennial backup, playing in 42 games over his career with 7 starts. Sophomore DT Corey Thomas (6-5, 313) is in his first year as a starter, and has a very respectable 13 tackles in 4 games.Richie Brown The strength of the State defense is linebacker Richie Brown (6-2, 240, Sr.). Brown leads the team with 28 tackles, and is a grad student pursuing an MBA. State’s version of the hybrid DE/LB in their 3-4 scheme is called “Viper”, and that position is played by senior Jonathan Calvin (6-3, 272). Calvin had 9 tackles in the Mass game, with 3 TFL, a sack, and an interception.
The secondary returns two starters in free safety Kivon Coman (6-3, 205, Sr. ) and strong safety Brandon Bryant (6-0, 215, Soph.). Bryant sports a “reported” 4.24 40-yard dash.
In addition to a new defensive coordinator, State has a new DL coach and a new cornerbacks coach.


Special Teams:

Kicker Westin Graves (6-0, 160, Jr.) is 8-of-10 on field goals for the season, with a long of 48. Punter Logan Cooke (6-5, 224, Jr.) returns as the starter, and is averaging 40.6. He’s had one punt blocked.
Running back Brandon Holloway and wide receiver Fred Ross are the kickoff and punt returners respectively. Holloway is averaging 20.6 per kickoff return; Ross is averaging 6.9 on 9 punts returned.


How Will They Play It?

I will be somewhat surprised if Auburn’s defensive front doesn’t prove to be too much for State’s running game. To me, that means State will lean toward option plays and throwing the football. Ross is an especially athletic wide receiver, and very good after the catch. Donald Gray is a deep threat. I’d also expect Mullen to bring some throws to his running back, trying to get the ball to a playmaker in space. If State does emphasize the option game, Auburn will need to play good assignment football, which I frankly expect this particular AU defense to do fairly well.
It will be important to keep Fitzgerald from getting outside, while maintaining discipline in staying in rush lanes to prevent Fitzgerald from taking off. While he is certainly a capable runner, Fitzgerald is not an athlete the caliber of Deshaun Watson, so the Auburn defense should be able to generate some pass rush.

Defensively, I think State’s linebackers, particularly Brown, are talented and experienced enough to execute their run fits well against the AU offense. For that reason, execution by the offensive line…..making the combination blocks effective, then climbing to the second level….will be critical to the running game. I expect State’s front to be focused enough on Auburn’s running game that the linebackers and strong safety will struggle to do their part on pass defense. That, of course, means AU has to stay out of third and long or other obvious passing situations. I think Auburn can run the ball vs the State defense, but if the plays are predictable, State will be prepared enough to hold up well. A good mix of run/pass on first downs will likely be problematic for State.

Mulllen has won two in a row and three of the last four against Auburn. Like him or not, his teams are well coached and well prepared. He likes to bring a trick play or two, and has a good knack for calling those at the right time. I think Auburn has superior talent in this game, and enough of that to win. It’s been a full two weeks now since Malzahn handed over the offensive planning and play-calling to Lashlee and Hand. As expected, we didn’t see much different in the offense last week, but this is a critical game for both teams, and we should get a good look at the direction Lashlee and Hand are taking the offense. Just a subtle change here and there can make a world of difference.
Starkville, although not one of the gigantic stadiums in college football, is not an easy place to play. The cowbells will be there in force. But Auburn knows that, and should be prepared to deal with it. Early game or not, it’s important to start fast, play hard to the end, and be stronger at the end than at the beginning. This is an SEC game that Auburn needs to win. I see no reason that shouldn’t happen.
Auburn (3-2, 1-1 SEC) goes on the road for the first time in 2016, heading to Starkville, Miss. to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-2, 1-1 SEC). The game is set for 11 AM Central Time at Davis Wade Stadium (61,337).
State’s season got off to a surprising start, as they fell to South Alabama, 21-20. They bounced back from that loss with a win over South Carolina at home. The only common opponent State and Auburn have played this season is LSU, with Auburn winning theirs 18-13 at home, while State mounted a strong comeback in the second half before losing 23-20 in Baton Rouge.

Head Coach Dan Mullen is in his 8th year at the helm. Mullen has the second-highest winning percentage in MSU history. A long time assistant to Urban Myer (Bowling Green, Utah, Florida), Mullen’s specialty is offense and quarterbacks. Although Auburn holds a 61-26-2 advantage in the series with State, MSU has won the last two, and three of the last four. State won the game 17-9 at Jordan-Hare last season.

MSU Offense:

State put up a season-high 598 yards of offense in their last game, a 47-35 win over UMass, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. In that game, QB Nick Fitzgerald (6-5, 230, Soph) became the second QB in school history to record over 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in a game. Fitzgerald was Dak Prescott’s primary backup last year. Against South Carolina, in only his second career start, he set the school record for rushing yards by a QB, running 17 times for 195 yards. At this point in the season, Fitzgerald leads the team in both rushing and passing, averaging 7 yards per rushing attempt and 82 rushing yards per game. He’s completed 57 of 95 pass attempts (60%) for 603 yards and 5 TD’s with one interception. Backup QB Damian Williams (6-1, 229, Jr.) engineered the MSU comeback against LSU. He’s completed 25 of 36 (69.4%) pass attempts, and appears very capable of running the Bulldog offense.

Other than Fitzgerald at QB, the most dangerous weapon on the field when MSU has the ball is probably wide receiver Fred Ross (6-2, 205, Sr.). Ross is currently the #6 receiver in the SEC, averaging 6.3 catches per game. He had 8 for 126 yards in the Dogs’ last game at UMass. He’s recorded 17 career touchdowns, including 14 receiving, 1 rushing, 1 via punt return, and 1 passing.
Wide receiver Donald Gray (5-10, 193, Jr.) has 18 receptions this season, averaging 17.9 yards per catch Gray had 86 yards on three catches against LSU. Redshirt freshman tight end Farrod Green (6-3, 232) is gradually being worked into the passing game, and had three receptions in the Mass game, including one for his first career TD.

Brandon Holloway (5-8, 165, Sr.) has started the last 12 games at running back. He’s carried the ball 41 times in 4 games, averaging 4.7 ypc. Ashton Shumpert (6-2, 218, Sr.) has 26 carries, averaging 5.5. Shumpert got a career-high 12 carries in MSU’s last game.
The offensive line is anchored by three seniors. Left guard Devon Dester (6-4, 305, 19 starts), center Jamaal Claiborne (6-4, 315, 16 starts) and right tackle Justin Senior (6-5, 310, 30 starts) are joined by sophomores at right guard and left tackle.

When looking at the State offense, a couple of things to keep in mind: Dan Mullen was with Urban Meyer when they implemented their so-called “spread option” attack at Bowling Green and then at Utah, with quarterback Alex Smith. Also, Mullen has a good history of adapting his offense to the players he has available. This year, although they are roughly 60-40 run-to-pass, they utilize the skills of their athletic QB and the talents of wide receivers Fred Ross and Donald Gray.


MSU Defense:

Defensive Coordinator Peter Sirmons is the sixth defensive coordinator in Mullen’s eight seasons at State. Sirmons, who spent 6 seasons as a linebacker with the Tennessee Titans of the NFL, was most recently the linebacker coach at Southern Cal, hired there by former coach Steve Sarkisian. Prior to that, he’d been LB coach at Washington, and for a season at Tennessee with Derek Dooley.
State uses a version of the 3-4, although they’ll almost certainly be in a 3-3 or 4-2 against Auburn’s typical formations. They’ve been decent against the run, giving up an average of 3.5 yards per rushing attempt. Against the pass, they give up 6.7 yards per attempt, and they’ve been hurt more by passing than by running.
Senior DE A.J. Jefferson (6-3, 280) leads the SEC in tackles for loss, including 3 sacks. Nose tackle Nelson Adams (6-3, 305, Sr.) has been a perennial backup, playing in 42 games over his career with 7 starts. Sophomore DT Corey Thomas (6-5, 313) is in his first year as a starter, and has a very respectable 13 tackles in 4 games.Richie Brown The strength of the State defense is linebacker Richie Brown (6-2, 240, Sr.). Brown leads the team with 28 tackles, and is a grad student pursuing an MBA. State’s version of the hybrid DE/LB in their 3-4 scheme is called “Viper”, and that position is played by senior Jonathan Calvin (6-3, 272). Calvin had 9 tackles in the Mass game, with 3 TFL, a sack, and an interception.
The secondary returns two starters in free safety Kivon Coman (6-3, 205, Sr. ) and strong safety Brandon Bryant (6-0, 215, Soph.). Bryant sports a “reported” 4.24 40-yard dash.
In addition to a new defensive coordinator, State has a new DL coach and a new cornerbacks coach.


Special Teams:

Kicker Westin Graves (6-0, 160, Jr.) is 8-of-10 on field goals for the season, with a long of 48. Punter Logan Cooke (6-5, 224, Jr.) returns as the starter, and is averaging 40.6. He’s had one punt blocked.
Running back Brandon Holloway and wide receiver Fred Ross are the kickoff and punt returners respectively. Holloway is averaging 20.6 per kickoff return; Ross is averaging 6.9 on 9 punts returned.


How Will They Play It?

I will be somewhat surprised if Auburn’s defensive front doesn’t prove to be too much for State’s running game. To me, that means State will lean toward option plays and throwing the football. Ross is an especially athletic wide receiver, and very good after the catch. Donald Gray is a deep threat. I’d also expect Mullen to bring some throws to his running back, trying to get the ball to a playmaker in space. If State does emphasize the option game, Auburn will need to play good assignment football, which I frankly expect this particular AU defense to do fairly well.
It will be important to keep Fitzgerald from getting outside, while maintaining discipline in staying in rush lanes to prevent Fitzgerald from taking off. While he is certainly a capable runner, Fitzgerald is not an athlete the caliber of Deshaun Watson, so the Auburn defense should be able to generate some pass rush.

Defensively, I think State’s linebackers, particularly Brown, are talented and experienced enough to execute their run fits well against the AU offense. For that reason, execution by the offensive line…..making the combination blocks effective, then climbing to the second level….will be critical to the running game. I expect State’s front to be focused enough on Auburn’s running game that the linebackers and strong safety will struggle to do their part on pass defense. That, of course, means AU has to stay out of third and long or other obvious passing situations. I think Auburn can run the ball vs the State defense, but if the plays are predictable, State will be prepared enough to hold up well. A good mix of run/pass on first downs will likely be problematic for State.

Mulllen has won two in a row and three of the last four against Auburn. Like him or not, his teams are well coached and well prepared. He likes to bring a trick play or two, and has a good knack for calling those at the right time. I think Auburn has superior talent in this game, and enough of that to win. It’s been a full two weeks now since Malzahn handed over the offensive planning and play-calling to Lashlee and Hand. As expected, we didn’t see much different in the offense last week, but this is a critical game for both teams, and we should get a good look at the direction Lashlee and Hand are taking the offense. Just a subtle change here and there can make a world of difference.
Starkville, although not one of the gigantic stadiums in college football, is not an easy place to play. The cowbells will be there in force. But Auburn knows that, and should be prepared to deal with it. Early game or not, it’s important to start fast, play hard to the end, and be stronger at the end than at the beginning. This is an SEC game that Auburn needs to win. I see no reason that shouldn’t happen.
Coach’s Corner: Auburn vs Mississippi State….

Auburn (3-2, 1-1 SEC) goes on the road for the first time in 2016, heading to Starkville, Miss. to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-2, 1-1 SEC). The game is set for 11 AM Central Time at Davis Wade Stadium (61,337).
State’s season got off to a surprising start, as they fell to South Alabama, 21-20. They bounced back from that loss with a win over South Carolina at home. The only common opponent State and Auburn have played this season is LSU, with Auburn winning theirs 18-13 at home, while State mounted a strong comeback in the second half before losing 23-20 in Baton Rouge.

Head Coach Dan Mullen is in his 8th year at the helm. Mullen has the second-highest winning percentage in MSU history. A long time assistant to Urban Myer (Bowling Green, Utah, Florida), Mullen’s specialty is offense and quarterbacks. Although Auburn holds a 61-26-2 advantage in the series with State, MSU has won the last two, and three of the last four. State won the game 17-9 at Jordan-Hare last season.

MSU Offense:

State put up a season-high 598 yards of offense in their last game, a 47-35 win over UMass, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. In that game, QB Nick Fitzgerald (6-5, 230, Soph) became the second QB in school history to record over 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in a game. Fitzgerald was Dak Prescott’s primary backup last year. Against South Carolina, in only his second career start, he set the school record for rushing yards by a QB, running 17 times for 195 yards. At this point in the season, Fitzgerald leads the team in both rushing and passing, averaging 7 yards per rushing attempt and 82 rushing yards per game. He’s completed 57 of 95 pass attempts (60%) for 603 yards and 5 TD’s with one interception. Backup QB Damian Williams (6-1, 229, Jr.) engineered the MSU comeback against LSU. He’s completed 25 of 36 (69.4%) pass attempts, and appears very capable of running the Bulldog offense.

Other than Fitzgerald at QB, the most dangerous weapon on the field when MSU has the ball is probably wide receiver Fred Ross (6-2, 205, Sr.). Ross is currently the #6 receiver in the SEC, averaging 6.3 catches per game. He had 8 for 126 yards in the Dogs’ last game at UMass. He’s recorded 17 career touchdowns, including 14 receiving, 1 rushing, 1 via punt return, and 1 passing.
Wide receiver Donald Gray (5-10, 193, Jr.) has 18 receptions this season, averaging 17.9 yards per catch Gray had 86 yards on three catches against LSU. Redshirt freshman tight end Farrod Green (6-3, 232) is gradually being worked into the passing game, and had three receptions in the Mass game, including one for his first career TD.

Brandon Holloway (5-8, 165, Sr.) has started the last 12 games at running back. He’s carried the ball 41 times in 4 games, averaging 4.7 ypc. Ashton Shumpert (6-2, 218, Sr.) has 26 carries, averaging 5.5. Shumpert got a career-high 12 carries in MSU’s last game.
The offensive line is anchored by three seniors. Left guard Devon Dester (6-4, 305, 19 starts), center Jamaal Claiborne (6-4, 315, 16 starts) and right tackle Justin Senior (6-5, 310, 30 starts) are joined by sophomores at right guard and left tackle.

When looking at the State offense, a couple of things to keep in mind: Dan Mullen was with Urban Meyer when they implemented their so-called “spread option” attack at Bowling Green and then at Utah, with quarterback Alex Smith. Also, Mullen has a good history of adapting his offense to the players he has available. This year, although they are roughly 60-40 run-to-pass, they utilize the skills of their athletic QB and the talents of wide receivers Fred Ross and Donald Gray.


MSU Defense:

Defensive Coordinator Peter Sirmons is the sixth defensive coordinator in Mullen’s eight seasons at State. Sirmons, who spent 6 seasons as a linebacker with the Tennessee Titans of the NFL, was most recently the linebacker coach at Southern Cal, hired there by former coach Steve Sarkisian. Prior to that, he’d been LB coach at Washington, and for a season at Tennessee with Derek Dooley.
State uses a version of the 3-4, although they’ll almost certainly be in a 3-3 or 4-2 against Auburn’s typical formations. They’ve been decent against the run, giving up an average of 3.5 yards per rushing attempt. Against the pass, they give up 6.7 yards per attempt, and they’ve been hurt more by passing than by running.
Senior DE A.J. Jefferson (6-3, 280) leads the SEC in tackles for loss, including 3 sacks. Nose tackle Nelson Adams (6-3, 305, Sr.) has been a perennial backup, playing in 42 games over his career with 7 starts. Sophomore DT Corey Thomas (6-5, 313) is in his first year as a starter, and has a very respectable 13 tackles in 4 games.Richie Brown The strength of the State defense is linebacker Richie Brown (6-2, 240, Sr.). Brown leads the team with 28 tackles, and is a grad student pursuing an MBA. State’s version of the hybrid DE/LB in their 3-4 scheme is called “Viper”, and that position is played by senior Jonathan Calvin (6-3, 272). Calvin had 9 tackles in the Mass game, with 3 TFL, a sack, and an interception.
The secondary returns two starters in free safety Kivon Coman (6-3, 205, Sr. ) and strong safety Brandon Bryant (6-0, 215, Soph.). Bryant sports a “reported” 4.24 40-yard dash.
In addition to a new defensive coordinator, State has a new DL coach and a new cornerbacks coach.


Special Teams:

Kicker Westin Graves (6-0, 160, Jr.) is 8-of-10 on field goals for the season, with a long of 48. Punter Logan Cooke (6-5, 224, Jr.) returns as the starter, and is averaging 40.6. He’s had one punt blocked.
Running back Brandon Holloway and wide receiver Fred Ross are the kickoff and punt returners respectively. Holloway is averaging 20.6 per kickoff return; Ross is averaging 6.9 on 9 punts returned.


How Will They Play It?

I will be somewhat surprised if Auburn’s defensive front doesn’t prove to be too much for State’s running game. To me, that means State will lean toward option plays and throwing the football. Ross is an especially athletic wide receiver, and very good after the catch. Donald Gray is a deep threat. I’d also expect Mullen to bring some throws to his running back, trying to get the ball to a playmaker in space. If State does emphasize the option game, Auburn will need to play good assignment football, which I frankly expect this particular AU defense to do fairly well.
It will be important to keep Fitzgerald from getting outside, while maintaining discipline in staying in rush lanes to prevent Fitzgerald from taking off. While he is certainly a capable runner, Fitzgerald is not an athlete the caliber of Deshaun Watson, so the Auburn defense should be able to generate some pass rush.

Defensively, I think State’s linebackers, particularly Brown, are talented and experienced enough to execute their run fits well against the AU offense. For that reason, execution by the offensive line…..making the combination blocks effective, then climbing to the second level….will be critical to the running game. I expect State’s front to be focused enough on Auburn’s running game that the linebackers and strong safety will struggle to do their part on pass defense. That, of course, means AU has to stay out of third and long or other obvious passing situations. I think Auburn can run the ball vs the State defense, but if the plays are predictable, State will be prepared enough to hold up well. A good mix of run/pass on first downs will likely be problematic for State.

Mulllen has won two in a row and three of the last four against Auburn. Like him or not, his teams are well coached and well prepared. He likes to bring a trick play or two, and has a good knack for calling those at the right time. I think Auburn has superior talent in this game, and enough of that to win. It’s been a full two weeks now since Malzahn handed over the offensive planning and play-calling to Lashlee and Hand. As expected, we didn’t see much different in the offense last week, but this is a critical game for both teams, and we should get a good look at the direction Lashlee and Hand are taking the offense. Just a subtle change here and there can make a world of difference.
Starkville, although not one of the gigantic stadiums in college football, is not an easy place to play. The cowbells will be there in force. But Auburn knows that, and should be prepared to deal with it. Early game or not, it’s important to start fast, play hard to the end, and be stronger at the end than at the beginning. This is an SEC game that Auburn needs to win. I see no reason that shouldn’t happen.
Coach’s Corner: Auburn vs Mississippi State….

Auburn (3-2, 1-1 SEC) goes on the road for the first time in 2016, heading to Starkville, Miss. to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-2, 1-1 SEC). The game is set for 11 AM Central Time at Davis Wade Stadium (61,337).
State’s season got off to a surprising start, as they fell to South Alabama, 21-20. They bounced back from that loss with a win over South Carolina at home. The only common opponent State and Auburn have played this season is LSU, with Auburn winning theirs 18-13 at home, while State mounted a strong comeback in the second half before losing 23-20 in Baton Rouge.

Head Coach Dan Mullen is in his 8th year at the helm. Mullen has the second-highest winning percentage in MSU history. A long time assistant to Urban Myer (Bowling Green, Utah, Florida), Mullen’s specialty is offense and quarterbacks. Although Auburn holds a 61-26-2 advantage in the series with State, MSU has won the last two, and three of the last four. State won the game 17-9 at Jordan-Hare last season.

MSU Offense:

State put up a season-high 598 yards of offense in their last game, a 47-35 win over UMass, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. In that game, QB Nick Fitzgerald (6-5, 230, Soph) became the second QB in school history to record over 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in a game. Fitzgerald was Dak Prescott’s primary backup last year. Against South Carolina, in only his second career start, he set the school record for rushing yards by a QB, running 17 times for 195 yards. At this point in the season, Fitzgerald leads the team in both rushing and passing, averaging 7 yards per rushing attempt and 82 rushing yards per game. He’s completed 57 of 95 pass attempts (60%) for 603 yards and 5 TD’s with one interception. Backup QB Damian Williams (6-1, 229, Jr.) engineered the MSU comeback against LSU. He’s completed 25 of 36 (69.4%) pass attempts, and appears very capable of running the Bulldog offense.

Other than Fitzgerald at QB, the most dangerous weapon on the field when MSU has the ball is probably wide receiver Fred Ross (6-2, 205, Sr.). Ross is currently the #6 receiver in the SEC, averaging 6.3 catches per game. He had 8 for 126 yards in the Dogs’ last game at UMass. He’s recorded 17 career touchdowns, including 14 receiving, 1 rushing, 1 via punt return, and 1 passing.
Wide receiver Donald Gray (5-10, 193, Jr.) has 18 receptions this season, averaging 17.9 yards per catch Gray had 86 yards on three catches against LSU. Redshirt freshman tight end Farrod Green (6-3, 232) is gradually being worked into the passing game, and had three receptions in the Mass game, including one for his first career TD.

Brandon Holloway (5-8, 165, Sr.) has started the last 12 games at running back. He’s carried the ball 41 times in 4 games, averaging 4.7 ypc. Ashton Shumpert (6-2, 218, Sr.) has 26 carries, averaging 5.5. Shumpert got a career-high 12 carries in MSU’s last game.
The offensive line is anchored by three seniors. Left guard Devon Dester (6-4, 305, 19 starts), center Jamaal Claiborne (6-4, 315, 16 starts) and right tackle Justin Senior (6-5, 310, 30 starts) are joined by sophomores at right guard and left tackle.

When looking at the State offense, a couple of things to keep in mind: Dan Mullen was with Urban Meyer when they implemented their so-called “spread option” attack at Bowling Green and then at Utah, with quarterback Alex Smith. Also, Mullen has a good history of adapting his offense to the players he has available. This year, although they are roughly 60-40 run-to-pass, they utilize the skills of their athletic QB and the talents of wide receivers Fred Ross and Donald Gray.


MSU Defense:

Defensive Coordinator Peter Sirmons is the sixth defensive coordinator in Mullen’s eight seasons at State. Sirmons, who spent 6 seasons as a linebacker with the Tennessee Titans of the NFL, was most recently the linebacker coach at Southern Cal, hired there by former coach Steve Sarkisian. Prior to that, he’d been LB coach at Washington, and for a season at Tennessee with Derek Dooley.
State uses a version of the 3-4, although they’ll almost certainly be in a 3-3 or 4-2 against Auburn’s typical formations. They’ve been decent against the run, giving up an average of 3.5 yards per rushing attempt. Against the pass, they give up 6.7 yards per attempt, and they’ve been hurt more by passing than by running.
Senior DE A.J. Jefferson (6-3, 280) leads the SEC in tackles for loss, including 3 sacks. Nose tackle Nelson Adams (6-3, 305, Sr.) has been a perennial backup, playing in 42 games over his career with 7 starts. Sophomore DT Corey Thomas (6-5, 313) is in his first year as a starter, and has a very respectable 13 tackles in 4 games.Richie Brown The strength of the State defense is linebacker Richie Brown (6-2, 240, Sr.). Brown leads the team with 28 tackles, and is a grad student pursuing an MBA. State’s version of the hybrid DE/LB in their 3-4 scheme is called “Viper”, and that position is played by senior Jonathan Calvin (6-3, 272). Calvin had 9 tackles in the Mass game, with 3 TFL, a sack, and an interception.
The secondary returns two starters in free safety Kivon Coman (6-3, 205, Sr. ) and strong safety Brandon Bryant (6-0, 215, Soph.). Bryant sports a “reported” 4.24 40-yard dash.
In addition to a new defensive coordinator, State has a new DL coach and a new cornerbacks coach.


Special Teams:

Kicker Westin Graves (6-0, 160, Jr.) is 8-of-10 on field goals for the season, with a long of 48. Punter Logan Cooke (6-5, 224, Jr.) returns as the starter, and is averaging 40.6. He’s had one punt blocked.
Running back Brandon Holloway and wide receiver Fred Ross are the kickoff and punt returners respectively. Holloway is averaging 20.6 per kickoff return; Ross is averaging 6.9 on 9 punts returned.


How Will They Play It?

I will be somewhat surprised if Auburn’s defensive front doesn’t prove to be too much for State’s running game. To me, that means State will lean toward option plays and throwing the football. Ross is an especially athletic wide receiver, and very good after the catch. Donald Gray is a deep threat. I’d also expect Mullen to bring some throws to his running back, trying to get the ball to a playmaker in space. If State does emphasize the option game, Auburn will need to play good assignment football, which I frankly expect this particular AU defense to do fairly well.
It will be important to keep Fitzgerald from getting outside, while maintaining discipline in staying in rush lanes to prevent Fitzgerald from taking off. While he is certainly a capable runner, Fitzgerald is not an athlete the caliber of Deshaun Watson, so the Auburn defense should be able to generate some pass rush.

Defensively, I think State’s linebackers, particularly Brown, are talented and experienced enough to execute their run fits well against the AU offense. For that reason, execution by the offensive line…..making the combination blocks effective, then climbing to the second level….will be critical to the running game. I expect State’s front to be focused enough on Auburn’s running game that the linebackers and strong safety will struggle to do their part on pass defense. That, of course, means AU has to stay out of third and long or other obvious passing situations. I think Auburn can run the ball vs the State defense, but if the plays are predictable, State will be prepared enough to hold up well. A good mix of run/pass on first downs will likely be problematic for State.

Mulllen has won two in a row and three of the last four against Auburn. Like him or not, his teams are well coached and well prepared. He likes to bring a trick play or two, and has a good knack for calling those at the right time. I think Auburn has superior talent in this game, and enough of that to win. It’s been a full two weeks now since Malzahn handed over the offensive planning and play-calling to Lashlee and Hand. As expected, we didn’t see much different in the offense last week, but this is a critical game for both teams, and we should get a good look at the direction Lashlee and Hand are taking the offense. Just a subtle change here and there can make a world of difference.
Starkville, although not one of the gigantic stadiums in college football, is not an easy place to play. The cowbells will be there in force. But Auburn knows that, and should be prepared to deal with it. Early game or not, it’s important to start fast, play hard to the end, and be stronger at the end than at the beginning. This is an SEC game that Auburn needs to win. I see no reason that shouldn’t happen.
Coach’s Corner: Auburn vs Mississippi State….

Auburn (3-2, 1-1 SEC) goes on the road for the first time in 2016, heading to Starkville, Miss. to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-2, 1-1 SEC). The game is set for 11 AM Central Time at Davis Wade Stadium (61,337).
State’s season got off to a surprising start, as they fell to South Alabama, 21-20. They bounced back from that loss with a win over South Carolina at home. The only common opponent State and Auburn have played this season is LSU, with Auburn winning theirs 18-13 at home, while State mounted a strong comeback in the second half before losing 23-20 in Baton Rouge.

Head Coach Dan Mullen is in his 8th year at the helm. Mullen has the second-highest winning percentage in MSU history. A long time assistant to Urban Myer (Bowling Green, Utah, Florida), Mullen’s specialty is offense and quarterbacks. Although Auburn holds a 61-26-2 advantage in the series with State, MSU has won the last two, and three of the last four. State won the game 17-9 at Jordan-Hare last season.

MSU Offense:

State put up a season-high 598 yards of offense in their last game, a 47-35 win over UMass, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. In that game, QB Nick Fitzgerald (6-5, 230, Soph) became the second QB in school history to record over 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in a game. Fitzgerald was Dak Prescott’s primary backup last year. Against South Carolina, in only his second career start, he set the school record for rushing yards by a QB, running 17 times for 195 yards. At this point in the season, Fitzgerald leads the team in both rushing and passing, averaging 7 yards per rushing attempt and 82 rushing yards per game. He’s completed 57 of 95 pass attempts (60%) for 603 yards and 5 TD’s with one interception. Backup QB Damian Williams (6-1, 229, Jr.) engineered the MSU comeback against LSU. He’s completed 25 of 36 (69.4%) pass attempts, and appears very capable of running the Bulldog offense.

Other than Fitzgerald at QB, the most dangerous weapon on the field when MSU has the ball is probably wide receiver Fred Ross (6-2, 205, Sr.). Ross is currently the #6 receiver in the SEC, averaging 6.3 catches per game. He had 8 for 126 yards in the Dogs’ last game at UMass. He’s recorded 17 career touchdowns, including 14 receiving, 1 rushing, 1 via punt return, and 1 passing.
Wide receiver Donald Gray (5-10, 193, Jr.) has 18 receptions this season, averaging 17.9 yards per catch Gray had 86 yards on three catches against LSU. Redshirt freshman tight end Farrod Green (6-3, 232) is gradually being worked into the passing game, and had three receptions in the Mass game, including one for his first career TD.

Brandon Holloway (5-8, 165, Sr.) has started the last 12 games at running back. He’s carried the ball 41 times in 4 games, averaging 4.7 ypc. Ashton Shumpert (6-2, 218, Sr.) has 26 carries, averaging 5.5. Shumpert got a career-high 12 carries in MSU’s last game.
The offensive line is anchored by three seniors. Left guard Devon Dester (6-4, 305, 19 starts), center Jamaal Claiborne (6-4, 315, 16 starts) and right tackle Justin Senior (6-5, 310, 30 starts) are joined by sophomores at right guard and left tackle.

When looking at the State offense, a couple of things to keep in mind: Dan Mullen was with Urban Meyer when they implemented their so-called “spread option” attack at Bowling Green and then at Utah, with quarterback Alex Smith. Also, Mullen has a good history of adapting his offense to the players he has available. This year, although they are roughly 60-40 run-to-pass, they utilize the skills of their athletic QB and the talents of wide receivers Fred Ross and Donald Gray.


MSU Defense:

Defensive Coordinator Peter Sirmons is the sixth defensive coordinator in Mullen’s eight seasons at State. Sirmons, who spent 6 seasons as a linebacker with the Tennessee Titans of the NFL, was most recently the linebacker coach at Southern Cal, hired there by former coach Steve Sarkisian. Prior to that, he’d been LB coach at Washington, and for a season at Tennessee with Derek Dooley.
State uses a version of the 3-4, although they’ll almost certainly be in a 3-3 or 4-2 against Auburn’s typical formations. They’ve been decent against the run, giving up an average of 3.5 yards per rushing attempt. Against the pass, they give up 6.7 yards per attempt, and they’ve been hurt more by passing than by running.
Senior DE A.J. Jefferson (6-3, 280) leads the SEC in tackles for loss, including 3 sacks. Nose tackle Nelson Adams (6-3, 305, Sr.) has been a perennial backup, playing in 42 games over his career with 7 starts. Sophomore DT Corey Thomas (6-5, 313) is in his first year as a starter, and has a very respectable 13 tackles in 4 games.Richie Brown The strength of the State defense is linebacker Richie Brown (6-2, 240, Sr.). Brown leads the team with 28 tackles, and is a grad student pursuing an MBA. State’s version of the hybrid DE/LB in their 3-4 scheme is called “Viper”, and that position is played by senior Jonathan Calvin (6-3, 272). Calvin had 9 tackles in the Mass game, with 3 TFL, a sack, and an interception.
The secondary returns two starters in free safety Kivon Coman (6-3, 205, Sr. ) and strong safety Brandon Bryant (6-0, 215, Soph.). Bryant sports a “reported” 4.24 40-yard dash.
In addition to a new defensive coordinator, State has a new DL coach and a new cornerbacks coach.


Special Teams:

Kicker Westin Graves (6-0, 160, Jr.) is 8-of-10 on field goals for the season, with a long of 48. Punter Logan Cooke (6-5, 224, Jr.) returns as the starter, and is averaging 40.6. He’s had one punt blocked.
Running back Brandon Holloway and wide receiver Fred Ross are the kickoff and punt returners respectively. Holloway is averaging 20.6 per kickoff return; Ross is averaging 6.9 on 9 punts returned.


How Will They Play It?

I will be somewhat surprised if Auburn’s defensive front doesn’t prove to be too much for State’s running game. To me, that means State will lean toward option plays and throwing the football. Ross is an especially athletic wide receiver, and very good after the catch. Donald Gray is a deep threat. I’d also expect Mullen to bring some throws to his running back, trying to get the ball to a playmaker in space. If State does emphasize the option game, Auburn will need to play good assignment football, which I frankly expect this particular AU defense to do fairly well.
It will be important to keep Fitzgerald from getting outside, while maintaining discipline in staying in rush lanes to prevent Fitzgerald from taking off. While he is certainly a capable runner, Fitzgerald is not an athlete the caliber of Deshaun Watson, so the Auburn defense should be able to generate some pass rush.

Defensively, I think State’s linebackers, particularly Brown, are talented and experienced enough to execute their run fits well against the AU offense. For that reason, execution by the offensive line…..making the combination blocks effective, then climbing to the second level….will be critical to the running game. I expect State’s front to be focused enough on Auburn’s running game that the linebackers and strong safety will struggle to do their part on pass defense. That, of course, means AU has to stay out of third and long or other obvious passing situations. I think Auburn can run the ball vs the State defense, but if the plays are predictable, State will be prepared enough to hold up well. A good mix of run/pass on first downs will likely be problematic for State.

Mulllen has won two in a row and three of the last four against Auburn. Like him or not, his teams are well coached and well prepared. He likes to bring a trick play or two, and has a good knack for calling those at the right time. I think Auburn has superior talent in this game, and enough of that to win. It’s been a full two weeks now since Malzahn handed over the offensive planning and play-calling to Lashlee and Hand. As expected, we didn’t see much different in the offense last week, but this is a critical game for both teams, and we should get a good look at the direction Lashlee and Hand are taking the offense. Just a subtle change here and there can make a world of difference.
Starkville, although not one of the gigantic stadiums in college football, is not an easy place to play. The cowbells will be there in force. But Auburn knows that, and should be prepared to deal with it. Early game or not, it’s important to start fast, play hard to the end, and be stronger at the end than at the beginning. This is an SEC game that Auburn needs to win. I see no reason that shouldn’t happen.
Coach’s Corner: Auburn vs Mississippi State….

Auburn (3-2, 1-1 SEC) goes on the road for the first time in 2016, heading to Starkville, Miss. to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-2, 1-1 SEC). The game is set for 11 AM Central Time at Davis Wade Stadium (61,337).
State’s season got off to a surprising start, as they fell to South Alabama, 21-20. They bounced back from that loss with a win over South Carolina at home. The only common opponent State and Auburn have played this season is LSU, with Auburn winning theirs 18-13 at home, while State mounted a strong comeback in the second half before losing 23-20 in Baton Rouge.

Head Coach Dan Mullen is in his 8th year at the helm. Mullen has the second-highest winning percentage in MSU history. A long time assistant to Urban Myer (Bowling Green, Utah, Florida), Mullen’s specialty is offense and quarterbacks. Although Auburn holds a 61-26-2 advantage in the series with State, MSU has won the last two, and three of the last four. State won the game 17-9 at Jordan-Hare last season.

MSU Offense:

State put up a season-high 598 yards of offense in their last game, a 47-35 win over UMass, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. In that game, QB Nick Fitzgerald (6-5, 230, Soph) became the second QB in school history to record over 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in a game. Fitzgerald was Dak Prescott’s primary backup last year. Against South Carolina, in only his second career start, he set the school record for rushing yards by a QB, running 17 times for 195 yards. At this point in the season, Fitzgerald leads the team in both rushing and passing, averaging 7 yards per rushing attempt and 82 rushing yards per game. He’s completed 57 of 95 pass attempts (60%) for 603 yards and 5 TD’s with one interception. Backup QB Damian Williams (6-1, 229, Jr.) engineered the MSU comeback against LSU. He’s completed 25 of 36 (69.4%) pass attempts, and appears very capable of running the Bulldog offense.

Other than Fitzgerald at QB, the most dangerous weapon on the field when MSU has the ball is probably wide receiver Fred Ross (6-2, 205, Sr.). Ross is currently the #6 receiver in the SEC, averaging 6.3 catches per game. He had 8 for 126 yards in the Dogs’ last game at UMass. He’s recorded 17 career touchdowns, including 14 receiving, 1 rushing, 1 via punt return, and 1 passing.
Wide receiver Donald Gray (5-10, 193, Jr.) has 18 receptions this season, averaging 17.9 yards per catch Gray had 86 yards on three catches against LSU. Redshirt freshman tight end Farrod Green (6-3, 232) is gradually being worked into the passing game, and had three receptions in the Mass game, including one for his first career TD.

Brandon Holloway (5-8, 165, Sr.) has started the last 12 games at running back. He’s carried the ball 41 times in 4 games, averaging 4.7 ypc. Ashton Shumpert (6-2, 218, Sr.) has 26 carries, averaging 5.5. Shumpert got a career-high 12 carries in MSU’s last game.
The offensive line is anchored by three seniors. Left guard Devon Dester (6-4, 305, 19 starts), center Jamaal Claiborne (6-4, 315, 16 starts) and right tackle Justin Senior (6-5, 310, 30 starts) are joined by sophomores at right guard and left tackle.

When looking at the State offense, a couple of things to keep in mind: Dan Mullen was with Urban Meyer when they implemented their so-called “spread option” attack at Bowling Green and then at Utah, with quarterback Alex Smith. Also, Mullen has a good history of adapting his offense to the players he has available. This year, although they are roughly 60-40 run-to-pass, they utilize the skills of their athletic QB and the talents of wide receivers Fred Ross and Donald Gray.


MSU Defense:

Defensive Coordinator Peter Sirmons is the sixth defensive coordinator in Mullen’s eight seasons at State. Sirmons, who spent 6 seasons as a linebacker with the Tennessee Titans of the NFL, was most recently the linebacker coach at Southern Cal, hired there by former coach Steve Sarkisian. Prior to that, he’d been LB coach at Washington, and for a season at Tennessee with Derek Dooley.
State uses a version of the 3-4, although they’ll almost certainly be in a 3-3 or 4-2 against Auburn’s typical formations. They’ve been decent against the run, giving up an average of 3.5 yards per rushing attempt. Against the pass, they give up 6.7 yards per attempt, and they’ve been hurt more by passing than by running.
Senior DE A.J. Jefferson (6-3, 280) leads the SEC in tackles for loss, including 3 sacks. Nose tackle Nelson Adams (6-3, 305, Sr.) has been a perennial backup, playing in 42 games over his career with 7 starts. Sophomore DT Corey Thomas (6-5, 313) is in his first year as a starter, and has a very respectable 13 tackles in 4 games.Richie Brown The strength of the State defense is linebacker Richie Brown (6-2, 240, Sr.). Brown leads the team with 28 tackles, and is a grad student pursuing an MBA. State’s version of the hybrid DE/LB in their 3-4 scheme is called “Viper”, and that position is played by senior Jonathan Calvin (6-3, 272). Calvin had 9 tackles in the Mass game, with 3 TFL, a sack, and an interception.
The secondary returns two starters in free safety Kivon Coman (6-3, 205, Sr. ) and strong safety Brandon Bryant (6-0, 215, Soph.). Bryant sports a “reported” 4.24 40-yard dash.
In addition to a new defensive coordinator, State has a new DL coach and a new cornerbacks coach.


Special Teams:

Kicker Westin Graves (6-0, 160, Jr.) is 8-of-10 on field goals for the season, with a long of 48. Punter Logan Cooke (6-5, 224, Jr.) returns as the starter, and is averaging 40.6. He’s had one punt blocked.
Running back Brandon Holloway and wide receiver Fred Ross are the kickoff and punt returners respectively. Holloway is averaging 20.6 per kickoff return; Ross is averaging 6.9 on 9 punts returned.


How Will They Play It?

I will be somewhat surprised if Auburn’s defensive front doesn’t prove to be too much for State’s running game. To me, that means State will lean toward option plays and throwing the football. Ross is an especially athletic wide receiver, and very good after the catch. Donald Gray is a deep threat. I’d also expect Mullen to bring some throws to his running back, trying to get the ball to a playmaker in space. If State does emphasize the option game, Auburn will need to play good assignment football, which I frankly expect this particular AU defense to do fairly well.
It will be important to keep Fitzgerald from getting outside, while maintaining discipline in staying in rush lanes to prevent Fitzgerald from taking off. While he is certainly a capable runner, Fitzgerald is not an athlete the caliber of Deshaun Watson, so the Auburn defense should be able to generate some pass rush.

Defensively, I think State’s linebackers, particularly Brown, are talented and experienced enough to execute their run fits well against the AU offense. For that reason, execution by the offensive line…..making the combination blocks effective, then climbing to the second level….will be critical to the running game. I expect State’s front to be focused enough on Auburn’s running game that the linebackers and strong safety will struggle to do their part on pass defense. That, of course, means AU has to stay out of third and long or other obvious passing situations. I think Auburn can run the ball vs the State defense, but if the plays are predictable, State will be prepared enough to hold up well. A good mix of run/pass on first downs will likely be problematic for State.

Mulllen has won two in a row and three of the last four against Auburn. Like him or not, his teams are well coached and well prepared. He likes to bring a trick play or two, and has a good knack for calling those at the right time. I think Auburn has superior talent in this game, and enough of that to win. It’s been a full two weeks now since Malzahn handed over the offensive planning and play-calling to Lashlee and Hand. As expected, we didn’t see much different in the offense last week, but this is a critical game for both teams, and we should get a good look at the direction Lashlee and Hand are taking the offense. Just a subtle change here and there can make a world of difference.
Starkville, although not one of the gigantic stadiums in college football, is not an easy place to play. The cowbells will be there in force. But Auburn knows that, and should be prepared to deal with it. Early game or not, it’s important to start fast, play hard to the end, and be stronger at the end than at the beginning. This is an SEC game that Auburn needs to win. I see no reason that shouldn’t happen.
Coach’s Corner: Auburn vs Mississippi State….
 
  Auburn (3-2, 1-1 SEC) goes on the road for the first time in 2016, heading to Starkville, Miss. to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-2, 1-1 SEC). The game is set for 11 AM Central Time at Davis Wade Stadium (61,337).
  State’s season got off to a surprising start, as they fell to South Alabama, 21-20. They bounced back from that loss with a win over South Carolina at home. The only common opponent State and Auburn have played this season is LSU, with Auburn winning theirs 18-13 at home, while State mounted a strong comeback in the second half before losing 23-20 in Baton Rouge.
 
  Head Coach Dan Mullen is in his 8th year at the helm. Mullen has the second-highest winning percentage in MSU history. A long time assistant to Urban Myer (Bowling Green, Utah, Florida), Mullen’s specialty is offense and quarterbacks. Although Auburn holds a 61-26-2 advantage in the series with State, MSU has won the last two, and three of the last four. State won the game 17-9 at Jordan-Hare last season.
 
MSU Offense:
 
  State put up a season-high 598 yards of offense in their last game, a 47-35 win over UMass, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. In that game, QB Nick Fitzgerald (6-5, 230, Soph) became the second QB in school history to record over 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in a game. Fitzgerald was Dak Prescott’s primary backup last year.  Against South Carolina, in only his second career start, he set the school record for rushing yards by a QB, running 17 times for 195 yards. At this point in the season, Fitzgerald leads the team in both rushing and passing, averaging 7 yards per rushing attempt and 82 rushing yards per game. He’s completed 57 of 95 pass attempts (60%) for 603 yards and 5 TD’s with one interception. Backup QB Damian Williams (6-1, 229, Jr.) engineered the MSU comeback against LSU. He’s completed 25 of 36 (69.4%) pass attempts, and appears very capable of running the Bulldog offense.
 
  Other than Fitzgerald at QB, the most dangerous weapon on the field when MSU has the ball is probably wide receiver Fred Ross (6-2, 205, Sr.). Ross is currently the #6 receiver in the SEC, averaging 6.3 catches per game. He had 8 for 126 yards in the Dogs’ last game at UMass. He’s recorded 17 career touchdowns, including 14 receiving, 1 rushing, 1 via punt return, and 1 passing.
  Wide receiver Donald Gray (5-10, 193, Jr.) has 18 receptions this season, averaging 17.9 yards per catch Gray had 86 yards on three catches against LSU. Redshirt freshman tight end Farrod Green (6-3, 232) is gradually being worked into the passing game, and had three receptions in the Mass game, including one for his first career TD.
 
  Brandon Holloway (5-8, 165, Sr.) has started the last 12 games at running back. He’s carried the ball 41 times in 4 games, averaging 4.7 ypc. Ashton Shumpert (6-2, 218, Sr.) has 26 carries, averaging 5.5. Shumpert got a career-high 12 carries in MSU’s last game.
  The offensive line is anchored by three seniors. Left guard Devon Dester (6-4, 305, 19 starts), center Jamaal Claiborne (6-4, 315, 16 starts) and right tackle Justin Senior (6-5, 310, 30 starts) are joined by sophomores at right guard and left tackle.
 
  When looking at the State offense, a couple of things to keep in mind: Dan Mullen was with Urban Meyer when they implemented their so-called “spread option” attack at Bowling Green and then at Utah, with quarterback Alex Smith. Also, Mullen has a good history of adapting his offense to the players he has available. This year, although they are roughly 60-40 run-to-pass, they utilize the skills of their athletic QB and the talents of wide receivers Fred Ross and Donald Gray.
 
 
MSU Defense:
 
  Defensive Coordinator Peter Sirmons is the sixth defensive coordinator in Mullen’s eight seasons at State. Sirmons, who spent 6 seasons as a linebacker with the Tennessee Titans of the NFL, was most recently the linebacker coach at Southern Cal, hired there by former coach Steve Sarkisian. Prior to that, he’d been LB coach at Washington, and for a season at Tennessee with Derek Dooley.
  State uses a version of the 3-4, although they’ll almost certainly be in a 3-3 or 4-2 against Auburn’s typical formations. They’ve been decent against the run, giving up an average of 3.5 yards per rushing attempt. Against the pass, they give up 6.7 yards per attempt, and they’ve been hurt more by passing than by running.
  Senior DE A.J. Jefferson (6-3, 280) leads the SEC in tackles for loss, including 3 sacks. Nose tackle Nelson Adams (6-3, 305, Sr.) has been a perennial backup, playing in 42 games over his career with 7 starts. Sophomore DT Corey Thomas (6-5, 313) is in his first year as a starter, and has a very respectable 13 tackles in 4 games.Richie Brown  The strength of the State defense is linebacker Richie Brown (6-2, 240, Sr.). Brown leads the team with 28 tackles, and is a grad student pursuing an MBA. State’s version of the hybrid DE/LB in their 3-4 scheme is called “Viper”, and that position is played by senior Jonathan Calvin (6-3, 272). Calvin had 9 tackles in the Mass game, with 3 TFL, a sack, and an interception.
  The secondary returns two starters in free safety Kivon Coman (6-3, 205, Sr. ) and strong safety Brandon Bryant (6-0, 215, Soph.). Bryant sports a “reported” 4.24 40-yard dash.
  In addition to a new defensive coordinator, State has a new DL coach and a new cornerbacks coach.
 
 
Special Teams:
 
  Kicker Westin Graves (6-0, 160, Jr.) is 8-of-10 on field goals for the season, with a long of 48. Punter Logan Cooke (6-5, 224, Jr.) returns as the starter, and is averaging 40.6. He’s had one punt blocked.
  Running back Brandon Holloway and wide receiver Fred Ross are the kickoff and punt returners respectively. Holloway is averaging 20.6 per kickoff return; Ross is averaging 6.9 on 9 punts returned.
 
 
How Will They Play It?
 
  I will be somewhat surprised if Auburn’s defensive front doesn’t prove to be too much for State’s running game. To me, that means State will lean toward option plays and throwing the football. Ross is an especially athletic wide receiver, and very good after the catch. Donald Gray is a deep threat. I’d also expect Mullen to bring some throws to his running back, trying to get the ball to a playmaker in space. If State does emphasize the option game, Auburn will need to play good assignment football, which I frankly expect this particular AU defense to do fairly well.
It will be important to keep Fitzgerald from getting outside, while maintaining discipline in staying in rush lanes to prevent Fitzgerald from taking off. While he is certainly a capable runner, Fitzgerald is not an athlete the caliber of Deshaun Watson, so the Auburn defense should be able to generate some pass rush.
 
  Defensively, I think State’s linebackers, particularly Brown, are talented and experienced enough to execute their run fits well against the AU offense. For that reason, execution by the offensive line…..making the combination blocks effective, then climbing to the second level….will be critical to the running game. I expect State’s front to be focused enough on Auburn’s running game that the linebackers and strong safety will struggle to do their part on pass defense. That, of course, means AU has to stay out of third and long or other obvious passing situations. I think Auburn can run the ball vs the State defense, but if the plays are predictable, State will be prepared enough to hold up well. A good mix of run/pass on first downs will likely be problematic for State.
 
  Mulllen has won two in a row and three of the last four against Auburn. Like him or not, his teams are well coached and well prepared. He likes to bring a trick play or two, and has a good knack for calling those at the right time. I think Auburn has superior talent in this game, and enough of that to win. It’s been a full two weeks now since Malzahn handed over the offensive planning and play-calling to Lashlee and Hand. As expected, we didn’t see much different in the offense last week, but this is a critical game for both teams, and we should get a good look at the direction Lashlee and Hand are taking the offense. Just a subtle change here and there can make a world of difference.
  Starkville, although not one of the gigantic stadiums in college football, is not an easy place to play. The cowbells will be there in force. But Auburn knows that, and should be prepared to deal with it. Early game or not, it’s important to start fast, play hard to the end, and be stronger at the end than at the beginning. This is an SEC game that Auburn needs to win. I see no reason that shouldn’t happen.
Coach’s Corner: Auburn vs Mississippi State….
 
  Auburn (3-2, 1-1 SEC) goes on the road for the first time in 2016, heading to Starkville, Miss. to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-2, 1-1 SEC). The game is set for 11 AM Central Time at Davis Wade Stadium (61,337).
  State’s season got off to a surprising start, as they fell to South Alabama, 21-20. They bounced back from that loss with a win over South Carolina at home. The only common opponent State and Auburn have played this season is LSU, with Auburn winning theirs 18-13 at home, while State mounted a strong comeback in the second half before losing 23-20 in Baton Rouge.
 
  Head Coach Dan Mullen is in his 8th year at the helm. Mullen has the second-highest winning percentage in MSU history. A long time assistant to Urban Myer (Bowling Green, Utah, Florida), Mullen’s specialty is offense and quarterbacks. Although Auburn holds a 61-26-2 advantage in the series with State, MSU has won the last two, and three of the last four. State won the game 17-9 at Jordan-Hare last season.
 
MSU Offense:
 
  State put up a season-high 598 yards of offense in their last game, a 47-35 win over UMass, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. In that game, QB Nick Fitzgerald (6-5, 230, Soph) became the second QB in school history to record over 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in a game. Fitzgerald was Dak Prescott’s primary backup last year.  Against South Carolina, in only his second career start, he set the school record for rushing yards by a QB, running 17 times for 195 yards. At this point in the season, Fitzgerald leads the team in both rushing and passing, averaging 7 yards per rushing attempt and 82 rushing yards per game. He’s completed 57 of 95 pass attempts (60%) for 603 yards and 5 TD’s with one interception. Backup QB Damian Williams (6-1, 229, Jr.) engineered the MSU comeback against LSU. He’s completed 25 of 36 (69.4%) pass attempts, and appears very capable of running the Bulldog offense.
 
  Other than Fitzgerald at QB, the most dangerous weapon on the field when MSU has the ball is probably wide receiver Fred Ross (6-2, 205, Sr.). Ross is currently the #6 receiver in the SEC, averaging 6.3 catches per game. He had 8 for 126 yards in the Dogs’ last game at UMass. He’s recorded 17 career touchdowns, including 14 receiving, 1 rushing, 1 via punt return, and 1 passing.
  Wide receiver Donald Gray (5-10, 193, Jr.) has 18 receptions this season, averaging 17.9 yards per catch Gray had 86 yards on three catches against LSU. Redshirt freshman tight end Farrod Green (6-3, 232) is gradually being worked into the passing game, and had three receptions in the Mass game, including one for his first career TD.
 
  Brandon Holloway (5-8, 165, Sr.) has started the last 12 games at running back. He’s carried the ball 41 times in 4 games, averaging 4.7 ypc. Ashton Shumpert (6-2, 218, Sr.) has 26 carries, averaging 5.5. Shumpert got a career-high 12 carries in MSU’s last game.
  The offensive line is anchored by three seniors. Left guard Devon Dester (6-4, 305, 19 starts), center Jamaal Claiborne (6-4, 315, 16 starts) and right tackle Justin Senior (6-5, 310, 30 starts) are joined by sophomores at right guard and left tackle.
 
  When looking at the State offense, a couple of things to keep in mind: Dan Mullen was with Urban Meyer when they implemented their so-called “spread option” attack at Bowling Green and then at Utah, with quarterback Alex Smith. Also, Mullen has a good history of adapting his offense to the players he has available. This year, although they are roughly 60-40 run-to-pass, they utilize the skills of their athletic QB and the talents of wide receivers Fred Ross and Donald Gray.
 
 
MSU Defense:
 
  Defensive Coordinator Peter Sirmons is the sixth defensive coordinator in Mullen’s eight seasons at State. Sirmons, who spent 6 seasons as a linebacker with the Tennessee Titans of the NFL, was most recently the linebacker coach at Southern Cal, hired there by former coach Steve Sarkisian. Prior to that, he’d been LB coach at Washington, and for a season at Tennessee with Derek Dooley.
  State uses a version of the 3-4, although they’ll almost certainly be in a 3-3 or 4-2 against Auburn’s typical formations. They’ve been decent against the run, giving up an average of 3.5 yards per rushing attempt. Against the pass, they give up 6.7 yards per attempt, and they’ve been hurt more by passing than by running.
  Senior DE A.J. Jefferson (6-3, 280) leads the SEC in tackles for loss, including 3 sacks. Nose tackle Nelson Adams (6-3, 305, Sr.) has been a perennial backup, playing in 42 games over his career with 7 starts. Sophomore DT Corey Thomas (6-5, 313) is in his first year as a starter, and has a very respectable 13 tackles in 4 games.Richie Brown  The strength of the State defense is linebacker Richie Brown (6-2, 240, Sr.). Brown leads the team with 28 tackles, and is a grad student pursuing an MBA. State’s version of the hybrid DE/LB in their 3-4 scheme is called “Viper”, and that position is played by senior Jonathan Calvin (6-3, 272). Calvin had 9 tackles in the Mass game, with 3 TFL, a sack, and an interception.
  The secondary returns two starters in free safety Kivon Coman (6-3, 205, Sr. ) and strong safety Brandon Bryant (6-0, 215, Soph.). Bryant sports a “reported” 4.24 40-yard dash.
  In addition to a new defensive coordinator, State has a new DL coach and a new cornerbacks coach.
 
 
Special Teams:
 
  Kicker Westin Graves (6-0, 160, Jr.) is 8-of-10 on field goals for the season, with a long of 48. Punter Logan Cooke (6-5, 224, Jr.) returns as the starter, and is averaging 40.6. He’s had one punt blocked.
  Running back Brandon Holloway and wide receiver Fred Ross are the kickoff and punt returners respectively. Holloway is averaging 20.6 per kickoff return; Ross is averaging 6.9 on 9 punts returned.
 
 
How Will They Play It?
 
  I will be somewhat surprised if Auburn’s defensive front doesn’t prove to be too much for State’s running game. To me, that means State will lean toward option plays and throwing the football. Ross is an especially athletic wide receiver, and very good after the catch. Donald Gray is a deep threat. I’d also expect Mullen to bring some throws to his running back, trying to get the ball to a playmaker in space. If State does emphasize the option game, Auburn will need to play good assignment football, which I frankly expect this particular AU defense to do fairly well.
It will be important to keep Fitzgerald from getting outside, while maintaining discipline in staying in rush lanes to prevent Fitzgerald from taking off. While he is certainly a capable runner, Fitzgerald is not an athlete the caliber of Deshaun Watson, so the Auburn defense should be able to generate some pass rush.
 
  Defensively, I think State’s linebackers, particularly Brown, are talented and experienced enough to execute their run fits well against the AU offense. For that reason, execution by the offensive line…..making the combination blocks effective, then climbing to the second level….will be critical to the running game. I expect State’s front to be focused enough on Auburn’s running game that the linebackers and strong safety will struggle to do their part on pass defense. That, of course, means AU has to stay out of third and long or other obvious passing situations. I think Auburn can run the ball vs the State defense, but if the plays are predictable, State will be prepared enough to hold up well. A good mix of run/pass on first downs will likely be problematic for State.
 
  Mulllen has won two in a row and three of the last four against Auburn. Like him or not, his teams are well coached and well prepared. He likes to bring a trick play or two, and has a good knack for calling those at the right time. I think Auburn has superior talent in this game, and enough of that to win. It’s been a full two weeks now since Malzahn handed over the offensive planning and play-calling to Lashlee and Hand. As expected, we didn’t see much different in the offense last week, but this is a critical game for both teams, and we should get a good look at the direction Lashlee and Hand are taking the offense. Just a subtle change here and there can make a world of difference.
  Starkville, although not one of the gigantic stadiums in college football, is not an easy place to play. The cowbells will be there in force. But Auburn knows that, and should be prepared to deal with it. Early game or not, it’s important to start fast, play hard to the end, and be stronger at the end than at the beginning. This is an SEC game that Auburn needs to win. I see no reason that shouldn’t happen.

Good stuff. But coach, this old Ox has been getting awful happy these past two games, and I don't think I'm grazing on loco weed.

I know that following the close win against LSU there was a lot of trepidation over the red zone stalls and that was a justified concern. But I stopped chewing the cud for a minute and looked up when I saw that AU had put up 388 offensive yards on 75 plays against that Dave Aranda coached LSU defense, the most they had allowed in both categories to that point, and for that matter, to this point.  Hmmmm...

The LaMo game was a glorified scrimmage. It's not that LaMo doesn't have good players. They might even have some that make the next level one day. They just don't have near as many and not near enough. But the thing that made me a little happier was the way our Tigers took care of business. It wasn't perfect. Legatron had a kick blocked. White threw three straight incompletions at one point. But...lots of good. White didn't miss another pass, going 14 for 17. JFIII got some work. 688 yards total. 400+ on the ground. Starter at QB going 14-17. JFIII looking up at the TigerTron and thinking "Boy! Don't I look good!" with LaMo's players chasing air.

Toys coming out of the toybox and working just as advertised. Fun!

What's any of that got to do with the MSU game? Maybe nothing. But just as a casual fan without the knowledge of a coach, my impression is that this offense is very close to just busting lose. It was a play here and a play there, and everything I saw (other than maybe a few elite DE's running around Golson) was fixable. The fixing is about done.

It's taken a minute maybe for Lashlee and Hand to get their minds together. Now their minds are on this very well stocked toybox they've been given to play with. The pieces are all set up, and its time to play. 

I also keep thinking about the effect that Hand had on Malzahn back at Tulsa.  Gus Malzahn and Herb Hand seemed to be more than the sum of their parts there. I'm thinking (well, hoping) that Lashlee-Hand, with the kind of talent we have at AU, may just eclipse Malzahn-Hand before they are done. 

Meaningless drivel. Just being an irrationally exuberant AU fan. But man...I'm really expecting to be grinning so hard that it hurts by season's end. I don't get that way very often. For what it's worth...

 

War Eagle!

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I am more concerned with Auburn  beating Auburn than State beating Auburn

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I'm always nervous about this game. For all his faults, Mullen seems to better than most at maximizing his talent when his teams play Auburn. Both the 2010 and 2013 teams played this one MUCH tighter than the respective talent levels should've allowed (17-14 and 24-20) and Starkville is a deceptively difficult place to play (for obvious, farm-accessory related reasons). That said, Manny freakin' Diaz isn't around to help Mullen's defense this year and Nick Fitzgerald is no Dak Prescott so I think, for once, that Auburn wins and wins pretty big this year (10+ points). 

Edited by WarEagleSteve

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Last year's loss to MSU was one that really ticked me off. We outplayed MSU for most of that game, Dak or no Dak. He looked pedestrian against us. But for the love of all things Auburn, we couldn't play offense. And that ended up being the lingering issue the rest of the season.

For what it's worth, I think the Auburn offense clicks this week and we beat MS State 34-14. You'll see some new wrinkles in the offense (not too many) and we'll get a much needed boost in confidence with our BYE week to help prepare us for a huge revenge game against Arkansas. (You can bet money Sean has had that game circled since getting hurt last season)

War Eagle!

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I have always admired MSU in that they do more with less than any team in the SEC. They are never an easy out. They may not have the most talent in terms of stars, but they have filled their tanks with "want to" and always seem to bring their A game against Auburn.

Auburn really needs this game. Early starting time or not, deafening cowbells or not, I'm going with the Tigers. WDE!

 

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