Mississippi State football travels to Auburn on Saturday. Here are your three keys to a Mississippi State win over Auburn.
By Matt Zemek
The Mississippi State Bulldogs badly needed a win over Kentucky – not only to take a big step toward bowl eligibility, not only to improve their position in the SEC, but to show that Joe Moorhead could keep his team together in the midst of tough times, and to also prove that the program has a future.
Most football analysts would acknowledge that last year’s 8-4 regular season with three first-round NFL Draft picks was an underachieving year for Moorhead. If the program can overachieve this year with noticeably less talent, perceptions about the Bulldogs will change for the better.
That is what the Kentucky win most centrally achieved. Now let’s see if MSU can build on that win in Week 5, when it visits Auburn to face the Tigers.
Key 1 – Find another defensive touchdown
Willie Gay, a linebacker who was playing his first game of the season against Kentucky, was a huge difference-maker for Mississippi State. His pick-six set a tone for that win and energized his teammates. There is no question that MSU needs a similarly electrifying play on defense (or special teams) in this game against Auburn. Mississippi State’s offense will have a tough time moving the ball against Auburn, so a huge lift from the defense is not a luxury; it is a genuine necessity.
MSU will need some pendulum-swinging plays to beat Auburn outright and not merely cover the spread. MSU probably won’t win if turnovers (in particular) or mistakes (in general) are relatively equal. The Bulldogs have to find ways to change the equation, especially since Auburn quarterback Bo Nix is not a very accurate passer and will commit a turnover if pressured into making a low-percentage throw.
Key 2 – Garrett Shrader’s fearlessness
When stepping into a hostile SEC lair, having a quarterback with no fear is important. It is true that Shrader might be reckless and overly confident in his abilities, but any football fan can tell the difference between an unwise recklessness and a necessary freedom from fear. Shrader has to strike that balance, being fearless but not irresponsible. He has to take risks, but he also has to know when to take them. If Shrader succeeds in that pursuit, MSU’s offense will convert an extra third or fourth down which could make the difference between defeat and victory. Shrader, whose helicopter against Kansas State showed the nation how much he wants to win, needs to remain an alpha male in this game and display the same qualities which have served this team well.
Key 3 – Stop Anthony Schwartz
In Auburn’s win over Texas A&M, it was clear just how fast AU receiver Anthony Schwartz is. He made Texas A&M’s defense – a good defense – look very slow. Mississippi State has to identify Schwartz on the field and make sure he doesn’t break free for huge plays. That must become a central component of MSU’s defensive plan against Auburn.
Saturday‘s game kicks off at 6:00 PM CT (7:00 PM ET). Watch on the ESPN Network.
This Week’s SEC Football News and Analysis
|Game||First Looks||3 Keys|
|Ole Miss vs. Alabama||Bama / Ole Miss||Preview||Bama 59, Ole Miss 31||Stats|
|Texas A&M vs. Arkansas||Arkansas / A&M||Arky / A&M||Preview||A&M 31, Arky 27||Stats|
|Mississippi State vs. Auburn||Auburn / MSU||MSU||Preview||Auburn 56, MSU 23||Stats|
|Towson vs. Florida||Towson||Florida||Preview||Florida 38, Towson 0||Stats|
|Kentucky vs. South Carolina||USC / UK||USC||Preview||USC 24, UK 7||Stats|
|N Illinois vs. Vanderbilt||UNI||Vandy||Preview||Vandy 24, NIU 18||Stats|