StatTiger: Previewing Auburn at Miss. State

StatTiger (Stuart Carter) crunches the numbers and picks a winner for Auburn's SEC football opener at Mississippi State.

Auburn 0-1 (0-0) vs. Mississippi State 1-0 (0-0)

Series Record: Auburn leads 60-23-2

Last Meeting: 2011 Auburn 41-34 in Auburn

National Statistical Rankings:

Rushing offense: Mississippi State (No. 43), Auburn (No. 48)
Pass efficiency offense: Mississippi State (No. 47), Auburn (No. 85)
Total offense: Mississippi State (No. 57), Auburn (No.58)
Scoring offense: Mississippi State (No. 9), Auburn (No. 78)
Rushing Defense: Mississippi State (No. 43), Auburn (No. 104)
Pass efficiency defense: Mississippi State (No. 20), Auburn (No. 58)
Total defense: Mississippi State (No. 27), Auburn (No. 96)
Scoring defense: Mississippi State (No. 16), Auburn (No. 11)
Net punting: Auburn (No. 31), Mississippi State (No. 91)
Punt return offense: Mississippi State (No. 31), Auburn (No. 59)
Punt return defense: Neither team has allowed a return
Kick return offense: Auburn (No. 47), Mississippi State (No. 85)
Kick return defense: Auburn (No. 15), Mississippi State (No. 17)

Inside the Numbers:

*During the last five meetings against Mississippi State, Auburn has averaged 238.4 yards per game on the ground. Jackson State averaged 5.2 yards per rush against the Bulldogs.

*The Bulldogs have completed only 47 percent of their passes for 4.3 yards per attempt during the last five meetings against Auburn . That includes two touchdown passes from 133 pass attempts and five interceptions. The Bulldogs managed only 6.8 yards per pass attempt against Jackson State.

*Last season the Bulldogs gashed Auburn with 333 rushing yards, but had only 194 yards rushing against Jackson State in their season opener last Saturday.

*Mississippi State gained 377 yards against Jackson State and generated only six impact plays (15 yards or more.)

*Although Auburn has won 11 of its last 12 matchups vs. the Bulldogs, four of the last five years the games have been close with a victory margin of seven or fewer points.

*Mississippi State's Tyler Russell has appeared in 19 games, compiling a solid passer rating of 140.4. He is 4-9 against Auburn in passing for 19 yards and an interception.

Tyler Russell is MSU's starter at quarterback.

*Running back LaDarius Perkins averages 5.29 yards per rush during his Mississippi State career. Last season he rushed for 78 yards on 11 carries against Auburn.

*Wide receiver Chad Bumphis enters the game with 102 career receptions for 1,357 yards and 13 touchdowns. He has rushed for 232 yards on 34 carries. He has eight career receptions against Auburn for 73 yards and 41 yards rushing on five carries.

*Mississippi State returns 13 of 24 starters from 2011 and has 23 players with at least 20 games of experience, including 13 with more than 30 games of experience. The Bulldogs also have 21 seniors.

*Senior linebacker Cameron Lawrence enters the game with 174 career tackles, including a team-leading 123 in 2011.

*Johnthan Banks and Corey Broomfield give the Bulldogs two veteran defensive backs in their secondary. The two have appeared in a combined 78 games and recorded 21 interceptions and 33 pass deflections.

*Since 1992 Auburn is 28-29-0 when its opponent converts more than 45 percent of its third down situations. Dating back to the past 20 seasons, nearly 20 percent of those games have occurred since 2009.

*Last year Mississippi State ran 97 offensive snaps against the Auburn defense for 531 yards.

What to Watch For:

*Under Coach Dan Mullen, Mississippi State has averaged 205.6 yards rushing in three losses to Auburn. Look for the Bulldogs to attack the Auburn with plenty of misdirection and motion so the Tigers need to align well and secure their tackles.

*Mullen has treated the Auburn game like the Super Bowl since his arrival in Starkville because Auburn has been his first conference game of the year. Mississippi State wasn't very impressive in its season opener on offense, but was likely very vanilla, saving its bag of tricks for Auburn.

*When Auburn went to its power running game against Clemson, it was very successful. This is what the offense was intended to be built around so look for a heavy dose against Mississippi State.

Tre Mason rushed for 106 yards vs. Clemson.

*Russell can be an accurate passer. Look for Mullen to ease the pressure of Auburn's rushing attack from the ends by getting the ball out of Russell's hands very quickly. The Bulldog offense will likely live or die by the amount of success from its short passing game.

*Clemson's tempo on offense placed a major strain on Auburn's defensive alignment before the snap. Mississippi State has a no- huddle package, but it won't be able to match the speed Clemson had with its tempo. Expect Auburn to have better "pre-snap" alignment this week and to play better overall.

*Tre Mason recorded his first 100-yard game against Clemson. He has 267 yards rushing on 42 career carries. His biggest asset as a runner is his vision and quickness through the hole, which is why he has averaged 6.35 yards per carry. Look for him to record another 100 yards rushing against Mississippi State.

*Last season Auburn had to defend 273 snaps during its first three games. If Mississippi State is able to surpass 80 snaps, this could be another long season for the Tigers.

*Look for a more concerted effort by Auburn to stay with the running game against Mississippi State. Everything on offense is built around the running attack.

*Look for Offensive Coordinator Scot Loeffler to continue to attack downfield when Auburn does throw the football. Last season 33.9 percent of Auburn's pass attempts were in the intermediate to long-range area. Against Clemson 62.9 percent of Frazier's pass attempts were downfield. The vertical attack of the opposing secondary discourages the safeties from constantly cheating up to play the run.

Final Word

If the 2012 Tigers are going to improve from 2011, they must win and lose as a team. This means that every phase of the game is expected to contribute with a lesser dependence on one phase of the game. Special teams and the running game contributed enough for the win, but run defense and a 41 percent completion percentage wasn't enough to secure a victory

If Frazier and his receivers were able to hook up on a couple of key passes against Clemson or if the run defense was able to control the Clemson ground attack, Auburn's probability of winning would have increased. Sometimes it takes a loss like Saturday's to teach a team how to win those types of games down the road.

Despite the season-opening setback, Auburn fans witnessed the future of Tiger football under the two new coordinators. They saw a more aggressive defense, which applied pressure during the first half, and an offense built around a power running game and the willingness to pass vertically to sustain the run offense.

Although Auburn suffered a loss against a ranked opponent, coaches and players learned more about their team than they would have competing against a lesser opponent.

Auburn's second road trip of the young season will be another challenge as the Tigers clash with a competitive Mississippi State squad. The last couple of meetings between the two programs have gone deep into the fourth quarter to decide the outcome.

Mississippi State built a commanding 35-6 lead by halftime against Jackson State, cruising to a final score of 56-9. The Bulldogs were fairly vanilla against their weaker opponent, saving the fireworks for the first conference game of the season.

Under Mullen the Bulldogs have compiled a 22-17 record. Mississippi State is coming off back-to-back winning seasons, including two consecutive bowl game victories. The Bulldogs have been competitive under Mullen with six of their losses coming by seven points or less.

The last two meetings between programs have been very physical contests and the same is expected for this year's showdown. The 2010 game was a low-scoring affair and the 2011 meeting was a high-scoring contest.

The team that won the rushing battle has won 26 of the last 30 meetings. Auburn is 21-2 in those contests. Perkins and Derek Milton will spearhead the Bulldogs' running game and Onterio McCalebb and Mason will be the focal point of Auburn's rushing attack. If the running games are equal it could favor the Bulldogs with the more experienced quarterback. Auburn 24, Mississippi State 16

Around the Southeastern Conference:

Tennessee over Georgia State
South Carolina over East Carolina
Florida over Texas A&M
Alabama over Western Kentucky
Ole Miss over UTEP
LSU over Washington
Arkansas over Louisiana-Monroe
Kentucky over Kent State
Georgia over Missouri
Northwestern over Vanderbilt

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