Mullen Sees Talented Auburn Team

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen talks about facing Auburn this weekend, what he sees from the Tigers, and more.

Starkville, Miss.--Auburn will open SEC play this weekend as the Tigers face off against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at 6 p.m. on Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn leads the all-time series 60-24-2 against the Bulldogs, but the last time the teams met it was Mississippi State taking advantage of five turnovers on the way to a 28-10 victory.

While both teams have already been tested so far this season, the SEC opener ramps things up to a different notch. Getting ready to bring his team to Auburn, coach Dan Mullen said it's an exciting time when you get to go on the road and play in this conference, but it's especially big when it's the first one of the year.

"It's obviously a great challenge," Mullen said. "Every year since I have been here we have started with Auburn as our first conference game. I think that first game really can give you a huge boost, but it can be a big knock for you too depending on how it comes out. I don't think it defines the entire season for you, but I think it certainly can give you a huge boost and put you on your way to have a great conference schedule and a great year."

One of the biggest question marks for the Bulldogs this week is the status of quarterback Tyler Russell. Missing the Alcorn State game because of a concussion, Mullen said that this week Russell will be able to throw in practice but won't have any contact. He said that his senior should be ready for the game if he's cleared for contact.

Whether or not that is the case Auburn can still expect to see some of Dak Prescott in action. Playing in place of Russell, he completed 12-19 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns against the Braves and added 20 rushing yards and another score on the ground. Mullen said they are confident in his ability to be the man if needed.

"I'm very confident in Dak and our team is very confident in Dak," Mullen said. "I think a lot of that is just the leadership role he has. You don't prepare a starting quarterback and a back-up quarterback. You prepare starting quarterbacks. Dak prepares to be the starter. We have prepared Dak to be the starter since this time last year.

"I think Dak really took on that approach and really did a good job of preparing himself as a starting quarterback," he added. "Within his leadership and the way he does things the team kind of feels the same way. He's ready to be a starting quarterback so it's not a big deal for us."

While Auburn will try to prepare for two quarterbacks this weekend, Mullen said his staff will be busy trying to figure out exactly what to expect from the Tigers. While they've got two games to watch from this season, Mullen said plenty more goes into scouting an opponent and that makes it tough with the Tigers.

"Every year it has been something new with them," Mullen said. "Usually it has just been one game on them with a lot of turnover in staff to get that look on them. It certainly does make it difficult. One of the things you could say is that we could look at Arkansas State from last year and Auburn from three or four years ago on offense. We could look at Southern Miss last year and South Carolina from three or four years ago, but that's not this year's team.

"That's what always makes it hard. You want to look at this year's team and what are they doing with their players? They are very good coaches over there and they're going to make sure they are putting, within their system, their players in position to make plays. You just don't have a lot of looks at what they are and what they want to be and what their personality as a team is."

One thing that Mullen is sure of however is that Auburn is going to present challenges because of the talent level. That is especially the case on offense where the Tigers have three very good running backs to throw at opponents in Tre Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant.

"They've got three big-time running backs," Mullen said. "They can all make plays in the open field. They've got dynamic wide receivers that can beat you before and after the catch for big plays. They have a quarterback that is hitting a lot of big throws down the field to keep you honest, but he can improvise on his own. If you don't account for him he's going to hurt you."

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