A victory over the Bulldogs at Jordan-Hare Stadium will give the Tigers a 3-0 conference record and will drop the visitors to 0-3 in league play. Barring unusual circumstances, another loss would knock the preseason favorites from Starkville out of the Western Division race.
But the game has even more riding on it for a certain group of Tigers. The 2001 senior class has yet to beat its rivals from the Magnolia State. "We've been talking about that for a long time," offensive guard Hart McGarry says. "We were talking about that last year when they got away with another one. It's a lot more motivation. Say if this was the last game of the year and we were going to the SEC Championship and it didn't matter if we won or lost, it would still matter because we haven't beaten them yet. It's the whole pride thing. I don't want to spend the five years at Auburn having Mississippi State beat you every year. I don't know how they beat us four years in a row. They have been real fortunate against us."
The Bulldogs are 0-2 in league play after a 16-14 loss to South Carolina two weeks ago and getting blasted by Florida 52-0 at "The Swamp" last Saturday. Arkansas is already 0-3 in conference play and the Tigers are the lone unbeaten team in the hunt for the west. Auburn and Ole Miss were the only two SEC West teams to avoid conference losses this past Saturday as all six were in action. The Rebels evened their conference mark at 1-1 with a victory over Kentucky. LSU fell to 0-1 with a 26-18 loss to Tennessee, Alabama dropped to 2-1 with a deflating 37-36 loss to South Carolina and Arkansas remained winless with a 34-23 loss to Georgia.
Mississippi State Bulldogs will come in to Jordan-Hare stadium with their backs to the wall after an embarrassing loss, but they do have one thing in their favor and that is a personal four-game winning streak against the Tigers dating back to 1997. If the 2001 Auburn team wants to return to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game, a win over Mississippi State will be big stepping stone towards that achievement and senior Tavarreus Pounds is aware of that.
Pounds says Saturday's game with the Bulldogs is personal and this is the best time for the seniors to get their first victory over MSU. "If we get this one, we have control of the West," Pounds says. "Not only because we haven't beaten them, but if we win this, we pretty much lock up the West. That's why it is such a big game. We want to stay in control and stay on top of the West."
The seniors have already begun to convey the message to their teammates.of how important this game is and have already made the sales pitch that they have yet to beat MSU during their careers. Pounds says he believes the message has sunk in and that the Tigers will be ready to play their best football game yet when the Bulldogs visit Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday evening.