Leading the way for the Bulldogs is Wayne Madkin (6-4, 227, Sr.), who enters the contest as the all-time winningest quarterback in Mississippi State history with 24 victories over four years. In fact, his win total places him second in the NCAA for wins by an active quarterback, trailing only Nebraska's Eric Crouch, who has 29. The experienced Madkin brings in an offense that has struggled to move the ball consistently so far this season.
Averaging just 315 yards per game of total offense and a paltry 114 yards rushing per game, the Bulldog team is looking for a remedy this week and it hopes a porous Auburn defense of late will be just the ticket. Coming off a Florida game in which they only had 44 yards rushing and 214 yards of total offense, the Bulldogs will look to their experienced leader for guidance and the senior from Huntsville has a knack for delivering in the clutch.
He may need to be on target this week if the running game doesn't pick up to the usual Bulldog standards of recent seasons. With the expected return of tailback Dicenzo Miller (5-10, 207, Sr.) from a high ankle sprain and the powerful running of junior Dontae Walker (5-10, 225) already in tow, this will be a much more dangerous attack than the one that gained just 44 yards against Florida last week. The combination of Miller and Walker combined for 1,854 yards and 19 touchdowns last year for State and don't be surprised if the duo receives the majority of the work Saturday in an effort to test the Auburn defense where it has been most vulnerable of late, up front.
If Miller is still hobbled by the ankle injury look for redshirt freshman Fred Reid (5-9, 180) to step up in his absence. At fullback big Justin Griffith (5-11, 231, Jr.) continues to impress with every chance he gets to run the ball, but he earns his playing time as a powerful lead blocker in the Bulldogs' I formation offense.
Dicenzo Miller on the move.
Catching the Madkin aerials is perhaps the finest collection of receivers Mississippi State has had since Jackie Sherrill arrived in Starkville. Game breakers Terrell Grindle (5-10, 191, Jr.), Justin Jenkins (6-1, 214, So.), Harold Lindsey (6-1, 209, Sr.), Clarence Parker (6-2, 198, Sr.), Ray Ray Bivines (5-11, 172, RFr.) and Antonio Hargro (6-3, 185, RFr.) combine to form one of the more underrated units in the league. Through three games Jenkins leads the way with nine catches for 127 yards and one touchdown while Grindle has nine catches for 98 yards.
Athletic Donald Lee is a receiving threat out of the tight end spot as well for the Bulldogs. He has caught one pass in each game to this point but has the ability to stretch the defense vertically if given the opportunity.
Up front three seniors lead the way for one of the biggest offensive lines in the league. Left guard Courtney Lee (6-4, 327), center Tommy Watson (6-4, 292) and right tackle Kenric Fairchild (6-4, 328) have been solid as starters for at least two seasons each. Talented sophomore left tackle Derrick Thompson (6-6, 294) and right guard Donald Tucker (6-4, 332, So.) have been very capable replacements thus far in the 2001 season.
The Bulldogs are averaging just 14.7 points per game after getting shutout by an angry group of Gators in The Swamp last week, but Jackie Sherrill's team has the talent to do much better than that.