Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

Mississippi State defensive tackle Cory Thomas will see many familiar faces this weekend when the Bulldogs face Auburn.

Growing up in Alabama, Mississippi State defensive tackle Cory Thomas cheered for the Tigers of Auburn. This Saturday, Thomas will get the chance to host Auburn in his own backyard for the first time. The talented sophomore now has more than a rooting interest when Mississippi State and Auburn get together and it has nothing to do with childhood favorites.

Cory Thomas and the Bulldogs from Starkville were able to rest and recover last weekend as Mississippi State enjoyed an open date. While Auburn hosted Louisiana-Monroe in a non-conference affair, the Bulldogs were already beginning to plot and scheme to stop the Tigers.

"We have been really fired up this week," Thomas said. "We have just really been locked in on the game plan and knowing what we have to do. We have to play our keys. If we can all do our jobs, then that's a good thing on our side."

Auburn gives opposing defenses a lot to look at. With late motions, shifts and odd formations, defensive units have to work hard to prepare for the Tiger attack that works hard to get defenders out of position.

"You can try to duplicate it all in practice, but it's tough," Thomas said. "Their pace is crazy too. It seems like they are trying to run a play like every five seconds. It's crazy to me. You just have to know your keys and really work on your film study. Half of the time they're going to show you what they're doing. You just have to be locked in on your job."

Thomas knows several of the Tiger players and considers them friends. This week, Thomas reports that business comes first, so he has cut off contact with those he knows on the other sideline.

"I played in the Alabama/Mississippi game with Tre' Williams and Stephen Roberts," Thomas said. "I know Roc Thomas, but he's down at Jacksonville (State) now. I know Jeremy Johnson and quite a few of the other guys.

"I probably talk to Kamryn Pettway the most, but I haven't talked to him this week. I am sure I will be hitting him up after the game, but there won't be any trash talk. I am just trying to handle business this weekend."

Last season, Thomas helped the Bulldogs to a 17-9 win over Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The McAdory, Alabama product will look to extend his personal winning streak against the Tigers on Saturday.

"This is big for me," Thomas said of the game. "I was an Auburn fan during my childhood. Now all of these years later, I get to play against them. It's a big honor for me and I am looking forward to it. It was big to get that win last year, but my role wasn't as big. This year, my role is probably three times bigger. I am looking forward to the challenge."

Mississippi State (2-2) is desperate for a win and a chance to improve their standing as they work towards a possible seventh consecutive bowl game. Thomas reports that the Bulldogs must remain focused as they battle the Tigers (3-2) this Saturday.

"We are going to have go out there and be able to play good against the run," Thomas said. "We have to go out there and have fun. When we play with excitement, things seem to click for us. Things seem to run on all cylinders when we're playing loose and having fun. If we just stay disciplined and stay focused on our keys, then we should be okay."

Thomas, a fun loving guy, tries not to get too high or too low no matter the situation. The redshirt sophomore believes that having an even keel emotionally will be a big part of things this weekend as the Bulldogs play their first game at home in nearly a month.

"If you're not locked in against Auburn and you're worried about something else, a play can pop for 90 yards on the back side," Thomas said. "We just have to stay locked in. They do a lot of stuff that is really the same thing. They have  lot of eye candy. You just have to be locked in.

"I am excited about the game and about the challenge this weekend. It should be fun and it's going to be good to be back in front of our fans. I am ready to hear the cowbells."

Mississippi State and Auburn is set for an 11 A.M. kickoff. Due to the postponement of the LSU game at Florida due to Hurricane Matthew, the Bulldogs and Tigers will now be broadcast on ESPN rather than the SEC Network. 

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