Auburn: Corn Dogs and Cowbells

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the old Stealer’s Wheel song entitled ‘Stuck In The Middle With You’. That is the way I feel at this point in the college football season. I’ve got, now sing along with me, ‘Corn dogs to the left of me, cowbells to the right, here I am…’

When we’ve heard the clang of the last cowbell in Starkville, MS early Saturday evening, the Auburn Tigers will have completed playing their sixth game of the 2014 season. The same will be true for the host Bulldogs.

One of these teams will stand tall with a 6-0 record. The other will be 5-1. It will be extremely difficult for the loser of this game to capture the SEC West title. The winner of this contest will have to lose TWO conference games in order for the loser to have even a slight chance at winning the division. BIG game folks. REALLY big game!

But ah, before we break this huge clash down, let’s take a quick look at last Saturday and Auburn’s win over the LSU Tigers.

Auburn 41, LSU 7. That matches the largest margin of victory in this series for the Alabama Tigers. The 1999 game also ended in that very same score.

Auburn truly needed this game to exorcise some Bayou Bengal demons. Les Miles was 7-2 against Auburn and a couple of those wins were just flat out luck, or as I stated in last week’s column… Voodoo. The big victory created a massive, collective smile across the face of the Auburn Family.

Auburn played, by far, it’s most complete game of the season in Jordan-Hare Stadium last Saturday night. The offense was hitting on all eight cylinders and the defense was lights out. It was a great TEAM effort. HUGE win.

That is all well and good but it is time to focus on the business at hand.

Auburn vs. Mississippi State

The Bulldogs are averaging 541.8 yards per game while the Tigers offense is totaling 497.2.

State’s yardage has come by 272.6 yards rushing and 269.2 yards passing. Auburn is running for 268.0 and passing for 229.2 yards per outing.

State is scoring 42.6 points per game and Auburn scores at a 42.0 per game clip.

On defense the Bulldogs are struggling a bit giving up 426.4 yards each game with 328.2 coming through the air, but they only allow 98.2 rushing yards each outing. They sit at thirteenth in the SEC in total defense.

The Tigers are allowing a total of 306.0 yards per game. They are permitting an average 206.4 yards passing and 100.2 yards rushing each outing. They are number fourteen nationally in total D. In scoring D they come in at number nine giving up only 14.4 points per game while State allows 19.4 points per game.

Here are some take aways from observing those statistics. Both teams are very well balanced on offense. Both teams are very tough against the run on defense. They are practically dead even in scoring offense.

But here is where we get some separation. Auburn is much stronger in total defense giving up almost 120 yards per game less than State is allowing each time they take the field. Big edge to Auburn.

Also, MSU’s 328.2 average yards allowed passing indicates a leaky secondary. Nick Marshall’s passing was noticeably better last week. He hit 14 out of 22 passes for 207 yards. He also rushed for 119 yards. It appears the Marshall is hitting his stride.

Now let’s not take anything away from Dak Prescott. The young man is on fire! He is averaging 336 yards total offense per game and he is cool under pressure. AND he is a bona fide Heisman candidate.

Running backs. The Bulldog’s Josh Robinson has 592 yards rushing. The Tiger’s Cameron Artis-Payne has 594.

Both teams are 5-0. Auburn is ranked second in the AP poll while Miss State is tied with arch-rival Ole Miss at third in the country according to the AP.

Both teams are coming off emotional wins on their home fields.

This contest is being billed as the biggest home game in Miss State history. Tickets are going for as much as $1200 a pair. Their fan base is frothing at the mouth and at a fever pitch. They have never experienced anything like this in their school’s history. ESPN Game Day will be on hand.

Auburn has been there… many times. The last time was on September 18th in Manhattan, KS.

I have found myself in much the same position as the State fans find themselves now. I have seen the Tigers fail to seize the moment. I have seen Auburn rise to the cusp, only to watch it slip away.

13 seconds. That is how close the Auburn Tigers came to capturing their second national title in four years. Those 13 seconds have been a mantra around their football facilities since that fateful night in Pasadena earlier this year in the venerable Rose Bowl venue.

I sense something very, very special brewing on The Plains. TNT… Tough and Together.

From this vantage point it appears that the Auburn Tigers are much better on defense and special teams than their opponents, with Quan Bray taking two punt returns to the house. It seems that the two offenses are about equal.

Mississippi State has the cowbells and the home field advantage.

I think the game will be very close for the most part with Auburn’s overall talent, depth, coaching and big game experience prevailing in the end.

Auburn 41, Miss State 27.

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