2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 2 - Miss State at Auburn
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Sept. 10 at Auburn 41 ... Mississippi State 34
CFN Analysis: The offense worked. The defense is going to be a work in progress all season long, especially on the defensive front, as the run defense got blown away by a spread attack running game for the second straight week. Mississippi State ran wild and was efficient against the Tiger secondary, but the Tigers relied on Michael Dyer and a good ground game, and another decent but not spectacular day from Barrett Trotter, to pull out the huge SEC win. Remember, Mississippi State is supposed to be one of the hot teams in the league this year, and the Tigers were able to do just enough to get by with the win. It might not have been pretty so far, and there are a whole slew of issues, but 2-0 is 2-0. However, the defensive front will have to be far, far stronger to get by Clemson on the road next week.
This is devastating for Mississippi State. This was supposed to be the announcement that the program was ready to play with the big boys, and now, with LSU coming to down in five days, the Bulldogs have to gear it back up in a hurry or be 0-2 and irrelevant in the SEC title chase. MSU outplayed the Tigers in so many ways, with Vick Ballard running for 135 yards and Chris Relf completing 20-of-33 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown and running 27 times for 106 yards, but ten penalties for 75 yards and too many defensive lapses were bigger than all the good things the team did. If MSU can beat LSU, then everything changes, but this was a winnable game that slipped away.
(AP) AUBURN, Ala. -- Ryan Smith stopped Chris Relf at the goal line on the final play to preserve Auburn's 41-34 win over No. 16 Mississippi State on Saturday.
Relf kept the ball on an option and headed for the end zone before Smith went low and brought the 240-pound quarterback down for the Tigers (2-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference), who had gone from defending national champions to unranked underdog after needing a furious rally to beat Utah State.
This time they held on against the Bulldogs (1-1, 0-1), who nearly pulled off a similar comeback to force overtime.
They marched 66-plus yards in the final 2:52 with only one pass. Before the game's last play, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen raced to an official, signaling timeout, and managed to get three seconds put back on the clock.
All 10 remaining ticked off when Relf came up short.
Daren Bates, Jake Holland and Neiko Thorpe had led a swarm of defenders to stop Vick Ballard for a short loss on the previous play.
Mike Dyer rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns for the Tigers, who extended major college football's longest win streak to 17 games. This one will do more to convince poll voters that they can still be competitive in the SEC despite the loss of Cam Newton, Nick Fairley and a host of other starters.
Dyer led the players' sprint toward the student section to celebrate while the final play was under review -- and quickly upheld.
The Auburn defense was on the field for 97 plays and gave up 531 yards and 31 first downs before coming through when it appeared Mississippi State would at least send the game to overtime.
Relf, Ballard and Mississippi State put a pounding on them until the end.
Ballard ran for a 3-yard touchdown with 4:51 left to keep Mississippi State alive. Ballard set it up with runs of 19, 13 and 6 yards.
The Bulldogs then held Auburn to three and out and got the ball back with nearly 3 minutes remaining.
Relf passed for 195 yards and a touchdown and ran 27 times for 106 yards. Ballard ran 21 times for 106 yards to help Mississippi State play keepaway.
Barrett Trotter was 16-of-23 passing for 146 yards and two touchdowns for the Tigers. Emory Blake accounted for most of the passing yards with 108 yards on seven catches, including a 46-yard touchdown.
Both quarterbacks had interceptions returned for touchdowns, but the offenses supplied most of the big plays.
Trotter rolled right and hit tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen for a 10-yard touchdown a minute into the fourth quarter for a 41-27 lead. Dyer, who also had a 52-yard run on the drive, had taken a direct snap and converted a fourth-and-1 by a couple of inches to keep it going.
The Bulldogs converted a fourth down play in their own territory on their next possession but couldn't reach midfield.
That wasn't a problem the final two drives, or many others.
The Tigers took a 31-24 lead into halftime in a series that include a 3-2 Auburn win just three years ago before both programs turned to new offenses and started putting up big numbers.
The Tigers finished with two quick touchdowns to survive Utah State and opened with two more for a 28-point run-up in a 5:28 span.
Mississippi State (1-0) at Auburn (1-0) Sept.
10, 12:21, SEC Network/ESPN3
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Here’s The Deal … Auburn, you were just joking around, right?
The Tigers should’ve lost to Utah State, and even after escaping with a miracle, it was an embarrassing performance for the defending national champion. But, of course, they managed to turn it on at the right time, they came away with the win, and if they can come up with a win in the SEC opener, then the close call against the Aggies won’t matter.
It doesn’t matter that Auburn is rebuilding and struggles so much to start the season; it’ll be a really, really big deal if Mississippi State can pull off the road win after coming so achingly close in last year’s 1-14 loss. The Bulldogs are hot after closing out strong and with a dominant 59-14 win over Memphis to start out the year, and over a five day span, they’ll know exactly where they stand in the SEC race, and if they can win both upcoming games, in the national title chase.
The Auburn game is huge, having lost the last three games in the series and nine of the last ten, but MSU is the favorite. The LSU game next Thursday night might be even bigger, but it’s one step at a time for a Bulldog program that’s just used to the idea of being a player again. Now, there are real, live, expectations, and now, they’re the hunted.
MSU might have come up with a breakthrough 9-4 2010 campaign, but it didn’t exactly beat anyone big. Wins over Florida, Georgia, and Michigan might sound impressive, but those three powers weren’t nearly up to their normal snuff. The same goes for this year’s Auburn team, but again, it doesn’t matter. Beating the national champion and coming up with an SEC West road win is important, and no matter what happens to Auburn the rest of the way, this would be the biggest victory of the Dan Mullen era so far.
For Auburn, this is a chance to show that all is right with the world. Everyone has problems with the first game from time to time – it’s been quickly forgotten how Oklahoma was pushed to the wall by Utah State in last year’s opener – but this game is for more than just getting back a little respect; it could be about survival.
If the Utah State was really an indicator of things to come, then with a road trip to Clemson up next, a layup against Florida Atlantic follows. And then comes the fun: at South Carolina, at Arkansas, Florida, at LSU. Could a 2-6 start really be possible? That’s a stretch, but after the first 58 minutes of last week’s game against Utah State, it could be panic time.
Why Mississippi State Might Win: The Auburn defensive front was ripped to shreds by the Utah State offensive line. The Aggie front five was a bit of a question mark because of injuries, but the parts came back and it came up with a technically sound performance opening up ten-mile wide holes for Chuckie Keeton and a running game that tore off 227 yards and five touchdowns. Worse yet, the defense had a disastrous time getting off the field as Keeton and Utah State converted ten of 17 third down chances and held on to the ball for close to 38 minutes.
Mississippi State is better than Utah State, and Chris Relf is better than Chuckie Keeton.
The Bulldog offense was in midseason form against a bad Memphis defense, ripping off 309 yards and five scores with Relf running for 51 yards and connecting on 13-of-21 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns before giving way to backup Tyler Russell. Basically, if Auburn couldn’t handle the Utah State spread, it’s not going to have a prayer of a chance against the MSU version.
Why Auburn Might Win: Lost in the close call against Utah State was a terrific performance from Barrett Trotter. The running game might have been a disaster, and the defensive front had problems, but the passing game worked like it was supposed to with Trotter connecting on 17-of-23 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns, and of course, showing cool and calm leadership in the final moments. The Mississippi State pass defense was a problem last year, and while there’s experience and talent returning, the secondary has to still prove it can slow down a good passing game.
Last year was last year, but still, the Bulldogs gave up 250 yards or more in each of the last five games, and were just okay at keeping the big plays to a minimum. The pass rush wasn’t anything special in the opener against Memphis, and it might have to sell out a little bit to get to Trotter and throw off the timing. Utah State kept the Tiger ground game in check by being disciplined and not doing anything crazy with the linebackers, and it worked, but Trotter had a big game. MSU might have to get a bit more creative and take its chances against the phenomenal Auburn running backs.
What To Watch Out For: Auburn’s Michael Dyer was the BCS Championship MVP, and Onterio McCalebb was a superstar recruit and has an NFL future, but Mississippi State’s Vick Ballard is as good as any running back in this game, and in the conference. Ballard came to MSU as a good-looking JUCO transfer, tearing off 1,728 yards and 22 scores in 2009 for Mississippi Gulf Coast CC, and he was supposed to be a big part of the offense right away. It took about a month to become the main man, and then he blew for a team-leading 968 yards and a whopping 19 scores. At 5-11 and 215 pounds, he’s not necessarily a thumper, but he’s physical, extremely quick, and is the perfect fit for what Dan Mullen wants to do with his spread attack. Last week, he ran for 60 yards and two touchdowns on just seven carries, and after running five times for 13 yards and a score in last year’s loss to Auburn, he’ll be looking to make a statement.
Auburn’s defensive front seven has to be far, far better than it was against Utah State. There might have been problems, but new starting linebacker Jonathan Evans did what he could to save the D and clean up the messes left by the interior. Evans has been a spot starter on both the strong and weak sides over his first few seasons, making 27 tackles as a key reserve, and after making 14 stops against the Aggies, he’s quickly growing into his new role. The 5-11, 225-pound native veteran has played in 26 games during his first two years and is a big hitter who should put up double-digit numbers against the Bulldogs.
What Will Happen: Auburn won’t be back to being Auburn again, but it’ll be far stronger, far sharper, and far better. Utah State wasn’t necessarily a wake-up call as much as it was a chance to get everyone into their new spots, and it’s possible that the close win might be a confidence-builder. Mississippi State is good, really good, but Trotter will be excellent, the Tiger defensive front will play far better, and for the second straight year, it’s going to be a tight battle down to the wire.
CFN Prediction: Auburn 23 … Mississippi State 20
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Mississippi State -6.5 O/U: 56.5
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