No. 7 Auburn is coming off a big road win at Texas A&M and will be looking to keep the momentum going Saturday night when the Mississippi State Bulldogs roll into town in a key SEC West battle. The Tigers defense was flat out nasty against the Aggies and only gave up just 2.7 yards per rushing attempt. That, coupled with the fast start from the offense, helped them build a big lead before allowing a few late touchdowns to make it interesting on the scoreboard. The Bulldogs rebounded from the loss to Kansas State two weeks ago with a resounding win over Kentucky in Starkville, Mississippi, last weekend.
If Auburn is to keep its hopes of reaching the SEC and national title games alive, they will need to win tough conferences test like this down the stretch. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, could play spoiler in one of the deepest conferences in football once again.
What will happen Saturday night on The Plains? Let's break down the game and make picks straight up and against the spread.
Auburn: It's safe to say that the Tigers' defensive front is one of the best in the nation, and will keep them in every game they play. Because of that, JaTarvious Whitlow and the rest of the rushing attack has been the centerpiece of an offense that is still building with true freshman Bo Nix taking the snaps. Nix is 13th in the SEC in passing with 161.3 yards per game, and coach Gus Malzahn has essentially ignored short and intermediate routes over the middle despite those typically being a big part of an RPO-based offense. The Bulldogs have given up 143.2 yards per game on the ground, which means that you'll probably see more of the same attack from Malzahn.
Mississippi State: Quarterback Tommy Stevens' status is still in doubt heading into the matchup. What isn't in doubt is that his backup Garrett Shrader was pretty solid in his first start last week when he completed 77.3% of his passes. Why was he so efficient? Because running back Kylin Hill is an absolute monster. The junior has topped the 100-yard mark on the ground in all four games this season, ripped off 120 yards and three touchdowns last weekend and leads the nation with 20 rushing plays of 10 or more yards. The problem for the Bulldogs is that they've given up 4.5 yards per rushing attempt -- 12th in the SEC.
Date: Saturday, Sept. 28 | Time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Jordan-Hare Stadium -- Auburn, Alabama
TV: ESPN | Live stream: WatchESPN.com
Game prediction, picks
Auburn's philosophy is simple -- run the ball, play defense and pick spots for Nix to open things up just enough in the passing game to keep opposing teams honest. The same plan will work on Saturday night. Whitlow will wear down a Bulldogs defense that lacks depth, allow Nix to work off play-action and lead the Tigers to an ugly, yet efficient win and cover. It might be sketchy deep into the second half, but the Tigers are just too much for these Bulldogs. Pick: Auburn (-11.5)
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