It is still early in the season, but two games in, Mississippi State's defense looks like it has definitely improved.
Auburn's offense did help a little bit. Cameron Newton is still getting settled into the new offense, and All-SEC LT Lee Ziemba left the game with an injury in the second quarter (no word yet on the diagnosis). The Tigers also appeared to miss Ben Tate, who was the go-to guy last year when the going got tough. They don't have someone quite like that yet.
However, just look at the difference between last year and last night:
The Bulldog defense held Auburn to 241 fewer total yards, including an amazing 200 fewer rushing yards. It forced a couple of turnovers, and most importantly, it held the Tigers to 25 fewer points. It even sacked Newton twice after never sacking Chris Todd a year ago, and increased its tackles for loss count from four to six.
Unfortunately for Mississippi State's cause, its offense didn't show similar improvement. Auburn's defense held it to 51 fewer yards and three fewer offensive points. State had some chances, but it curiously abandoned its effective option game for long stretches. And like Tyrod Taylor did against Boise State, Chris Relf threw longer passes than necessary in trying to set up a field goal on his final drive.
Mississippi State missed a golden opportunity to pick up a win, a fact that could easily come back to haunt it given how rough the schedule is. What could help the Bulldogs overcome that is what appears to be an improved defense.