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Thursday Nights in the SEC: Auburn, Mississippi State Annihilate the Past

Open Thread posts at 7 p.m.

It's probably a sign of just how memorable a game it was -- we've called it the worst of the decade -- that Auburn and Mississippi State are still facing headlines like "Another 3-2 game unlikely for Auburn, MSU" two years later. In a season in which it seemed like the only functioning offenses were in Tuscaloosa, Gainesville and Athens, the 2008 game between the Tigers and the Western Division Bulldogs was symbolic of the entire conference.

But two years is a long time. Since then, Gus Malzahn has brought a far more effective spread than the Frank-offense to the Plains and Dan Mullen has used his own version of the spread to add life to the moribund offense in Starkville. If only either man could also improve the defenses, which ranked 10th (Mississippi State) and 11th (Auburn) in the conference in 2009.

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7:30 p.m. ET / ESPN /
Auburn Tigers
Mississippi St. Bulldogs
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So far, though, this game has all the makings of a defense-optional, Big XII-style challenge to the work ethic of the scoreboard operator. Both Auburn and Mississippi State played varying degrees of cupcakes this past weekend, but both also had impressive performances, including a game by Auburn's Cameron Newton that can best be described as "absurd."

vs Arkansas St. / 9.4.10 Passing Rushing
Comp Att Pct Yds TD INT RTG Rush Yds Avg TD
Cameron Newton 9 14 60.0 186 3 0 246.60 15 171 11.4 2

Tyler Russell, meanwhile, was the SEC Freshman of the Week with a game that was also pretty good, even for a bakery game.

vs Memphis / 9.4.10 Passing Rushing
Comp Att Pct Yds TD INT RTG Rush Yds Avg TD
Tyler Russell 13 16 80.0 256 4 0 298.15 1 -1 -1.0 0

And Russell was one of two quarterbacks to play what few meaningful snaps there were in the game.

Auburn, in particular, gave us no reason to be hopeful that its defense has improved; and while Mississippi State hardly played the most challenging competition, the Bulldogs at least did a decent job of shutting down Memphis. In other words, neither team has given us a reason to believe its defense can win a game against SEC competition -- but one team has given us more than enough reason to doubt that it can. That's enough to change my preseason prediction, something I don't like doing this quickly.

Mississippi State 45, Auburn 30