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SEC Football: Previewing Auburn-Kansas State and LSU-Mississippi State

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F/+ projects the winners and losers for Auburn-Kansas State and LSU-Mississippi State. The pecking order in the SEC West should be more discernible after this weekend.

Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

There are two interesting match-ups this weekend involving SEC West teams, as Auburn travels to the Little Apple tonight and LSU hosts Mississippi State for a Saturday night game in Death Valley. The fallout from these two games should give viewers a better idea of the SEC West's pecking order for arguably the first time this season. Kansas State is currently ranked 20th and should test Auburn on the road. The loser of LSU-Mississippi State will have very little margin of error for the SEC West crown given its strength.

Let's breakdown the F/+ numbers to see how these teams match-up. Keep in mind these ratings are still taking into account decreasing levels of preseason data until Week Seven.

F/+ rankings are comprised of the S&P+ ratings and the FEI ratings. This is how those ratings are described:

The Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) considers each of the nearly 20,000 possessions every season in major college football. All drives are filtered to eliminate first-half clock-kills and end-of-game garbage drives and scores. A scoring rate analysis of the remaining possessions then determines the baseline possession expectations against which each team is measured. A team is rewarded for playing well against good teams - win or lose; and is punished more severely for playing poorly against bad teams than it is rewarded for playing well against bad teams.

The S&P+ Ratings are a college football ratings system derived from both play-by-play and drive data from all 800+ of a season's FBS college football games (and 140,000+ plays). There are four key components to the S&P+

If interested, here is a glossary for additional use.

Lastly, the F/+ percentage ratings measure every team against a perfectly average team. So, if the F/+ rating of a team is 0 percent, that team is considered perfectly average by this rating system.

Miss. State versus LSU

Category

Miss. State

LSU

F/+

17 (16.8%)

10 (20.2%)

S&P+ Rk (Offense)

14 (120.8)

56 (103.3)

S&P+ Rk (Defense)

13 (119.1)

2 (131.8)

FEI Rk (Overall)

31 (0.139)

5 (0.247)

FEI Game Projection

-

24-15 (LSU)

A titan versus a titan! Or at least "A Top 20 F/+ SEC team versus another Top 20 F/+ SEC team"! What's interesting in this match-up is the small, but noticeable, disagreement between FEI and S&P+. FEI appears to value LSU to the tune of the fifth-best team at the moment, while Mississippi State is ranked as the 31st-best team. S&P+, meanwhile, considers Mississippi State to have a Top 15 offense and defense, and isn't overly fond of LSU's offense, ranking it 56th.

Mississippi State has the opportunity for a signature win Saturday night in Baton Rouge as both teams open their respective SEC seasons. Mississippi State to this point has beaten three clearly outmanned teams, but has done so impressively. Dak Prescott, Josh Robinson, Jameon Lewis, and a solid offensive line have a big task ahead of them. LSU has not allowed an offensive score in the previous nine quarters behind a very good run defense and an even better pass defense.

Encouragingly for Mississippi State, they have averaged 500 yards per game so far this season. That total will certainly diminish against LSU, but the balanced offense should challenge LSU even more than the Wisconsin team (S&P+ Offense ranked 31st) that scored 24 points against the Bayou Tigers.

LSU boasts a balanced offense of its own, rushing for 214 yards per game and passing for 226 yards per game. Yet, just as Mississippi State will be facing its toughest defense to date, the same is true for LSU, according to S&P+ (Wisconsin's defense ranks 40th). LSU will need to efficiently run the ball, as Anthony Jennings is converting less than 50% of his third down throws. A successful running game would probably allow LSU's play-makers on the outside to make even more explosive plays.

LSU must avoid Preston Smith and Chris Jones or face even more negative yardage. Defensively, LSU probably focuses on stopping Prescott through a combination of blitzes and "spies," as his production is a large share of Mississippi State's offense. LSU is probably confident enough in their secondary to leave them along on islands while blitzing their available men.

Auburn versus Kansas State

Category

Auburn

Kansas State

F/+

7 (21.5%)

26 (12.5%)

S&P+ Rk (Offense)

7 (130.5)

15 (120.5)

S&P+ Rk (Defense)

29 (113.7)

82 (98.2)

FEI Rk (Overall)

12 (0.218)

21 (0.176)

FEI Game Projection

31-27 (Auburn)

-

Auburn and Kansas State game could be high-scoring, according to the F/+ numbers. Both teams employ Top 15 offenses, and both are nearly in the FEI Top 20. Is that enough for Kansas State to pull off the upset at home?

Auburn's offense, specifically the running game, is a threat to all teams, and that should continue against Kansas State. KSU's best opponent so far this season was Iowa State with a S&P+ offensive ranking of 68th, and the Cyclones scored 28 points against the Wildcats. Looking back to the 2013 season, KSU has only played one Top 20 S&P+ offense, and it was a Baylor team that scored 35 points in only 12 possessions. Auburn should be able to replicate this production against KSU's 82nd-ranked defense -- especially if KSU's defense is lacking speed.

KSU has a pretty good offense of its own, but Auburn has already faced an Arkansas offense ranked sixth in S&P+, and held it to zero points in the second half. Questions about Auburn's run defense may have been (at least partially) answered after the clinic Arkansas put on against Texas Tech last weekend. KSU could exploit a secondary already allowing 215 yards per game to teams that are less efficient in the air than KSU has been, especially with receiver Tyler Lockett and a generally creative attack.

KSU's offense may also give a variety of looks that could confuse Auburn's defense. In the end, though, it probably proves too difficult to keep up with Auburn if KSU can't stay balanced. If Auburn jumps to a big lead with its bevy of play-makers, entirely probable, it may not even be possible to voluntarily stay balanced.