Gametime: Noon ET
TV: ESPN **
Odds: Auburn -3 per oddsshark.com (as of Thursday evening). Mississippi State opened as a 1.5 point favorite before the line shifted towards Auburn. Over/Under: 54.5.
With a pair of losses each entering Saturday’s game, neither Auburn (3-2, 1-1 SEC) nor Mississippi State (2-2, 1-1 SEC) can really afford a loss with upcoming games against Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss for both teams in which they will likely be underdogs. The winner of this game, however, could use the game as a springboard towards the second half of the season and improved bowl placement.
Auburn goes on the road for the first time this season coming off consecutive wins over Louisiana Monroe and LSU while Mississippi State comes in after a bye week following their win at UMass.
Three Things to Watch For
Quarterback Play for Both Teams
Auburn’s quarterback shuffles throughout the season have been well documented and John Franklin III has continued to spell out Sean White. For Mississippi State, Nick Fitzgerald appeared to be taking control of the starting quarterback position after his record setting performance against South Carolina, but a shaky performance at LSU appeared to crack the door for Damian Williams. After a solid performance against UMass, the job again looks to be Fitzgerald’s to lose. As neither team’s quarterbacks have consistently lit up opposing defenses in 2016, the better quarterbacking job could be crucial to the game’s outcome on Saturday.
Auburn’s Defense vs. Mississippi State’s Offense
Dating back to last season, Auburn has held five of their last six opponents under 20 points and rank in the top third amongst SEC teams in defending third down conversions so far in 2016. Mississippi State, meanwhile, is dead last in the SEC for third down conversions at just under 29 percent. This is backed up by advanced stats as Mississippi State only ranks 86th nationally in rushing success rate, 49th in passing success rate and 111th in finishing drives. For the Bulldogs to win, they will need to improve those numbers and stay ahead of schedule.
Auburn struggles with finishing drives as well as they rank 104th in finishing drives but have equally struggled with field position as they rank 107th. Mississippi State comes into the game ranked 22nd in field position. If that differentiation remains and both teams continue to struggle in finishing drives, Mississippi State could draw an advantage.
I really think this game will be fairly low scoring with a defensive or special teams score being the difference. Auburn 21, Mississippi State 17
**The game was originally scheduled for the SEC Network, but has been moved to ESPN due to the cancellation of the LSU-Florida game.