Five weeks into the season, the Mississippi State Bulldogs and Auburn Tigers are paling in comparison to each other.
Auburn has looked like a rough squad for others to deal with. They are 4-0 on the year so far, with two wins at Jordan-Hare and two wins in the state of Texas. Those Ws came at the expense of the Oregon Ducks in Week 1 and the Texas A&M Aggies last week in College Station. Their defense ranks in the Top 20 in scoring defense and rushing yards allowed per game, and their offense has been solid but maybe not spectacular. And for now, that’s fine for this team as they grow with freshman Bo Nix developing under center game-by-game.
Nix has thrown 73 passes over the last three games, and none of them have been taken the other way. His last INT thrown was against Oregon, but he has done a good job since then of keeping the ball out of the other team’s hands.
The team’s run game is taking off to say the least. Four games into the year, they rank 15th in the nation in rushing yards per game (260) and 29th in YPC (5.4). A big reason for that has been the play of JaTarvious Whitlow. Boobie has already accumulated over 400 yards rushing, 408 to be exact, through the team’s first four games. He’s averaged 5.0 yards per carry and has found the end zone four times. Those 408 rushing yards rank second in the SEC and his four rushing touchdowns are also tied for second in the conference to this point.
You might be reading this and wondering, “Well, who ranks first in the conference in those statistics?” Believe it or not... it’s the man that Auburn will be looking to corral. That being Kylin Hill. Amid a little bit of a sloppy year on offense, State’s bell cow tailback has been doing everything right. He has five rushing touchdowns, tied with Clyde Edwards-Helaire of the LSU Tigers for the conference lead. He has 551 rushing yards, by far the most in the conference. His 6.06 yards per carry is sixth in the SEC, but it’s certainly still a very good number.
Mississippi State’s struggles have been through the air this year. The Bulldogs’ passing attack ranks 106th in the nation in yards per game (185.8). They’ve completed 64 percent of their passes, but they’ve averaged roughly 7.4 yards per attempt this year. It’s not the most remarkable number, so it’s fair to say that it’s been a weakness for them. Auburn’s pass defense isn’t the best in the conference or the nation, but they’ve definitely been more competent than anything else. Suffice it to say, a big dose of Kylin Hill might be what it takes for State to pull off the win.
State’s defense has also been a bit of a struggle as well. They rank 47th in the nation in scoring defense, 58th in pass defense and 61st in rushing defense. After the numbers they put up last year, a step down in these departments have definitely hurt this team. They will have to shore up, especially on the ground, if they want to win this game. It will be tough sledding for them otherwise as the aforementioned Tiger running game has been a force so far.
HOW TO WATCH
Time: 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT
Watch Online: WatchESPN
Spread: Auburn (-9)
Records ATS: Mississippi State (2-2) | Auburn (4-0)