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Friday, September 11, 2009

Auburn-Mississippi State breakdown

I'm short on time again today, so this will have to serve as the team breakdowns again. I'm hoping to change the format up next week.

Mississippi State (1-0, 0-0 SEC) at Auburn (1-0, 0-0 SEC)
  • Where: Auburn, Ala.
  • When: 7 p.m., Fox Sports Net
  • Last meeting: Auburn
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs will employ two quarterbacks, senior Tyson Lee and sophomore Chris Relf. Relf threw for three touchdowns against Jackson State last week and ran for 82 yards. The Bulldogs also welcome the return of running back Anthony Dixon, who was suspended for the first game after an offseason DUI.

Auburn: The Tigers looked sharp in their opener, rolling up 556 yards of offense against Louisiana Tech. Expect Ben Tate and Onterio McCalebb to continue to split the rushing load. The duo combined for 265 yards and a touchdown last week, averaging 6.3 yards per carry.

EDGE: Auburn
Mississippi State: Carl Torbush's defensive unit held Jackson State to 194 yards in the opener, forcing five turnovers in the process. Cornerback Corey Broomfield returned a pick 43 yards for a touchdown, the first time the Bulldogs scored a defensive touchdown in 15 games, a streak dating back to November 2007.

Auburn: The Tigers had a solid debut, shaking off early penalties and allowing only three points over the final two quarters against Louisiana Tech. Adam Herring filled in capably for injured weak-side linebacker Eltoro Freeman last week and might have to again. If he holds down that position, Auburn has few weak spots on defense.

EDGE: Auburn
Special teams:
Mississippi State: Place-kicker Sean Brauchle struggled out of the gate, making a 25-yard field goal but missing from 38 and 37. Leon Berry only had one shot at a punt return in the first week. It went for negative-1 yard.

Auburn: Wes Byrum got off to a quick start, making all three of his field goals, including long ones from 49 and 47 yards. Auburn's punt return game might look different this week after Mario Fannin's struggles last week, but plenty of capable returners remain.
EDGE: Auburn
Mississippi State: Dan Mullen has the unenviable task of trying to make his offensive system from Florida work in what has been an offensively-challenged environment the last decade. This will be his first matchup against a formidable SEC foe as a head coach.

Auburn: Gene Chizik is in the same position as Mullen, having never coached an SEC game as a head coach. But he's been through conference play before in the Big 12. He also broke the bank hiring his group of assistants, something Mississippi State did not.

EDGE: Auburn
Key matchups
Offense: RBs Ben Tate and Onterio McCalebb vs. Mississippi State's linebackers. Tate and McCalebb got to the second level often last week because of the offensive line's effectiveness. That puts extra pressure on MSU linebackers Jamar Chaney, K.J. Wright and Chris White to prevent the Tigers from running wild once again.

Defense: DE Antonio Coleman vs. MSU LT Derek Sherrod. The 6-foot-7, 310-pound Sherrod will have the unenviable task of protecting both of his quarterbacks' blind sides against Coleman, who delivered in his first game this year, registering seven tackles, 2½ tackles for a loss and one sack.
Prediction: Both teams will see if their brand new offenses work against formidable SEC defenses. Auburn, at the very least, put up big numbers in its opener against a team that went to a bowl game last season. The Bulldogs have struggled recently away from home, going winless in road games in four of the last eight seasons. For a team that played 33 new players last week, Jordan-Hare will be a tough environment to break through. Auburn 29, Mississippi State 16.

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