GAME PREVIEW: Auburn @ Mississippi State


I don’t know how closely you follow Auburn football and its general happenings, but we had quite a week.

Bryan Harsin got fired, to nobody’s surprise. We just didn’t know exactly when it was going to happen. Word had been that when we finally grabbed ourselves an athletic director, the new guy would get to swing the axe upon taking the gig.

Instead, President Roberts hired John Cohen as AD, but canned Harsin before making the official announcement. Now, Cohen comes in clean, no blood on his hands, and has an empty slate with which to work.

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The Tigers will be led by a native son and former legend in Carnell Williams, and while we don’t know what effect his leadership will have on the team, I can only imagine they come out with their hair on fire tonight. Then imagine a night game atmosphere next week against a Texas A&M team primed for a downfall. Just play Cadillac highlights on the Jumbotron and let the boys roll over the Aggies.

Oh yeah, all of the Boise Boys save for Jeff Schmedding got the boot as well. Back to farming potatoes for the foreseeable future.

AND, after Auburn poached John Cohen as athletic director, our first game comes at the place where I bet he still has a drawer full of socks and underwear as the Tigers travel to Mississippi State.

We’re going back to the site of Gus Malzahn’s final win and final game as head coach at Auburn, and a few days ago I got a little wistful watching UCF beat Cincinatti. Now, with a road of endless possibility ahead of us, I am just excited.

We’ve got our hot board of candidates, namely Lane Kiffin and Jeff Grimes and Deion Sanders, and if you think that John Cohen wouldn’t love to hurt Ole Miss by coach-poachin’ Kifferz and bringing him to the Plains, then you’re glib.

Anyway, we’ve got four games with Cadillac leading the way, starting tonight in Starkville. The Tigers have been a bad football team over the last few weeks, and the only win came against Missouri in that hilariously tantalizing finish.

We’ve been able to run the ball at times, which probably fits into Cadillac’s idea of what he wants to do with a revamped staff.

New offensive co-coordinators Will Friend and Ike Hilliard will call the plays. Former offensive analyst will take over managing the quarterbacks from Eric Kiesau. Kendall Simmons is going to oversee the offensive line, and Joe Bernardi is taking over for Brad Bedell coaching tight ends.

I’m imagining in my head a West Canaan Coyotes situation after Bud Kilmer got fired and Lance Harbor had to lead the team.

I’m just excited to be able to pull for Auburn with a full-throated effort now that the roots of misfortune have been pulled out from the flowerbed.

WHEN MISSISSIPPI STATE HAS THE BALL: Well, we saw what Mike Leach did to us last year. It was a definite tale of two halves, with Auburn building that 28-3 lead before giving up six consecutive touchdowns and losing in the biggest collapse in school history. We should’ve known then. MSU is going to throw the ball, and they’re going to throw it a lot.

Will Rogers is back for the 2022 season, and he’s got a slew of receivers that he likes. Five different guys have 30 catches or more on the year, with Caleb Ducking leading the way with 35 grabs and 7 touchdowns. Rara Thomas is the “big play” guy averaging more than 15 yards per catch, and he’s got 3 scores as well.

As far as the run game goes, they do at least get some attempts to keep you honest. Averaging about 23 carries per game, Ja’Quavious Marks and Dillon Johnson are both pretty solid backs. Marks has the most carries, but Johnson gets about 6.0 yards per carry.

Auburn will need to figure out how to best disrupt Rogers and avoid doing what the Harsin strategy did last year against Penn State and MSU with allowing short completions left and right.

WHEN AUBURN HAS THE BALL: Boy, I’m extremely interested to see what kind of wrinkle we put into the offense today. It’s pretty obvious that we’re going to be sticking with Robby Ashford at quarterback after rumors that T.J. Finley entered the transfer portal, and I’m sure the plays will be the same, BUT IN WHAT ORDER??

Camden Brown had himself a bit of a breakout game last week against Arkansas, so maybe we’ll see a different contingent of players taking the field in certain positions today. Brown was the talk of fall camp and then barely played through the first few weeks. Maybe it was weird Harsin bias, but I think the interim group will be less picky about who they stick on the field.

MSU’s defense has been pretty good this year, giving up about 138 yards per game on the ground, and I bet Auburn is going to center their plan on trying to take over the ground game.

SERIES HISTORY: Auburn has dominated this series, holding a 65-28-2 edge all-time in one of the most played matchups in school history.

LAST MEETING: Now that someone isn’t leading the way anymore, we can talk about what a failure this was. Auburn blew a 28-3 lead at home and fell to the Bulldogs 43-34, with MSU scoring six straight touchdowns. Bo Nix broke his ankle during this game, and the Tigers’ season spiraled. THANKS HARS.

LAST WEEK: Auburn fell to Arkansas in a 41-27 defeat, and that was enough to get rid of Bryan Harsin. Mississippi State had a bye week last week but lost to Alabama 30-6 two weekends ago.

TUCKER GREGG AWARD: When you’re playing against MSU, you’d think that the passing game is going to be the area where you’d experience some annoying dude who makes play after play. However, this team has two good running backs and I think both Marks and Johnson are going to get plenty of yards after what the Tigers have allowed in recent weeks.

RANDOM PREDICTION WITH NO BASIS IN REALITY: We are going to see highlights from the 2003 Cadillac Williams 6-touchdown performance against MSU at least once a quarter.

KEYS FOR AUBURN:

  1. Take advantage of the early emotional boost. You can’t pretend that the team getting led out of the tunnel by Cadillac Williams won’t be beneficial. It’ll be down to the staff to turn that energy into production. We can’t watch a team come out too juiced up and make mistakes. We need to see the Tigers use that energy to build a lead and get the crowd out of it early.
  2. Use the element of surprise effectively. Auburn hasn’t been very good this year, we know. However, with the Tigers coming in with a pretty new interim staff, it’s time to shake things up a bit. Couple some unseen things with the early energy boost and put MSU on its heels trying to figure out what you’re doing.
  3. Don’t get too down if things don’t go your way. Now is now the time to quit. That was in recent weeks when Bryan Harsin was a dead man floating down the river. There are good things on the horizon, and you’re playing for a guy who would do anything for Auburn instead of a guy who didn’t seem to care one way or the other about the school.. Whether you win or lose today, you can take that into a home night game next week and have a chance to experience the type of atmosphere we always expect to have at Auburn.

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GAME PREVIEW: Auburn @ Mississippi State

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