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What to watch: Auburn vs Mississippi State

Today, the 17th-ranked Auburn Tigers take on SEC West foe Mississippi State in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

The Tigers and Bulldogs both lost last week but in very different fashions. Auburn eventually fell to Texas A&M by 17 points in their last contest, while Mississippi State missed a last-second field goal that could have forced overtime versus Arkansas.

Both teams in this morning’s matchup have three wins in SEC play but have also been inconsistent from week to week.

The Bulldogs are led by second-year head coach Mike Leach and his air raid offensive attack. While Mississippi State’s offense receives much of the attention, the Bulldogs defense has been quite strong this year, especially against the run.

Take a look below at three things that will decide today’s game between Auburn and Mississippi State.

Motivation

Games that have an 11 a.m. kickoff time have a history of being less than stellar performances for Auburn. Clearly, previous years’ teams have nothing to do with this one, but the early kickoff changes the team’s gameday schedule drastically compared to night games.

The early kickoff also tends to have a bit of an adverse effect on the home crowd. Different things contribute to this phenomenon, but rarely does an 11 a.m. crowd have the same energy and electricity as one later that day.

The early morning, the likely lukewarm crowd and the frustration from last week’s loss could put this Auburn team in a tough spot.

All of these factors mean it is critical that head coach Bryan Harsin and his staff have the Auburn Tigers mentally focused and energized this morning.

The Tigers are not going to be able to piggyback off the same type of atmosphere that a night game in Jordan-Hare Stadium provides. So, the home team must be ready to create its own motivation to generate positive outcomes today.

Tackling in space

Mississippi State does not even pretend to want to run the football. In the air raid system that the Bulldogs employ, short passes effectively replace the traditional rushing attack.

So far in 2021, Mississippi State is attempting about 55 pass attempts per game. Coach Leach runs a system that is largely built on quick passes that are designed to get the ball to his players on the move in the open field.

It is imperative for defensive coordinator Derek Mason’s group to tackle well today. The defense is likely going to be spread out by Mississippi State, so it could be difficult to get multiple players to the ball carrier to make a play.

With this in mind, the Tigers must be disciplined in their assignments and be solid in their tackling fundamentals.

If Auburn can keep the Bulldogs in front of them and then come up and make solid tackles, then the Tigers are likely to be successful in slowing down the visitors.

Break the seal

It goes without saying, but Auburn must score touchdowns to beat Mississippi State. This point is only raised because the Tigers have been unable to do that for the last game and a half.

Tigers offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has done a commendable job improving players and calling timely plays over the course of the season. However, the last six quarters of offensive football have been a huge struggle.

Coach Bobo has to find creative ways to get playmakers the ball in space and generate a threat of completing passes down the field.

If the Tigers can do that, it will open up the ability for Auburn to run the ball effectively and score points.

Auburn needs to score touchdowns to win this game and to build back confidence that has been lost over the last couple of weeks.

An early touchdown for the offense would set the tone for the Tigers and set the tone for an Auburn victory.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers.

 

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