Auburn at Mississippi State: 5 Things to Know
It will be another top 10 battle in the SEC Saturday, when No. 2 Auburn visits No. 3 Mississippi State. Both teams come into the game following impressive victories, as Auburn thrashed LSU 41-7 and the Bulldogs dominated then-No. 6 Texas A&M 48-31. Dak Prescott is now a leading contender for the Heisman, while Nick Marshall has picked up where he left off in 2013 for Auburn.
Here's five things you need to know going into this big SEC battle.
IF YOU LIKE OFFENSE, THIS IS THE GAME FOR YOU
Despite being known for great defensive performances, SEC teams are now starting to turn the tide with fast-paced, high octane offenses. Dan Mullen has completely transformed the Mississippi State program, and his spread offense is the catalyst to the turnaround. The Bulldogs have gone over 500 yards in each of their first five games for the first time in school history. Mississippi State has already scored 213 points, averaging 42.6 points per game. Dak Prescott has already tallied 1223 yards passing, 455 rushing yards, and 20 total touchdowns.
Gus Malzahn's track record speaks for itself. The second-year Auburn coach has coached 11 1,000-yard rushers in his eight-year career in college football. His Auburn offenses in 2010 and 2013 are two of the best four offenses in SEC history. The Tigers have 43.0 points, 344.7 rushing yards, and 514.7 total yards in a nine-game winning streak against SEC foes. Needless to say, the scoreboard operator is going to get some work Saturday in Starkville.
100 YARDS FROM NICK MARSHALL = VICTORY FOR AUBURN
Auburn has won 15-straight games when its quarterback rushes for at least 100 yards. Marshall has already gone over the magic number three times in 2014. The last time Auburn lost with a 100-yard rushing quarterback was 1975 at Georgia. Mississippi State has not allowed a single rusher to top 100 yards this season, but they have yet to meet an offense with the capabilities of Auburn. The Tigers come into this game averaging 268.0 rushing yards per game, spearheaded by Cameron Artis-Payne's 594 yards, the most for an Auburn tailback in the first five games of a season since Cadillac Williams totalled 639 yards in 2002.
TIGERS TURN TAKEAWAYS INTO POINTS
Even though they are just +4 in turnovers in 2014, Auburn has outscored opponents 37-0 off turnovers. Gus Malzahn's team has started to turn the corner defensively, and are trying to prove they aren't a one trick pony that can only score a lot of points. Auburn's opponents have failed to convert their last 18 third-down attempts. The Tigers have 20 interceptions in the last 19 games, a stark contrast from the 19 they had in their previous 32 games. Auburn has allowed only one touchdown pass in the last 18 quarters, keeping opponents' passing attacks scoreless in the last 15-straight.
JOSH ROBINSON SHOULDERS THE LOAD
Mississippi State's junior tailback Josh Robinson has had quite the season in 2014. Robinson torched LSU for 197 yards in the Bulldogs' 34-29 victory. "Bowling Ball" as he is affectionately called, has already rushed for 592 yards this season. Robinson currently ranks third in the nation in YPC against Power-Five conferences, with a healthy 9.2 YPC. Todd Gurley of Georgia, the higest-rated tailback in the country sits at 8.0 YPC. Robinson has already scored six touchdowns for the Bulldogs.
LEADER AT HALF WINS THIS GAME
While I don't ordinarily put much stock in stats such as "Team A is 10-1 when leading at halftime" and the like, this game presents a very interesting statline for both schools. Mississippi State is 35-1 under Dan Mullen when leading at halftime. Auburn is an impressive 14-1 when leading at the half during Gus Malzahn's tenure. On the flipside of the coin, Mullen's Bulldogs are just 3-24 when trailing at the break, and are just 2-25 when behind entering the final quarter. If the Bulldogs want to keep their dream season alive and tame the Tigers, a fast start is a must for Dak Prescott and company.