In Auburn's 2012 opener against Clemson, we saw a Clemson team that played about as expected.
The Auburn team that showed up in Atlanta was a timid group that played to avoid losing.
It was an Auburn team that lacked the championship leadership and confidence needed to beat a formidable SEC opponent.
Mississippi State is a team that plays on a much lower scale than Clemson. The Bulldogs likely have a somewhat stronger defensive line, but they lack playmakers at the skill positions. State does have a home field advantage and can beat this Auburn team if they continue to play timidly.
Though the Tigers have progressed in their knowledge of the team's offensive and defensive systems, they have not developed the hunger and desire that flows from confident leadership. Until that happens, Auburn remains a fragile team that can be beaten by any team with confidence and desire.
There were many mistakes in the game with Clemson. This is to be expected from the vast majority of teams in their first game of the season. There were missed tackles that led to hundreds of yards of offense for Clemson. There were touchdowns squandered by receivers who failed to use proper footwork after catching the ball.
These mistakes were harmful but did not beat Auburn. What beat the Tigers was simply the lack of confidence among the players that leads to knowing that your team can and will win.
The Auburn defense was in position on the vast majority of plays. The Auburn offense was very effective when execution was consistent. The game plan was one that put the team in a position to win.
Clemson simply had better leadership in the form of RB Andre Ellington and QB Tajh Boyd. This leadership inspired Clemson to take over the game when it counted.
Auburn showed no leadership that was capable of responding.