Auburn will head to Starkville, Ms. Saturday morning to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the first conference contest of the season. There are five keys that will make the difference in a win or a loss for the Tigers in this game.
Against Clemson, the Tigers uncovered a number of issues that needed attention during this week’s practice progression. There were also a lot of good signs that came from the battle with the No. 12 team in the country.
The Mississippi State game has been a consistently tough game throughout history, and nothing less is expected this week.
As Week 2 approaches, here are the five keys to the first conference game of the season for the Auburn Tigers.
Auburn had some major issues finishing tackles last weekend. The Tigers would make it into position and often get hands on the ball-carrier, but there was a lack of follow through.
The Tigers have witnessed issues with finishing tackles in the past. This year things were expected to be different.
Auburn also had issues with pursuit against Clemson. The Tigers were taking some bad angles, but they were also giving up pursuit. When an Auburn defender would make initial contact with the ball-carrier, it seemed that the remaining Tigers would take the play off.
The Tigers defense has to follow through this Saturday. Auburn needs to get back to the fundamentals and run to the football, blasting through their tackles.
Auburn all but abandoned the run inside the red zone last week. The Tigers ran nine total plays in the red zone, six of which were passes. The Tigers did have some opportunities to complete those plays and push into the end zone, but Auburn was pushing the ball on the ground.
There were some obvious plays that Frazier missed in the passing game. Those misses were expected.
Frazier finished the game with 27 attempted passes. The Tigers ran the ball 37 times, with nine being quarterback run calls. As the offense progresses through the season, so will the calls.
Auburn has to run the ball more in the red zone. If they don’t find that production it will be a long Saturday.
Tyler Russell may have just begun his first official season as the starter for the Bulldogs, but he has received a lot of playing time in the past few seasons. Russell would step into games a year ago to offer a better passing option for the Bulldogs.
This year the team is all Russell’s. He performed relatively well in the first week against Jackson State, leading Mississippi State to a 56-9 win, tossing two touchdowns in the contest.
Auburn was successful getting pressure last week against Tajh Boyd. They have to replicate that success this Saturday if they want to escape Starkville with a win.
Russell is not a fast quarterback, but he can be shifty in the pocket. The Tigers will have more time to make the plays this week, but that won’t guarantee that they will. If Auburn can pressure Russell consistently, the Tigers should be able to neutralize the Bulldogs offense.
The Auburn defensive line had a lot of highlights on Saturday night, but none seemed to come from the center of the defensive line. The Tigers did not get blown off the ball like a year ago, but they were unable to gain penetration or seal the middle rushing lanes.
The Tigers got slashed for over 300 rushing yards against Clemson as a result.
Tajh Boyd was also able to make a lot of plays with his legs against the Tigers. That won’t be an issue this week for Auburn—Tyler Russell is not a running threat—but the Tigers will need to seal off the rushing lanes against a talented rushing attack for the Bulldogs.
Auburn also needs to have success gaining inside penetration against the Bulldogs offensive line. Falling short of the goal will contribute to a loss the Tigers can’t have in Week 2.
The Auburn defense was not very effective against the Clemson passing attack last week. For the second week in a row, the Tigers will face a proficient passing attack with dangerous outside threats.
The Bulldogs will employ playmakers Chad Bumphis, Arceto Clark and Jameon Lewis to name a few. Mississippi State will use the speed and talent on the outside to exploit the space given last week by the Auburn defense.
With the speed and shiftiness that the Bulldogs receivers possess, Auburn would be foolish to give as much cushion as they did last week. The Tigers have to get in the face of the Mississippi State receivers and create timing issues.
If Auburn doesn’t create issues with timing, the Bulldogs will shred the Tigers for a lot of yards by utilizing the outside perimeter talent they have in the receiving corps. This is a crucial piece to defensive success in Week 2 for Auburn.