Auburn vs. Mississippi State: Kiehl Frazier Can Avoid QB Controversy with Win
After Auburn lost to Clemson 26-19 in their season opener, there were plenty of positives to take away from Kiehl Frazier's first start for Gene Chizik.
Auburn wasn't favored in the neutral-site matchup, and many expected the favored Clemson squad to run away with the game behind an improved Tahj Boyd and Andre Ellington.
As Lee Corso says on ESPN's College Gameday, "Not so fast, my friend!"
Frazier was one of the reasons the Tigers from Auburn were able to keep pace with Clemson. It sure wasn't the defense, which gave up over 500 total yards of offense and let Ellington run wild en route to a myriad of top plays for his NFL highlight film.
It was Frazier that keyed a big drive before halftime to put Auburn up 7-3. The running-game duo of Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb did the rest, setting up the offense in a position to score. Four field goals kept Auburn in the game despite all the offensive fireworks from Clemson.
All that in mind, this is a big week for Frazier. After winning the job in training camp away from Clint Moseley, it's important that he shows the kind of week-to-week improvement consistent with someone Chizik wants to have the reins.
The positives from opening weekend are two-fold. They help dispel some of the negative aspects of going with the underclassman while also raising expectations after being in position to beat Clemson but making too many red-zone mistakes.
Yes, 11-of-27 for 194 yards with a touchdown and an interception are good stats. But they aren't going to keep Moseley's seat warm on the bench, especially if those 16 misfires are in the red zone against the Bulldogs this weekend.
Coming off a 56-9 win against Jackson State, Mississippi State is a three-point favorite at home against the Tigers. But with what turned into a road game against Clemson and tougher competition under their belts, the Tigers can enter Starkville and start their SEC season off with a win, which is key to keeping pace and keeping a bowl game within their sights.
I think Frazier gets it done today on the road. He's been in a big game and been unable to get it done, and that was the first start of his career. If there is one thing Chizik knows, it's how to groom a QB like Frazier (see: Cam Newton).
If he falters or looks bad, don't be surprised if chants of Moseley begin to creep up, especially with a brutal schedule that includes both LSU and Arkansas before the middle of October. Losses would certainly cripple Auburn's chances of a high bowl bid.
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