(3) Mississippi State Has Their Hands Full

Mississippi State once again has made clear that they want to be a household name in the SEC. A huge win for the Bulldogs over Texas A&M in their SEC home opener in Starkville has done exactly that, catapulting the Bulldogs into the national spotlight . The final score of 48-31, did not adequately reflect the thrashing State gave the Aggies. At the beginning of the fourth quarter the score was 48-17 and the Bulldogs dropped a wide-open pass, which would have led to a score.

The Aggies scored an unanswered 17 points in the final minuets of the game. With a second top 10 and conference win under his belt, Dan Mullen has a huge plate in front of him this week.

After this monumental win and several top ten losses, the Bulldogs have shot themselves up to be tied for third in the AP Polls with in-state rival Ole Miss. Third is the highest rank Mississippi State has ever been placed. This media attention from the SEC Network caught the eye of College Gameday producer, Lee Fitting, who is bringing the show to the Junction for this week’s huge top 5 matchup against (2) Auburn. This will be the 63rd college that Gameday has broadcasted from and the 14th university in the Southeastern Conference to host Gameday. Needless to say, the crowd in Starkville will be like one never seen, because the Gameday experience is something they’ve never seen.

As always this game will come down to the play of Heisman dark-horse-turned-contender Dak Prescott, who now has made his name well known in the Heisman Race. Dak was responsible for total five touchdowns, 268 passing yards and two of those scores coming throough the air. State is going to need another performance from Dak if they want to compete with the Tigers.

Dak is not the only player who has to show up next Saturday. Josh Robinson will have to pose a threat on the ground against Auburn’s defense to open up plays for the offense. Robinson will be attempting his fourth 100+ yard game this season, and doesn’t look to slow down anytime soon.

As a offensive whole, State’s main goal will need to be balancing drives and keeping the Tiger defense guessing. Dak’s dual-threat style is so effective because opposing defense cannot commit to the run or pass. The minute Auburn shoots down our run or pass attack is when we start trailing in the game. Balance will be the Bulldogs’ best friend, or the biggest enemy.

Bulldog secondary for the second week in a row is the biggest concern for MSU. Auburn’s wide receivers are quite a bit larger than the average Bulldog defensive back. State’s defensive backfield is letting teams average over 300 yards through the air. If the Dogs want a chance, they have to control WR’s Sammie Coats and D’Haquille “Duke” Williams, and contain Nick Marshall.

The Bulldogs’ front seven are also vital for a victory on Saturday. The defensive line has to physically abuse the trenches. Marshall has really improved his passing game from last season, but passing is not the best aspect of his game. The ‘Dog defensive line will have to make him throw under pressure. Like last week against Kenny Hill, the defensive line will have to make sure Marshall is not comfortable in the pocket. Last week’s effort resulted in three interceptions, a season and career high for Hill. Bulldogs’ linebackers will also have to make a STATEment to Marshall early in Saturday’s matchup; the defense’s second level will have to make him second guess taking off down field. A few pops by Benardrick McKinney early should temper Marshall’s rushing instincts.

All in all, for both teams this will be a true test, solely because these two teams are so alike. These teams can beat you both in the air and on the ground, and they have excellent play calling. They balance their offense very well, and both have hungry defenses. The winner of this game will be based on which defense can shut down the opponent’s passing attack. This game will be a 12 round boxing match for both corners of the ring. Since 2010, only one of these bouts has not come down to the last few minutes of the contest, making this a huge matchup and the showcase game of the weekend.

Kickoff is at 2:30 P.M CT on CBS and College Gameday will be live from the Junction starting at 8 A.M CT

*Section Photo credit to Derick E.Hingle, USA Today Sports; Featured Photo (above) credit to Marvin Gentry, USA Today Sports