Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs look legit after throttling Gene Chizik’s Tigers in the second half en route to a 28-10 win on Saturday, Sept. 8.
The SEC West is easily considered the best division in all of sports and the proof was in the pudding in this contest.
The loss moves Auburn to 0-2 for the first time since 2003 and the offense appeared absolutely abysmal.
Quarterback Kiehl Frazier turned the ball over five times, throwing three picks and coughing up the football twice. He has been unable to answer the bell as the starting signal-caller and he gave the Auburn faithful a nightmare of a day.
We all knew coming into the contest that Mississippi State’s defense was solid, but quarterback Tyler Russell put together a virtuoso performance, completing 20 of 26 passes for 222 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers.
Many expected the offense would show some growing pains with the departure of running back Vick Ballard (now with Indianapolis Colts), but the offensive line returned intact and LaDarius Perkins had a strong showing with 83 yards on 14 carries. No play was more eye-popping than his 21-yard scamper for a score in which he leaped to paydirt tucking the ball inside the pylon for six points.
Is Mississippi State for real?
Time will tell, but certainly at the moment the Bulldogs appear to be a legit Top 25 team. Moreover, Mississippi State has the potential to start the season 7-0 with its schedule, as Tennessee appears to be its toughest test before battling Alabama, Arkansas and LSU.
On offense, Mississippi State has the receivers to really shine as a ranked team for the rest of the season, along with Marcus Green at tight end, as the team possesses killer speed on the outside, but it’s the mix of possession playmakers that can ultimately take this team towards a potential 10-3 campaign.
As for Auburn, with Arkansas and LSU next on the schedule, the Tigers could start the season with a 1-4 record. Frazier and co. only produced 50-plus yards in the final quarter in garbage time when the Bulldogs were lining up in prevent-like formations.
The secondary was stellar, led by arguably the best corner in the country, Johnathan Banks. Banks leads the FBS among active players with 14 interceptions.
Auburn’s inability to complete a pass to its star receiver Emory Blake was a big problem and the other playmaker — Onterrio McCalebb — struggled to get any opportunities in this game. After the opening kick for a score in the second half, he alongside star tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen became non-factors.
Give credit to the Bulldogs’ defense, but the poor play from under center has been a constant struggle through the first two games of the 2012 season, not to mention all of last season.
Making matters worse, while we knew Auburn’s linebackers corps were one of the smallest in the conference, the defense couldn’t get off the field, placing more pressure on the offense and a young struggling quarterback.