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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 8, 12:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Davis Wade Stadium (55,082) -- Starkville, Mississippi. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Auburn 0-0, MSU 1-0. Away Record: Auburn 0-0, MSU 0-0. Neutral Record: Auburn 0-1, MSU 0-0. Conference Record: Auburn 0-0, MSU 0-0. Series Record: Auburn leads, 60-23-2.
GAME NOTES: The long and brutal SEC schedule opens up on Saturday afternoon for a pair of teams, as the Auburn Tigers make the trek to Starkville to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Auburn's season opener came in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome against nationally-ranked Clemson. AU found itself up by a field goal late in the fourth quarter, but ultimately fell in the hard-fought battle, 26-19.
Mississippi State faced FCS opponent Jackson State in its opener, and the outcome was about as strong as the team could have hoped for. The Bulldogs clicked on all cylinders, opening the game with 35 straight points en route to an easy 56-9 win. It marked the second straight season that they have opened up their season with a 50-point effort (59-14 over Memphis on Sept. 1, 2011). MSU has won 12 straight non-conference games and is 4-0 in season openers under head coach Dan Mullen.
Despite their recent success early in the year, the Bulldogs have not fared well in SEC openers, dropping 12 consecutive conference lidlifters.
Auburn holds a 60-23-2 lead in the series between these two programs. The Tigers have been especially dominant of late, winning nine of the last 10 meetings, including a 41-34 decision a year ago.
The Auburn offense was solid in its first game, gaining 374 yards with a near- even split between rushing (180) and passing (194).
Kiehl Frazier was inconsistent in the first game of his sophomore season. The signal-caller finished with 194 yards and a touchdown, but he completed just 11-of-27 passes, threw an interception and was sacked twice.
Emory Blake was Frazier's favorite target on the day, catching four balls for 109 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown in the first quarter to give Auburn the early lead. Philip Lutzenkirchen also had a fine receiving day with four catches for 71 yards.
Tre Mason (14 carries) and Onterio McCalebb (12 carries) had nearly an even split in the backfield. Mason rushed for a career-high 106 yards and McCalebb added 82, but neither found the end zone.
The defense is usually a strength for Auburn, but not against Clemson. The unit surrendered 528 yards of total offense and was absolutely gashed on the ground for 320 yards.
Four different players recorded double-digit tackles, but that was mostly due to the high volume of rush attempts for Clemson (52). Daren Bates was the standout performer. The senior linebacker made 14 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, a sack and an interception.
Corey Lemonier tallied two sacks and two tackles for loss. He finished among the SEC leaders in both categories a year ago (13.5 TFL, 9.5 sacks).
The Mississippi State offense made the most of its opportunities in the opener, scoring six touchdowns in six trips to the red zone. The unit also went 8-of-13 on third-down conversions and 2-of-2 on fourth downs.
Tyler Russell wasn't asked to do much in the blowout victory. The QB finished completing 15-of-24 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns. Dak Prescott (1- of-4, eight yards) saw some action late in the game.
Arceto Clark and Jameon Lewis each caught three passes, but neither eclipsed 35 yards. Marcus Green and Chad Bumphis caught the two touchdown strikes from Russell.
Derrick Milton led the team in rushing with 65 yards on eight carries and he found the end zone late in the game. LaDarius Perkins had one more carry than Milton and gained 58 yards on the ground, pounding in two scores from seven yards and one yard, respectively.
The Bulldog defense was suffocating against its FCS opponent, allowing just 265 yards and returning two interceptions for scores.
A 52-yard interception return for a touchdown by Darius Slay put MSU up 35-0 late in the first half. Matthew Wells (22 yards) also contributed a pick-six, and he finished with four tackles, a tackle for loss, and a sack.
At this early stage of the season, both teams appear to be rather evenly matched. Mississippi State has come a long way in recent years, and while it isn't a contender for the SEC championship, the team has the ability to beat anyone on any given day, and having the home crowd behind the Bulldogs will certainly be a boost. At 0-1, Auburn has an extra sense of urgency to start the SEC season off on the right foot. Frazier will play much better and the Tigers will squeak out a tight one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Auburn 24, Mississippi State 23
09/05 10:38:11 ET
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