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What is Mississippi State Head Coach Dan Mullen saying about Auburn?

Mississippi State Head Coach Dan Mullen (Photo: Mississippi State Athletics)

The SEC home opener for the #13 Auburn Tigers is this Saturday, and it happens to be against one of the up-and-comers in the SEC West, Mississippi State.

The 24th-ranked Bulldogs, led by Head Coach Dan Mullen, have seen peaks and valleys through four games in 2017. Showing signs of promise two weeks ago against LSU, where the Bulldogs out-gained the Bayou Bengals in yardage 465-270 in a 37-7 win at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville.

Just when things seemed to be on the upswing for Mullen's squad, whose average win margin was 38.8 points through three games, that was until they ran into a buzz saw in Athens, Georgia. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald was limited to 83 yards through the air, throwing two interceptions in a 31-3 loss to Georgia last Saturday night. The Mississippi State defense also allowed 404 yards to Georgia, and two touchdown passes of over 40 yards from freshman Jake Fromm.

With Auburn entering the game as the 13th best team in the nation, this will be the third straight week that Mullen and the Bulldogs will face a top-15 team. He took to the podium Monday to give his thoughts on the upcoming game with the Tigers.

Opening Statement:

Mullen was complementary of Auburn when describing this week's game. Calling the Tigers a challenge.

"They have an explosive offense. They’ve got some wide outs who can play down the field. They’ve got a quarterback that’s starting to grow into the system of what they’re doing and understand what’s going on. They’ve got some great running backs. They give you different looks and a great combination of size, power and speed. Defensively, they are one of the top defenses in the country over the first couple weeks of the season. You see that in that they’ve played different styles of teams, and they’ve dominated the defensive side of the ball pretty much everybody that they’ve played. It’s a great challenge for our guys to come off of last week’s game and get back out there. It’s a great opportunity for our guys to come out and play and get a win against a top-15 team on the road.”

Jarrett Stidham:

Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham has gotten more and more comfortable over the last four weeks, that proposes a threat to Mullen.

"He’s a guy that has experience out there on the field and has made a lot of big plays even before he got to Auburn. Now you’re starting to see him getting more comfortable with their system because it’s different than the system he ran before.”

The Running Game:

Neither of Auburn's four games have featured both running backs, Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway. Johnson returned last Saturday against Missouri after missing the last two-and-a-half games due to a hamstring injury. Pettway was not available to play against Georgia Southern, and did not record a carry in last week's game. Auburn Head Coach Gus Malzahn mentioned that there was a "high likelihood" of Pettway playing on Saturday. Mullen shared his knowledge of Auburn's run game.

"By having the power of the backs, you can incorporate the quarterbacks. You have to defend the quarterback run. They’re going to do a good job formationally, trying to get a formational numbers advantage. They put some pretty good backs on the field with different styles. When Kerryon Johnson is running the ball, he’s kind of a long slasher. Both of them have big-play abilities, but their running style is a bit different. They’re both dangerous in what they do. Knowing Gus for a long time, he likes to run the ball, so they’re going to work and be really good at running the ball. When they can run the ball, that also makes them dangerous in the play-action.”

How is Auburn's defense similar to Georgia's?:

Mississippi State was humbled last week on the road at Georgia. Auburn's defense has yet to allow more than 14 points to an opponent this season, and ranks #15 nationally in total defense. How are Auburn and Georgia's defenses similar?

“A lot of talent and a lot of speed, with a lot of great players. Schematically, they’re different in some ways, but there are similarities. Like every defense there’s crossover and there’s differences. One thing we do see is a lot of talented players out there on the field.”

Mullen is also impressed at Auburn's number of tackles for loss, saying that "those guys are pretty good at disrupting things.”

How would Mullen stop his own offense?:

Mullen gave some insight as to how his offense was stopped last Saturday against Georgia.

“I think that’s dangerous because I think we can win down the field. We didn’t win the one-on-ones. If we go catch some of those one-on-one balls down the field, Saturday might be a little bit different. I think that’s part of it. When you’re going to go throw up the 50-50 ball, you’ve got to come down with it.”

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