3 Keys for Auburn Football Against Mississippi State
Auburn travels to Starkville on Saturday for their first true road game in 2018. With both teams mirroring each other with good defenses and sputtering offenses, here are the 3 keys for Auburn to take down Mississippi State.
1. Auburn must find a way to hold the Mississippi State defensive line in check.
It’s been no secret that Auburn has struggled with its offensive line. It’s also no secret that Montez Sweat and Jeffery Simmons lead a Mississippi State defensive line that is as good as any.
While State has struggled offensively in consecutive weeks, their defense has remained stout, holding Florida to just 13 points in the return of Dan Mullen to Starkville. For the year, Mississippi State leads the SEC in tackles for loss, meaning a struggling Auburn offensive line will have its hands full.
If Auburn can negate this strength, and avoid negative plays, it will be a big plus as the one clear advantage Mississippi State has is its defensive line.
2. Auburn must take advantage of its red zone opportunities and short fields.
In a game where points should be at a premium, converting red zone opportunities into touchdowns, and taking advantage of good starting field position is a must. Auburn was able to score 34 points against Arkansas while gaining just 99 yards combined on all scoring drives (including a kickoff returned for a touchdown.)
While the offense overall was terrible against Arkansas, they at least did what they needed to do with short fields and red zone trips.
It will likely be hard once again for Auburn to have long, sustained drives against a solid defense like Mississippi State, so turning 3 points into 7, and scoring when given great field position is a must.
3. Special teams, particularly punting, could very well decide the game.
It’s rare to say that punting might decide a game, but it very well could. As already mentioned, both defenses have been playing well, while both offenses have not. It should be a low scoring war, and nothing can equalize things quite like a great flip of field position.
This season, Auburn ranks second in the SEC with a net punting average of 42.1, while Mississippi State ranks just 9th at 37.9. If this stat continues to play out, Auburn could get a consistent edge in the field position battle, something that will be as important as it has all season.
With both offenses struggling, a long punt return, a shanked punt, or simply a booming punt of 60 yards could play a pivotal role in deciding a game destined to be as low scoring as any this year.
Auburn and Mississippi State will kick off at 6:30 p.m. CT on ESPN 2 from Davis-Wade Stadium in Starkville.
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