Few college football teams have seen their stock fall as much the last couple of weeks as the Auburn Tigers, but look for a nice rebounding effort at home Saturday night.
The home team has gone from being ranked in the top 10 in the country two weeks ago to now being out of the rankings, but look for a turnaround Saturday night when the Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-1, 2-1 ATS) pay a visit to those Auburn Tigers (2-1, 0-3 ATS), who should play with a chip on their shoulders at home at Jordan Hare Stadium in Auburn, AL at 7:30 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPN2.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Auburn as a small home favorite for this contest with the current line at -2½ with odds of -112.
Biggest Disappointment in Country?
Auburn began this season ranked sixth in the country in the Preseason AP poll, and the Tigers only dropped slightly to eighth after a non-covering 31-24 win over Louisville to begin the year. Then, some serious red flags were raised when the Tigers were taken to overtime by Jacksonville State of the FCS as they plummeted to 22nd, and they fell out of the rankings entirely after their first loss 45-21 at LSU last week.
Mississippi State also faced LSU in its only SEC contest so far, and although the Bulldogs were also losing college football picks, at least they were competitive and covered the point spread in a 21-19 loss back home in Starkville in Week 2. The Bulldogs then rebounded with a 62-13 thumping of Northwestern State of the FCS last week.
Still on SEC West Race
For all of the gloom and doom surrounding Auburn after the LSU loss, it is still just one loss and if is not as if the Tigers cannot come back and still win the SEC West, especially with Alabama also sitting at 0-1 inside the conference. And if they do so, it will be with Sean White as the new starting quarterback as Coach Gus Malzahn announced the benching of Jeremy Johnson earlier this week after three shaky performances.
Johnson completed only 59.7 percent and threw six interceptions vs. five touchdown passes while averaging only 6.6 yards per attempt, so it is difficult to criticize this move as the highly recruited White may give the offense the shot in the arm that it needs. And he does have a good running game to support him with the Tigers averaging 171.7 rushing yards per game.
That running game should have continued success here as while the Mississippi State defense is stout against the pass, the run defense has been a sore spot for the Bulldogs allowing 171.3 rushing yards per contest, with even Northwestern State managing a respectable 146 rushing yards last week.
Lost 15 Starters
Mississippi State was actually in contention for a College Football Playoff spot late in the year last season, but not many starters return from that team as the Bulldogs lost seven starters on offense and eight starters on defense. And although MSU just barely lost to LSU, the bottom line is that the Bulldogs did lose and they may not have the talent this year to battle back from an 0-2 start in the SEC, which would be where they would sit with a loss here at Jordan Hare.
Obviously one player that did return was quarterback Dak Prescott, who has picked up where he left off when setting 12 single-season Mississippi State records last year and who has now thrown at least one touchdown pass in 17 consecutive games. However, much like Mississippi State, pass defense has been a strength for an Auburn team allowing 172.7 passing yards per game on just 5.6 yards per pass attempt.
Thus, this contest could come down to whichever team runs the ball better, and that is a matchup that plays more to Auburn’s strength than to a Mississippi State that leans more heavily on the passing of Prescott.
Responding to Poor Outings
Finally, Auburn has responded well to poor defensive performances in recent years, as the Tigers are 11-5 ATS in their last 16 games after allowing more than 40 points in their previous game. In fact, Auburn has not lost back-to-back regular season games straight up since 2012.
In what could be a make-or-break game for the entire season for both teams, we will back what was the much more highly regarded team just a couple of weeks ago in Auburn giving less than a field goal at home to Mississippi State on Saturday.
College Football Pick: Auburn 2½ (-112)