College Football Picks: Mississippi State vs. Auburn

Willie Bee

Friday, September 13, 2013 1:47 PM GMT

Friday, Sep. 13, 2013 1:47 PM GMT

Auburn could match its 2012 win total Saturday night at home vs. Mississippi State, and SBR tunes in with analysis and a free pick for the War Eagles and Bulldogs.

Auburn could match its 2012 win total Saturday night at home vs. Mississippi State, and SBR tunes in with analysis and a free pick for the Tigers and Bulldogs.

On the surface, the Saturday night matchup in Auburn between the Tigers and Mississippi State Bulldogs looks rather harmless. Yet while it's just the third week of the college football betting campaign, this innocuous game does have bowl implications.

Game particulars include a kickoff just after 7 PM (ET) with ESPN2 providing the broadcast. Many books monitored by SBR's live college football odds opened this game with Auburn favored by a touchdown. That spread has since come down to 6.5 or even 6. The initial 52 point total has also decreased to 50.5 at the majority of NCAA betting outlets, though some still have it a half-notch higher at 51.

It's the SEC opener for both schools, something that has become a traditional first conference game for Auburn and Mississippi State in recent years. The Tigers and Bulldogs have started their SEC campaigns against each other since 2004 with Auburn holding the all-time series lead at 60-24-2, including a 27-6 mark at home.

The Tigers have also dominated against the spread with eight covers in the last 11 meetings. Mississippi State stopped a 3-game skid, and 4-game cover streak, vs. Auburn with last year's 28-10 home win as a 3-point favorite. You have to go back to 2008 and the infamous 3-2 final in favor of the Tigers at Starkville to find the Bulldogs' last cash job before the 2012 matchup.

Malzahn Off To 2-0 Start In 1st Season At Auburn

A 3-9 campaign in 2012 ended the Gene Chizik era at Auburn, bringing in a familiar face to take over as head coach. Gus Malzahn, offensive coordinator under Chizik from 2009-11, was lured away from Arkansas State where he'd been in the lead role for two years, and the transition has so far been a success with the Tigers off to a 2-0 start.

Granted, they were double-digit home favorites against Washington State and Malzahn's former school Arkansas State in those contests, so the Tigers were expected to win. Last week's victory over Arkansas State was the only cover, and both games stayed below the total.

Malzahn certainly didn't invent the no-huddle, hurry-up offense, but he has adapted it to his own unique offensive style which we saw during Cam Newton's Heisman Trophy season in 2010. This year, it's even further modified to feature the run more than the pass, and that has resulted in Auburn averaging close to 300 yards rushing in the first two tilts behind the talented inside-outside trip of Corey Grant, Tre Mason and Cameron Artis-Payne.

Mullen, MSU Seeking 4th-Straight Bowl Appearance

There's a good chance that only one of these teams is going bowling this season, meaning Saturday night could eventually decide which one. Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs would prefer it was them, which would mean a fourth consecutive bowl trip during his five year tenure to date.

Interesting enough, it is defense that stands out statistically in the early going for MSU, and not offense which has long been Mullen's specialty. Nothing worked very well in a 21-3 loss to Oklahoma State in Week 1, as the Cowboys ran for more than 280 yards and knocked starting QB Tyler Russell out of action early in the second half. Russell sat out last week's 51-7 mismatch vs. Alcorn State with a concussion, and is probable for the Auburn clash.

Starting tailback LaDarius Perkins also was absent last week with a bum foot, but should play Saturday night.

Auburn has tightened up on the defensive side since midway through the first half of the win over Wazzu in Week 1, and if the Bulldogs are going to cover or pull off the road upset, they are very likely going to have to do it through the air on offense. The opposite is true for the Tigers who need to dominate the MSU defensive line and run effectively to move to 3-0.

All signs point to a very pleasant Saturday evening at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The weatherman is calling for temps in the upper-70s at kickoff under clear skies and just a light NE breeze. It's still two days until the game gets underway, so make sure and confirm that as always before getting your wager down.

 

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There has been some talk about coaching experience, specifically this being Malzahn's first SEC contest as a head coach, being the factor, but I'm not buying that. What I am buying is there being enough points Saturday night to just send the final past the number for my college football pick.

My pick: Mississippi State/Auburn Over 50.5 (-110) Bet365

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