2012 Summer Football Opponent Preview: Auburn

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31: Kiehl Frazier #10 of the Auburn Tigers warms up prior to facing the Virginia Cavaliers during the 2011 Chick Fil-A Bowl at Georgia Dome on December 31, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Much of the talk about the upcoming schedule has Bulldog fans talking about Mississippi State holding a 7-0 record when they face Alabama in the eighth game of the season. Many Bulldog fans are talking about finishing the season with an 8-4 or 9-3 record and an invite to a top-shelf, non-BCS bowl.

There is no more pivotal game in making those hopes and dreams come true than the match up against Auburn on September 8 at Davis Wade Stadium.

Quick Facts: Auburn

  • Location: Auburn, Alabama
  • Founded: 1856 as East Alabama Male College
  • Enrollment: 25,469
  • Acceptance rate: 78%
  • Motto: For the Advancement of Science and Arts
  • Facility: Pat Dye Field at Jordan (Jurden...someone explain that to me)-Hare Stadium
  • Capacity: 87,451
  • Nickname: Tigers, War Eagles, Plainsmen...seriously...pick one
  • Conference: Southeastern
  • All Americans: 66
  • Heisman Winners: Pat Sullivan (1971), Bo Jackson (1985), Cam Newton (2010)
  • 2011 Record: 8-5
  • 2011 Conference Record/Finish: 4-4, 4th in SEC West
  • 2011 Bowl Game: Chik-Fil-A Bowl (Virginia, W 43-24)
  • Head Coach: Gene Chizik
  • Alma Mater: Florida, 1985 (played in 1981)
  • Record at Auburn: 30-10 (.750)
  • Career Record: 35-29, (5-19 at Iowa State)
  • Achievements: BCS National Championship (2010), SEC Championship (2010)
  • 2012 Spring Roster
  • Last Meeting: L, 41-34 at Auburn

2011 Auburn Season Review

Coming off of a national title run and losing Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton and Nick Fairley to the NFL, Auburn slipped back to the middle of the pack in the SEC West, finishing 8-5, 4-4. The Tigers did knock of two top-20 teams last year, Mississippi State (16) and South Carolina (10).

The Tigers only played three games decided by a touchdown or less, going 3-0 in those games. Their average margin of victory was just under 12 points, and their average margin of defeat was 27.8 points. The worst two losses came on the road at No. 1 LSU (45-10) and on the road at No. 14 Georgia (42-14).

At the end of last year, defensive coordinator Ted Roof left to take the same position at Penn State, and Guz Malzahn left to become the new head coach at Arkansas State where he replaced Hugh Freeze. Running Back Michael Dyer soon joined Malzahn in Jonesboro.

Who to Watch For (Offense):

Scot Loeffler, the new offensive coordinator for the Tigers, will be running the offense for the second time in his career. He served in the same capacity for Steve Addazio (sorry, Florida fans) at Temple last year. While he may not have been a coordinator for long, he has had great success working as a quarterback coach for players such as Drew Henson, Brian Griese, Tom Brady and Tim Tebow.

Last year, Temple finished seventh in the nation with 257 rushing yards per game, and they ended the season 33rd in the nation with a 42.8 pass efficiency. The Owls sophomore quarterback Chris Coyer finished the season with a 177 passer rating.

That news should benefit whichever quarterback surfaces as the man over the summer for the Tigers. Many seem intrigued by the prospects of sophomore Kiehl Frazier who went 7-9 for 92 yards and picked up 10 yards on five carries to outproduce the other three quarterbacks combined.

There will also be competition for the starting running back position, a position the Chizik said has been too inconsistent in the spring. Mike Blakely should emerge as the winner, but it's not good when the coach says you are "overall very inconsistent."

Phil Steele tabbed senior tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen as a third-team preseason All-American.

Who to Watch For (Defense):

This time last year, Brian VanGorder called the shots for the Atlanta Falcon's defense. He now finds himself back in the college ranks and in a position in which he has succeeded. His last stop as a defensive coordinator saw the Georgia Bulldogs defensive coordinator win the Frank Boyles award in 2004. In his time at Athens, the Bulldogs only surrendered 30 points on one occasion, the 2003 SEC Championship Game. He also helped send players such as David Pollack, Boss Bailey, and Odell Thurman to the NFL.

While the Van Gorder defense has proven successful, it takes time to learn, a fact that Chizik admitted after the A-Game.

"It's really been very eye-opening for a lot of our defensive players because there's a lot of communication and lot of things that they're required to do in this system," said Chizik. It's mandatory that they're always alert, and they're always paying attention to the minute details of everything within the defense."

Corey Lemonier may be the man to watch on defense. The preseason all-SEC first team defensive end will pressure the Mississippi State offensive line, the unit that broke down in the 2011 meeting between the squads.

Game Prediction

This is the tell-tale game for Mississippi State. A loss or uninspired performance could derail the hopes of turning this into a big season. Critics of Dan Mullen often point out the only team in the SEC West he has defeated is Ole Miss. After this one, the critics will have been silenced, at least temporarily.

This one will not be as easy as some State fans think it will be, but I think the Bulldogs will pull this one out. Both teams may be breaking in new quarterbacks, so in a matchup that may be about defense, I'll take the MSU one to win.

The only thing I don't like is the match-ups the week before. Auburn plays a real team, Clemson, while MSU plays tomato can Jackson State. If the Bulldogs ever hope to be serious contenders, playing a few legit out of conference games would be a great place to start.

Give me Mississippi State 24 ThemPlainsmen 20

Here is one of my favorite endings to an Auburn game....

Mississippi State vs. Auburn, 1999 (via BulldogOzzy)

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