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12 Days, 12 Teams: Auburn Tigers

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Note: This is part 2 of a 12-part series. Each day, we will take a look at an opponent for the upcoming 2010 football season.

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Mississippi State will play host to the Auburn Tigers in a home SEC Opener on a Thursday night. Does it get any better than that? This game will kick-off a grueling 3-game run that also has the Bulldogs visiting LSU for a night game in Death Valley and welcome the "other" bulldogs of Georgia to Starkville. We should be able to come out of this 3-week stretch with at least 2 wins. Our most likely chances at victory are against Auburn and Georgia.

There is a little bot of extra incentive for MSU fans to come away victorious after Cam Newton teased the Bulldogs about transferring to Starkville, only to end up at Auburn.

Auburn leads this series 58-23-2, has won the last 2 meetings and holds an 8-2 record over the last 10 games. The Tigers are coming off an 8-win season and a trip to the Outback Bowl, where they defeated Northwestern in overtime.

Coming in to this season, the big questions are how Auburn will be able to re-tool its offense after losing two big contributors and will the defense be better this year after allowing an average of 27.5 points per game.

Offense

The Auburn offense really turned things around last year, going from 17 points per game in 2008 to 33 points per game in 2009. Part of that was because of Chris Todd's decision making on the field in Gus Malzahn's new offense. With Todd gone, the Tigers will be looking to JUCO transfer, and former Florida Gator, Cam Newton. Newton's ability and athleticism are without question, but it remains to be seen if he will be able to make the right decisions in-game.

One thing that will help Newton is the return of an experienced receiving corps and tailback Mario Fannin. The leading receivers, junior Darvin Adams and senior Terrell Zachary have a year under their belts in Malzahn's offensive system and should be very comfortable in their positions.

Up front, Auburn is returning 4 seniors on the offensive line, led by Lee Ziemba at tackle and Ryan Pugh at center.

Defense

The defense was a major source of frustration for Auburn fans last year. The Tigers allowed more points than any other SEC team and were very, very weak against the run last year. The biggest loss that the Tiger D has to deal with is that of Antonio Coleman. Coleman was easily the most effective player on the D-line last year, recording 49 tackles and 10 sacks. While there is a solid group of upperclassmen on the line, their depth chart is full of underclassmen that do not have that much experience and could become an issue if injuries start to pile up.

While a solid group of linebackers should help improve the Tigers' run defense, their secondary needs to step it up big time after finishing 10th in the SEC against the pass.

As An Opponent

Auburn will come in to Starkville for a Thursday night home game. These games are often heavily favored for the home team just because of the atmosphere and irregular travel schedule for the away team. As of this writing, Auburn looks to be a 6.5 to 7 point favorite. This number is bound to chance, especially since both teams will have a game under their belts and all cards will be out on the table as far as improvements on both sides of the ball for both teams.

It would be nice to see State come out of the gate with at least 2 wins. Assuming we take care of business against Memphis, I think Auburn is a likely candiate for a Thursday night "upset" in Starkville.

On a side note, how odd is it that our first 3 opponents are all "tigers"? Up next, we will take a look at LSU and what we can expect when we travel to Baton Rouge on September 18.