Are you wondering if Auburn fans will really bring cowbells, or do you have questions about the Tigers' defense? Our friends over at College and Magnolia took some time out this week to answer five questions about the Mississippi State and Auburn matchup later this week. Also, Franklin Featherston joined me on the Daily Grind on Bulldog Sports Radio earlier this week to talk about the game.
1) Last year, many people chalked much of Auburn's success up to luck. This year, the Tigers are off to another strong start. What has been the secret to Gus Malzhan's success at Auburn?
I think the reason for his success last season was that the team mostly already knew his offense. With a few exceptions, most of those players had played for them. All it took was a solid QB to run the offense, and Nick Marshall provided that. I think Auburn would have been successful if they had started Jeremy Johnson as a true freshman, as well, but what Gus found in Nick has really worked.
It doesn't hurt that Gus is an offensive genius. He's not married to any scheme. There are people who want to call his offenses a spread or think that it's all a zone read that requires a mobile QB. Gus is so successful with whatever his tools are because he believes in a style rather than a scheme. His offense is the hurry-up, no huddle. As long as its played fast and you can run a number of plays out of just about any formation, he doesn't care what the plays are. If he had to pass to set up the run, he would. I think he may have to do that this weekend, too. I think a large part of his success is because he's so adaptable and his style keeps defenses off balance.
2) For all of the talk of the Auburn offense, their defense plays well also. Who are the playmakers to watch for when Mississippi State has the ball?
Montravius Adams is the playmaker on the line, right now. For the first time in years, Auburn doesn't have an edge rushing threat. The loss of Carl Lawson for the season has been even bigger than we suspected. Adams is a force in the middle though, and has an explosive burst. He may not have that many sacks, but he disrupts plays and affects the offense's plans.
At linebacker, Cassanova McKinzy has really stepped in in the middle. He flies to the ball and is in on a large amount of Auburn's tackles in the run and the pass. He's also a great blitzer and will even line up at the end on obvious passing downs in some of Auburn's defensive packages. In the hybrid role, Robenson Therezie has been a force for Auburn since he took over that position last season. He's excellent as a linebacker and in coverage.
In the secondary, watch out for #23 Rudy Ford. He's a converted running back who has really found a home at Safety. He keeps getting better every game and is truly becoming a bright spot in an Auburn secondary that has been much maligned over the past few seasons.
3) Just how good is Sammie Coats? He and Nick Marshall are making a great combo.
Sammie is a freak. He has unbelievable speed for a player his size and the ability to win just about any match-up when it comes to a fight for the ball. He's going to get behind the secondary at least once a game if he's full speed. Against LSU he still wasn't up to his usual self. He has had some issues catching some of those deep balls, though.
One of the biggest aids to this season in the passing game is just his threat as a speedster to break loose on a big play. You pretty much have to dedicate a safety to go with the corner back when he takes off, and that typically leaves Duke Williams or CJ Uzomah (or both) over the middle and both will catch almost anything thrown in their direction. Auburn's receivers all complement each other this season in a way I've never really seen at Auburn.
4) How do Auburn fans feel about this matchup with Mississippi State and the fact that this series has had some tight games the past few years?
I think Auburn fans are nervous, but not as nervous as we would be if this was this team's first road game. The trip to Manhattan was a big help in getting this team some experience playing a very tough team in a loud, hostile environment. Plus the Mississippi State game has been Auburn's first SEC game for the past few years, which always adds to the toughness of it. Having Arkansas and LSU behind us should settle the team down, some. I think most Auburn fans are sure it's going to be a fight, because it always is. I think it will come down to whose defense makes the most stops and who limits their mistakes. That's a generic answer, but it shows how much of a toss-up this game could be.
5) Auburn fans bringing their own cowbells...where did the idea come from, and will they ring responsibly?
I have no idea where that idea originated, but I really wish it would have stayed there and not gotten out. I think it came from the website AUFamily, but I'm not 100% sure. I know their tweet was the first I saw on the issue. I think there will be at most 2-300 people who actually bring cowbells, and I doubt the noise level will be enough to really be noticeable even if they do ring them irresponsibly. Hopefully they quickly realize how bad an idea it was and then put them away. It's not like this is Auburn's first trip to Starkville, and it looks petty for some of our fans to think this is a good idea for this game. I think it shows the power of social media, though. There won't be too many Auburn fans who will actually do it, but because of a few tweets it becomes a story and everyone will now spin it as being some large movement among Auburn fans when in reality it's a small fringe group.