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Opponent preview: Auburn’s defense

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Statistically, Auburn has worst defensive numbers of defensive coordinator Kevin Steele’s time with the Tigers.

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

STARKVILLE, Miss. — The Mississippi State football team will return home for the first time in more than a month as the Bulldogs host the Auburn Tigers inside Davis Wade Stadium on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. CT. The game will be televised by SEC Network.

Statistically, Auburn has worst defensive numbers of defensive coordinator Kevin Steele’s time with the Tigers. Auburn currently has the worst rushing defense (179.1 yards per game), passing defense (239.7 yards per game), defensive pass efficiency (144.24), total defense (418.8 yards per game), scoring defense (25.2 points per game) and third-down defense (54.6%) of Steele’s tenure.

The Tigers rank ninth in the Southeastern Conference in total defense, fourth in passing defense, 10th in rushing defense and fifth in scoring defense.

Arguably the biggest problem for Auburn’s defense continues to be third-down defense where the Tigers struggle to get off the field. Auburn’s SEC-worst 54.6% conversation rate on third downs also ranks near the bottom in the nation (123rd).

The Tigers are anchored by junior linebacker Zakoby McClain with 94 tackles and 3.0 sacks. Sophomore linebacker Owen Pappoe and junior defensive back Jamien Sherwood are second and third on the team in tackles with 73 and 62 tackles, respectively.