This week’s game: Auburn (0-1, 0-0 SEC) at MSU (1-0, 0-0), Saturday, 11 a.m., ESPN (Dave Pasch, Brian Griese and Jenn Brown)
In today’s Journal, I have an opinion offering examining the five key matchups in this week’s game. There others, of course, but in the interest of space I had to limit myself to five. I would give MSU the edge in three of those matchups, and you can probably figure that out for yourself if you read the column. But what other matchups will we need to watch?
Tyler Russell vs. the Auburn secondary is one. Assuming he gets decent protection, Russell will have a chance to prove his mettle against a team that ranked last in the SEC in pass defense efficiency last season. The Tigers gave up 208 yards passing last week to Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, who completed 24 of 34 passes with one touchdown and one interception.
Auburn actually gave up more on the ground: 320 yards. So there’s a matchup to watch, MSU’s running backs versus Auburn’s front seven. The Bulldogs had 194 yards on 37 carries (5.2 yards per rush) against an overmatched Jackson State squad. And with the possibility of Auburn’s defensive ends getting some pressure on Russell, the run game will be as vital as it’s ever been for State.
I could go on with these matchups. What about Marcus Green and Brandon Hill, a couple of very athletic tight ends, against that whole defense? Those guys can slip into the seams or the flat and become a security blanket for Russell, especially when pressure comes. Green had a touchdown last week, and Hill made a nice catch in tight coverage.
I’ll make my official prediction later today, but I’ll offer you a hint on who I’m picking to win: I look at all the matchups, and I see more of them favoring MSU than Auburn.
Some Auburn links for y’all this morning: Speaking of matchups, here’s a piece on Auburn’s defensive ends. … Good story on Auburn offensive lineman Shon Coleman, who’s overcome cancer to get back on the field. … Auburn is trying to prepare itself for the noise it’ll have to deal with at Davis Wade Stadium, but it’s not taking the RichRod approach.