By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
When Dan Mullen looks at Auburn’s 42-38 comeback win over Utah State on Saturday, he doesn’t see a team that nearly suffered an embarrassing season-opening loss at home.
The Mississippi State head coach sees a team deserving of superlatives like “dynamic” and “excellent.” He also makes sure to note Auburn’s status as reigning BCS champion.
The No. 20-ranked Bulldogs make a trip to the Plains on Saturday to meet the No. 23 Tigers, each team seeking to start the year 2-0 overall and 1-0 in the SEC.
So what are Mullen’s initial impressions of Auburn after watching that near debacle against Utah State?
“They scored 42 points against a really, really good football team in Utah State, against an extremely well-coached Utah State football team,” Mullen said during his Sunday teleconference with reporters. “They’re the defending national champs and found a way to win, and in doing so scored 42 points.
“I take that we’re going to have our hands full with an excellent Auburn football team.”
MSU is coming off a big offensive showing in its 59-14 win over Memphis on Thursday, when it compiled a school-record 645 total yards. Auburn, which is without Heisman winner and current NFL starter Cam Newton, is still plenty potent.
The Tigers had 364 yards of offense, including just 78 rushing. The run game was expected to be a strength for Auburn this year, with Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb returning at tailback – they combined for 1,903 rushing yards last season.
Mullen had high praise for both of those players, along with Tre Mason, who returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown.
“No. 23 (McCalebb), he’s a dynamic guy and an explosive guy when he gets the ball in his hands,” said Mullen. “Their running back, No. 5 (Dyer), will grind you out, and when he sees an opening, he’ll hit a home run.”
MSU should get some key players back this week to help slow down the Tigers, namely star defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. He was one of five Bulldogs suspended for the Memphis game for violating team policy.
Mullen said he’ll announce Saturday whether the suspensions are lifted, “but we expect them to play.”