For the second time in three weeks, Auburn tries to get back into the win column when it welcomes a Mississippi team into venerable Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Coming off a loss at No. 11 Texas A&M last week, No. 17 Auburn will host Mississippi State in the 95th meeting between the Southeastern Conference opponents.
Two weeks ago, the Tigers (6-3, 3-2) throttled Ole Miss at home, putting themselves in good position in the West Division with a 31-20 victory behind the fleet feet and right arm of quarterback Bo Nix.
As the team traveled to College Station, Texas, for its game with the Aggies, Auburn possessed a luxury that is not often bestowed upon a football team in November: They controlled their own destiny if they won out.
The Aggies put an end to that talk in a 20-3 drubbing of the Tigers, holding Auburn to season lows in points (three) and total yards (226).
The elusive but streaky Nix was 20-of-41 for just 153 yards with an interception, and the running game stumbled with 73 yards on 29 carries (2.5 per rush).
First-year head coach Bryan Harsin said his offense needs to step up its game.
“Offensively, we were just poor,” said Harsin, whose offense has not reached the end zone in the last six quarters. “We went back and looked at it on Sunday and made the corrections. Went out there and hit a few things we had to do physically on the field and moved on to Mississippi State.”
Auburn has claimed eight of the past 12 games in the series, including last season’s 24-10 road win, and is 65-27-2 overall.
The Bulldogs (5-4, 3-3) would just as soon move on from last week’s final minute against Arkansas.
In Fayetteville against the Razorbacks, Mississippi State’s bid to force overtime after Arkansas scored a TD with 21 seconds left ended with kicker Nolan McCord missing a game-tying field with two seconds left.
McCord, who replaced Brandon Ruiz after the latter missed two field goals earlier (including a 23-yarder), hooked his 40-yard attempt badly to the left and prevented overtime.
Bulldogs coach Mike Leach vented about his kicking situation after the 31-28 loss.
“There’s an open tryout on our campus for kickers,” Leach said. “Anybody that wants to walk on and kick at Mississippi State, we’ll hold a tryout anytime you can get over to our building.”
The defeat snapped the Bulldogs’ two-game winning streak and made Arkansas bowl-eligible for the first time in non-COVID conditions since 2016.
Three of Mississippi State’s four losses are by three points or fewer — to Memphis, LSU and Arkansas — and the second-year coach said making a play or two would have been the difference in those games.
“I think we’re improving,” Leach said. “We’ve already beaten several teams nobody thought we were going to beat. The worst part is there were several within our grasp — one play away and we win the game. We can’t lose sight of that.”
Quarterback Will Rogers has soared in Leach’s “Air Raid” offense, throwing for 3,307 yards and 23 TDs with eight interceptions, while completing 75.2 percent of his tosses.
Leading receiver Makai Polk has 71 catches for 720 yards and a team-leading six scores.
–Field Level Media