During the 2019 football season, The Villager will run comments from a focus group on results of the previous Auburn University game and a prognostication for the upcoming game. We’ve collectively labeled the group, Panel of Wanna-Be Experts, or POWE! for short.
Here are the panel's comments for the Tigers' SEC home-opener against Mississippi State:
It is oft said that the folks in College Station, Texas are some of the most hospitable in all of college football when it comes to how they treat visiting team fans. It would be hard to argue that claim. The Aggies are a class act.
One thing about that though; I seriously doubt that hospitality extends to the opposing team puttin’ a whoopin’ on their team. Well, that is what happened last week end as the Donahue Drive Crew (DDC) came in , ran around and threw a few passes and left town with an important win.
Also of note was a stout Auburn defense that shut down the Aggies' run game. Y’all have seen a cat when it is mad and ready to fight. They lean in mean with their ears pinned back against their head and that’s what our Tigers looked like!
This week will be the annual cat and dog fight with the hounds of Starkvegas coming by for a visit. The Miss State group need not be taken lightly. They are 3-1 and are getting some votes in the polls.
QB Garrett Shrader is in the “not-to-shabby” category of dual threatery — 305 yards of State’s 421 yards of offense against Kentucky were courtesy of his feet and arm.
RB Kylin Hill gets to tote the ball and is pretty good at it. End result: Miss State beats a Kentucky team that had No. 9 Florida on the ropes.
The good news is that our Tigers continue to improve on defense while the offense is getting better at helping opposing defensive coordinators to have a bit of trouble sleeping at night.
Coach Moorhead and crew will most likely be willing to test the AU D-line, but I’m guessing they’ll resort to throwing more than running after watching A&M’s QB Kellen Mond last week. That’s fine but I don’t believe it will help them much.
I’m predicting a quiet night in Starkvegas come Saturday. AU 31 – Miss State 17.
Jay Jones, Lee County sheriff
Saturday’s matchup between Auburn and Mississippi State features two similar teams offensively. They both start a true freshman quarterback and the Bulldogs bring the conference’s leading rusher into Jordan-Hare, while the Tigers’ Boobie Whitlow ranks second in the league. Statistically, they are in a dead heat in points and yards per game — Miss State the slightly better passing team while Auburn has the edge in rushing.
Auburn’s defensive line is dominating right now and I don’t see that changing this week. I stated last week that Auburn was going to shut down the Aggie running game and put the game in the hands of Kellen Mond, which is exactly what happened. Look for the same defensive gameplan from Kevin Steele this week as they welcome the Bulldogs true freshman signal-caller into Jordan-Hare for the first road start of his career.
Look for Auburn to get off too another fast start this week. Last week, for the first game this season, Auburn scored first and held its opponent scoreless on their opening drive. Do that this week, get the crowd going, and it will be a long night for the pups from Starkville.
Historically, this series has been dominated by the Tigers, but Auburn is only 5-4 in the last nine games against the Bulldogs. Last year’s game was particularly bad and it should have the team chomping at the bit for some atonement. This has the potential for a trap game with a top-10 matchup against the Florida Gators looming, but Auburn handles their business this week. They’ll be singing the fight song Saturday night as AU wins 31-17.
Brandon Hughes, Lee County
The game against Texas A&M was a good one. The Tigers came out firing on all cylinders on offense. The Defense was just as relentless and as advertised.
Mississippi State is a foe looking for an identity. This is not where they find it. Auburn has found its groove and unless there is a post-away game victory letdown, I just don’t see it happening for the Bulldogs.
For this game I am hoping we continue to exert our will. Auburn 33 – Miss. St. 9.
Barry Mask, Auburn’s first “Friend of Aubie,” director of marketing for River Bank & Trust
For the second week in a row, No. 7 Auburn takes on another land-grant university in the SEC West. This should be easier than having to travel to Texas to take on the Aggies in their huge stadium, but we can’t take any SEC game for granted and should regard this week as an opportunity to continue to improve before heading on the road for the entire month of October.
Last year Mississippi State got off to a fast 3-0 start before falling to Kentucky en route to an 8-5 season. They then handed a No. 8 Auburn team an embarrassing 23-9 whooping in Starkvegas, apparently demoralizing us so much that we fell to lowly Tennessee at home the following week.
But that was then and this is now. Two Saturdays ago Mississippi State lost, at home, to a Kansas State team it had defeated by three touchdowns on the road a year ago. However, they came back with a vengeance last Saturday against Kentucky, revenging last year’s loss to the Wildcats in no uncertain terms, securing a 28-13 W after getting off to a 21-3 start before halftime.
State’s true freshman QB Garrett Shrader got his first start and was impressive. With Bulldog workhorse Kylin Hill, who got 120 yards and three touchdowns, at running back, MSU looked much improved. The MSU defense handed Shrader a 7-0 lead before he ever took a snap, and the Wildcats never looked back, even when Kentucky closed the gap to 21-13 in the 4th quarter.
But enough about Kentucky. I have to tip my hat to Auburn’s players and coaches for their amazing performance in College Station last Saturday. I must admit that by game time, I may have agreed with 40 of the 52 national sportswriters who picked A&M, a four-point favorite, to beat our Tigers. Thankfully, our guys showed up and showed off, silencing the 100,000-plus screaming Aggie fans when we got a 14-point lead in the first quarter and really never looked back, extending the leading to 18 points twice, the last with about eight minutes left. It was great to see some of our injured players — Brown, Williams, and Schwartz — back on the field and making important contributions.
Yes, the Aggies scored 10 points in the closing minutes, narrowing our lead to eight, but when Bo Nix ran for a first down in the last minute of the game after A&M had exhausted its last time out, the fat lady was singing loudly as scores of Aggie fans, their celebrated “12th Man,” were making a speedy exit from Kyle Field.
If Auburn continues to play as it did in College Station, improves its pass defense and connects on the long pass plays, we should be celebrating for a while. I’m sure our coaches and players have not forgotten the debacle last year in Starkville and will be prepared to return the favor. This time it won’t be in a snooze fest like the 2008 game in Starkville, which was called “the night Auburn and Mississippi State set football back 20 years,” mercifully ending in a 3-2 W for the Tigers. Both teams should generate more points than that, but the cow bells won’t be ringing. We won’t need helium inflated footballs for our kicker, as Jackie Sherrill accused us of 26 years ago. Auburn 31 – Mississippi State 17.
Betty Burgess, retired English teacher, Auburn grad and lifelong Auburn fan
As we left Kyle Field Saturday night, we were so proud of our Auburn Tigers. Our team played hard and we had a good plan going into the game. The offensive line played better, especially in the first half. The defense stopped the run and that was the key to control their offense.
We were so impressed with the A&M fans. We have been to all the football stadiums in the SEC and there is no question the Texas A&M Aggies have the friendliest and nicest fans in the SEC. So many of their fans came up to us and said "Welcome to Aggieland."
No one expected us to be undefeated at this time of the season. We have to take one game at a time. We have some things to work on and at times we are not consistent on offense. Too many three-and-outs, this forcing the defense to stay on the field too long. This happened at the end of the 3rd quarter and in the 4th quarter. We are a beat up team. Gus is doing a good job calling offensive plays, but we are not executing at times. We had zero turnovers the last two games.
Next up is Miss. State. We have been playing them as far back as I can remember. Coach Jordan always wanted us to play the land-grant schools in the SEC.
Miss. State is always a physical team. They are strong up front and have a very good running game. We have overlooked them in the past and paid the price. We cannot do that this week. They beat a good Kentucky team Saturday and will come in looking for the upset. We don't need for this to be a trap game before going on the road to play Florida.
We have not put together a perfect game yet. We are still struggling at times. When we do put it together, it is going to be special. I have seen all teams in the SEC play and we are capable of beating any of them if we continue to improve. We need a quick start on Saturday and no turnovers.
Auburn 31 – Miss. State 10.
Wendell McLain, Auburn retired brigadier general, Alabama National Guard
Auburn’s assignment this week is to come down from the high of its impressive road win over Texas A&M and get ready for a Mississippi State team that so far has played unevenly, but is still dangerous.
State is a double-digit underdog to the Tigers, but the Bulldogs aren’t a team to be overlooked. One of Auburn’s most embarrassing losses in 2018 (not topping Tennessee, however) was a 23-9 thumping in Starkville.
Still, Auburn cleared a major hurdle toward its goal of a possible championship with its impressive road win Saturday over A&M.
The Tigers are now ranked No. 7, though after their second Top-25 win, they might have had a case to jump Ohio State and Oklahoma in the new AP poll.
Auburn holds a 60-29-3 series lead over the Bulldogs, but State has been a thorn in the side of Coach Gus Malzahn, who is just 3-3 against the visitors.
MSU (3-1) is coming off a 28-13 home win over Kentucky. The Bulldogs’ only blemish is a surprise 31-24 home loss to No. 24 Kansas State.
Like Auburn, the Bulldogs will start a true freshman at quarterback. Garrett Shrader, a 6-5 pro-style quarterback, took over for the injured starter Tommy Stevens in the KSU loss, and accounted for 305 yards in total offense in State’s win over Kentucky. The Tiger defense will also have to account for SEC-leading rusher Kylin Hill, who has scored five touchdowns while racking up 551yards.
But State’s offense will have to contend with an Auburn defense, led by uber-talented defensive tackle Derrick Brown, which smothered A&M when it most counted.
Improving Bo Nix didn’t put up dazzling stats at A&M, but the freshman quarterback commanded the offense, made some key plays and, most important, didn’t make any game-changing mistakes.
For Auburn, Nix will continue to improve (hitting those downfield passes, etc.) and the Tiger offense will improve with him. Meanwhile, Auburn going forward should continue to pound with its running game while relying on its stifling defense.
That should be the formula against State.
A night game at Jordan-Hare has always been Auburn’s formidable “13th Man." It will be Saturday night. Auburn 38 – Mississippi State 13.
Bob Lowry, a retired political reporter for United Press International, and three daily newspapers
I think my prediction last week was that we would beat Texas A&M 17 to 10. I had the spread about right except both teams scored more than I anticipated. I never thought the two teams would score 48, or that Auburn would give up 17 points in the 4th quarter. I don’t know if it was the Auburn coaches or players who took their foot off the defensive brakes.
Overall, I thought we looked much improved on punt returns, defense, offense and passing. But we had only about 300 yards offense to A&M’s almost 400 yards, with 335 passing. When was the last time Auburn gave up 335 yards to anyone passing? Clearly, we need to do something a little different on pass defense.
Miss State will come into town trying for an upset. They are 3-1 with a 1-0 SEC record, which was against Kentucky 28 to 13 this past weekend. And that was without their starting quarterback.
They have the leading rusher is the SEC in Kylin Hill, who ran for 120 yards on 26 carries. They played without their starting quarterback, Tommy Stevens, and used a freshman as his replacement. The freshman QB did well. He threw for 180 yards and rushed for 125 yards. Those numbers tell you that the freshman “Kid” can play SEC football. If he starts, it will probably be the first time ever that both teams in Jordan-Hare started freshmen quarterbacks.
I don’t think that Kentucky is that strong of a football team, and for years they really have not had a good defense.
I don’t think Miss. State is as good as Auburn, and we appear to be improving every week. I believe our defense can put the breaks on their running game whether it’s their quarterback or running back who gets the ball. That will put a lot of pressure on their freshman quarterback to throw the ball. I don’t think they will get 386 yards of offense like they did with Kentucky.
With that said, I think we win 28 to 10.
James Sprayberry, local attorney and longtime Auburn season ticket holder
Editor's note: Check back in next week's Villager to see the panel's take on the Tigers' road game against the Florida Gators and find the Panel of Wanna-Be Experts online at auburnvillager.com.