It's hard to say what Mississippi State will look like based on their week one opponent. Not much can be learned, by Auburn's staff or MSU's staff, about the chemistry and abilities of this team. One thing will be evident...MSU will be hard-nosed and they'll believe they can win. They will play with a reckless abandon that comes with having minimal to no preseason expectations, and truth be told--that's a fun way to play. They are a 14 point dog on the road and, I'm sure, relish that role.
I expect MSU to show multiple formations, lots of presnap shifting and motion, and even some trickery in an attempt to confuse Auburn's inexperienced secondary. I also expect MSU to run right at Auburn's linebackers. With thin numbers, and a linebacker corp built on speed rather than strength, this a match-up that favors the bulldogs and their two big tailbacks--Dixon and Ducre (220lbs and 235lbs respectively).
Defensively, MSU will come after Todd. They will bring more rushers than Auburn has blockers and force Todd into quick decisions. They will stack the line of scrimmage in an attempt to elimate the run and make Chris Todd prove he is capable of sustaining drives by making the right decisions under pressure. If Todd is on, and communication with blitz pickups are outstanding...there should be many one on one opportunities for wideouts and running backs to make plays in space.
I expect Auburn to lean on Ben Tate to be the work horse this week in the running game. Sprinkle in a little Eric Smith, a dash of Onterrio McCalebb, and a touch of Mario Fannin from his H-back slot--and Auburn will do everything it can to run the football successfully to take the pressure off of Todd. Second and 3 or 4 is the name of the game. Second and 10, Third and 8 equal a long day. If Auburn is successful running the ball early, it could be a breakout day for our young receivers...particular DeAngelo Benton.
This game will be an excellent measuring stick for both schools. After last years embarrasing (for both teams) 3-2 dud, I expect both teams look to strike deep early. My feeling is Auburn rides the positive momentum to a victory similar in style to last weeks La Tech game...close early, Auburn pulls away in the end.