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Miss State

vs.

Auburn

College Football

Free Pick

9/30/17

This may actually be the closest SEC game of the weekend, which isn’t saying a lot for the schedule. Yet after how last week went for Mississippi State, maybe this one won’t be as close as some think. The bookmakers probably had some trouble setting this line with Auburn opening as -9.5 point favorites early in the week at 5Dimes Sportsbook.

Both of these teams have had an interesting first month of the season. The Tigers lost as expected at Clemson, while never really getting challenged in their other few games. Beating up on Missouri is nice, but most teams in the conference will end up doing that this year. As for Mississippi State, they at least have an impressive win, destroying LSU 37-7 a couple weeks ago. But to follow that up after being labeled a possible dark horse to Alabama, the Bulldogs were throttled by Georgia 31-3 last week. And so, the questions loom large on both sides of the field.

Auburn dominated this matchup through defense a year ago, winning 38-14 with the help of 35 first-half points. It was a bad game from the start for Mississippi State, from missing an early 28-yard field goal to three fumbles in the final 16 minutes of the first half. Assuming those same things don’t happen again, this game should look a bit different.

The Tigers have a new quarterback in Jarrett Stidham, but the offense is still a work-in-progress. They haven’t faced a mediocre defense yet (one elite, the rest bad), which makes them hard to predict. Stidham has been fine, completing 70% of his passes, but still only has four total touchdowns. He completed 32 passes for 364 yards against Mercer, yet the offense still only managed 24 points. Per usual, they’ll lean heavily on the ground game between Kam Martin, Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson. There’s no telling what MSU defense shows up as they controlled LSU and then got run over by Georgia. It could be a mixture of those performances with around 20 points expected for Auburn and slightly more if Mississippi State turns the ball over again.

The x-factor in this game could be Nick Fitzgerald, who is a much better version than when these teams played last year. As long as he doesn’t turn the ball over, Mississippi State should be able to move the chains. But again, the difference in performances between the LSU and Georgia games leave some doubt with this team. Fitzgerald completed less than 50% of his passes against Georgia to go with two interceptions. Their goal will be to get Aeris Williams and Fitzgerald some running lanes. If not, the Bulldogs could have trouble scoring against another solid defense.

It’s also worth noting that Kirby Smart (Georgia head coach) has seemingly always had MSU’s number, from his time with Alabama beating up Dak Prescott’s teams to now. It wouldn’t be surprising if Fitzgerald and company picked it back up in this matchup. Being almost a 10-point favorite seems like a lot for an Auburn team that hasn't beaten anyone good yet. As long as Miss. State doesn’t turn the ball over as much as last year’s game, this should remain close throughout. Auburn doesn't have the offense to run away with things while Fitzgerald should be better than last week and should at least move the ball for the Bulldogs.

Our Pick - Good spot for Miss State. When a football team looks as bad as Miss State did a week ago, the only cure is to get back out there the following week with a good performance to get that bad taste out of their mouths. The bad showing by Miss State coupled with the 51-14 Auburn win over Missouri, sets up some nice line value for the underdogs here. Miss State +8 and UNDER 52


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