Mississippi State’s Secondary, Baylor’s Defense, and Other Things to Watch For In Week 7

It’s Friday, which means it’s time to preview this weekend’s games. Here’s a list of notes, observations, and stats to pay attention to.

  • Am I the only one that remembered 2008’s 3-2 slugfest when looking at this weekend’s docket (which reads No. 2 Auburn vs. No. 3 Mississippi State)?

  • As I mentioned in Wednesday’s Editorial Discussion, the key battle in the Auburn – Mississippi State game will be the Tiger passing game against the Dawg secondary. Although Gus Malzahn’s squad rushed for a season-low 120 yards against State last year, it won the game 24-20 behind 339 passing yards from Nick Marshall. Expect to see Auburn try to exploit the Dawg secondary, which ranks 126th nationally against the pass.

  • On the other hand, it’s worth noting that Mississippi State has recorded nine picks in five games, the fourth best total in the nation. As long as the Bulldogs keep the Tigers out of the end zone, the number of yards they surrender is irrelevant.

  • Worth noting: Auburn has won its last four games in which it had a negative turnover margin, including last week’s blowout win against LSU.

  • Although the game above will get top billing, TCU at Baylor should be the game of the week. After all, both teams rank in the top 12 in scoring offense and scoring defense.

  • Make no mistake about it: this matchup pits strength against strength. It’ll be interesting to see how the TCU passing game (320 yards per contest) fares against a Baylor defense that ranks 8th nationally in sacks and 11th in passing defense. The Bear secondary was the difference in last year’s contest, intercepting Casey Pachall three times and returning two of the picks for touchdowns.

  • For those that are wondering, Trevone Boykin completed his only pass a against the Bears last season – a 21-yard touchdown strike to LaDarius Brown that gave the Frogs a 17-13 lead.

  • The flip-side of the coin is just as intriguing with Bryce Petty (61% career completion rate) squaring off against a Horned Frog secondary that’s only allowed opponents to complete 45.8% of their passes. That total includes a 14-for-35 performance against Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight last week.

  • Regardless of what the “pundits” in Bristol are saying, the Oregon – UCLA winner still has an excellent chance to play for the national championship because of the Pac 12’s strength of schedule.

  • The outcome of this still-important contest hinges on the UCLA passing game versus the Oregon defense. Last year, the Ducks got the upper hand in this battle, holding the Bruins to a season-low 64 yards passing. This season figures to be much different story: UCLA averages 297.6 yards per game, while UO is 122nd nationally against the pass (309.6 ypg).

  • Of course, that assumes that the Bruins can keep Brett Hundley upright against a Duck defense that’s already recorded 16 sacks this season.

  • While Ole Miss played as well as a team could play against Alabama, that effort will be for naught if it doesn’t follow it up with a victory over Texas A&M this weekend. The chess match between the Rebel secondary – which ranks ninth nationally against the pass and fifth in interceptions – and Aggie quarterback Kenny Hill (351.7 ypg) will be worth the price of admission.

  • Don’t forget about Bo Wallace, who’s thrown for average of 304.4 yards per game and has yet to throw an interception in games against a Power 5 opponent this year.

  • One of the most underrated matchups of the weekend is Georgia at Missouri, with the winner putting itself in the driver’s seat in the SEC East race. I can’t wait to see what Nick Chubb (7.23 yards per carry) can do versus a Missouri front seven that gave up only 119 yards on 40 carries (2.83 ypc) to South Carolina.

  • I find it ironic that David Cutcliffe and Paul Johnson sparred over wide receivers earlier this week, when run defense will ultimately decide Duke – Georgia Tech this weekend. Both defenses have struggled against the run this fall, ranking 94th and 84th nationally in run defense. In order to win the game – and possibly the ACC Coastal Division championship – one of these units will need to rise to the occasion and stop a top-25 ground attack (Duke is 25th, Georgia Tech is 12th).

  • Keep an eye on Toledo – Iowa State as a potential upset. The Rockets have one of the most explosive offenses in the land, averaging 516 yards per game. More impressively, they’ve gone over the 400-yard barrier in every contest this year, including 408 against Missouri.

About Terry P. Johnson

Terry Johnson is the Associate Editor for The Student Section. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation.