The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

September 13, 2013

Auburn-MSU meet in SEC opener, as usual

(Continued)

The Bulldogs sat seven starters, including quarterback Tyler Russell and tailback LaDarius Perkins, in last week's 51-7 win over FCS team Alcorn State.

This time it's Auburn trying to halt an embarrassing losing streak. The Tigers have dropped 10 straight SEC games, though Malzahn said he doesn't bring up last season with his players.

"Not even thought about it," he said. "I've told those guys I'm not even worried about last year. It's a new year, and it's a new season. We understand the SEC that we're going to have to play well to win. But we've not talked about last year."

___

Here are 5 things to watch when Auburn hosts Mississippi State on Saturday:

QUARTERBACKS: The status of Mississippi State's Russell is still questionable after he sustained a concussion in the opener against Oklahoma State. Dak Prescott replaced him against Alcorn State. Auburn's Nick Marshall is still getting a handle on things but appeared to be more comfortable in his second game as a starter.

AUBURN'S DEFENSE: The Tigers haven't given up a touchdown in their last six quarters, a first since matching that string in 2008 against Mississippi State and two quarters of the LSU game.

TOP RUNNERS: The Bulldogs are expected to get back Perkins, who rushed for 1,024 yards last season, from an ankle injury but still ran 54 times in his absence. Auburn's Tre Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant all have run for 150-plus yards already.

FAMILIAR STAFF: Auburn has four assistant coaches who spent a total of 25 years on Mississippi State staffs, including defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson and cornerbacks coach Melvin Smith. Smith was on the staff last season, and Tigers cornerback Jonathon Mincy said he was more involved in gameplanning this week because of his knowledge of the offense.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Both teams have produced big plays on special teams. Only Oregon, Minnesota and Mississippi State have blocked a field goal and punt already this season. Auburn kicker Cody Parkey has made 4 of 5 field goals and Tre Mason returned a kickoff 100 yards against Washington State.

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