X-Factor of the Week- Auburn Edition


Every week there will be one player or coach who will be considered the x-factor.  The x-factor is player/coach who will really need to perform well that week, in order for the Dawgs to come away with a win.  Essentially the x-factor is the make-or-break position on the field for that week.

Mississippi State (2-1, 0-1) squares off against the Auburn Tigers (2-1, 0-1) on Saturday night at 6:30 on ESPN2.  This game has been a big one in the past few years for both teams.  It seems as though the winner of this game has gone on to have success, while the loser has struggled down the stretch.  In 2010, Cam Newton and the Tigers came into Starkville and captured a 17-14 victory en route to a National Title.  The Bulldogs went on to finish 8-4 in the regular season before pounding the Michigan Wolverines 52-14 in the Gator Bowl.  In 2012, the Bulldogs got the best of Tigers 28-10 in Starkville.  MSU went on to reach 7-0 and reaching 11th in the BCS Poll before eventually falling apart at the end of the season.  Auburn went on to finish at a dismal 3-9 mark, thus ending the Gene Chizik era.  In 2013, Dak Prescott started his first game for the Maroon and White on the Plains.  The Bulldogs put up a tough fight but found themselves on the losing side of the scoreboard, 24-20, after a heartbreaking last second touchdown.  Auburn goes on to finish as SEC Champions and losing in the National Championship game, while the Dawgs finish the season at 7-6.  Then finally 2014, College Gameday was on hand to witness the No. 2 Auburn Tigers vs No. 3 Mississippi State.  The record crowd saw the Bulldogs take care of business in a 38-23 victory.  The win would catapult the Bulldogs to the top of the rankings, where they would stay for 5 weeks in a row en route to a 10-2 regular season.  Auburn finished the season 8-5 with a loss in the Outback Bowl.  So to say this game has been important the last couple of years would be an understatement.  The results speak for themselves.  This year’s game already has an extra incentive.  With both teams having already lost to LSU this season, the loser of this game will be effectively eliminated from the SEC West race.  So it seems as though this game will be no different than the games played in the last few years.  If either team still plans on making a run this season, this game becomes a must-win.

Auburn made somewhat of a splash this offseason with the hiring of Will Muschamp, former University of Florida head coach.  The Tigers were also able to land the top prospect in the country in Byron Cowart.  Needless to say big things were expected of the Auburn defense.  That has not been the case thus far.  Against the Louisville Cardinals, the Tigers gave up 24 points and 405 total yards, with 238 of those yards coming on the ground.  Against the Jacksonville State Gamecocks, Auburn barely escaped with a 27-20 win in overtime.  The defense gave up 438 yards, 161 rushing and 277 passing.  Last week against the LSU Tigers, the Plainsmen were dominated in Baton Rouge 45-21, while giving up 485 yards with a whopping 411 of those yards coming on the ground.  It is fair to say the the Auburn Tiger defense has been disappointing thus far.  Things don’t look to get much better as star defensive end Carl Lawson has been ruled out for an extended amount of time.

It seems pretty simple as to what the game plan should be going into the game on Saturday for Dak Prescott and Co.  Run the ball.  The Bulldogs have not had great success running the ball so far this season.  This is the game to finally get the run game going.  Auburn has not shown the ability to stop the run in 2015.  The Tigers give up 270 yards on the ground per game this season, which is tied for 123rd out of 127 FBS teams.  So don’t expect the ball to be put in the air a lot this Saturday.

With that being said, Dak Prescott’s legs will be the x-factor of the week.  Dak has been known as a dual threat quarterback throughout his entire career.  However, in the 2015 season he has only amassed 107 yards on the ground through the first 3 games.  Against Southern Miss, opportunities were there for him to take off and run, but he didn’t.  That was understandable.  You don’t need him getting an injury in the first game of the season in a non-conference game.  Against LSU, he did not see many chances to rush as LSU took Dak away on every read-option play called, forcing him to hand it off every time.  The time has come for Dak to return to the player he was in 2014, when he led the Bulldogs to an unforgettable season.  He has shown that he is more than capable of running the football.  He drives defenses crazy when every receiver down field is covered and he can still rush for 10 or more yards.  Those are the kinds of plays the senior quarterback will have to make if the Dawgs want to pick up a valuable SEC road win.

Recent history has shown that this game can have a huge impact on a season.  This season proves to be no different.  Dak Prescott will have to run the ball effectively in order for the Bulldogs to pick up their first SEC win of the season.  He has without a doubt proven that he can be an effective runner.  Now it is time for Dak to prove that 2014 was not a fluke, and return to his dual threat ways this Saturday on the Plains.