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Mississippi State upsets No. 8 Auburn 23-9

Nick Fitzgerald set an SEC record against Auburn. (Getty)
Nick Fitzgerald set an SEC record against Auburn. (Getty)

Auburn’s chances of making it to the SEC championship game look pretty much finished.

The Tigers now have two conference losses after a 23-9 loss to Mississippi State on Saturday. Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald set the SEC record for most rushing yards by a quarterback, breaking a mark previously set by Tim Tebow. And it was Fitzgerald, fittingly enough, who provided the clinching score.

The QB scampered into the end zone from 21 yards away with 2:02 to go to give the Bulldogs a two-possession lead. Given the way Auburn’s offense played throughout the evening, that was more than enough.

All Auburn could officially muster was three field goals, though there’s a serious argument that Auburn scored a second-half touchdown that could have pulled the Tigers within three at 16-13. JaTarvious Whitlow ran 42 yards for what looked to be a touchdown but fumbled near the goal line. Officials ruled it a touchback on the field and upheld it on review, likely because there was no clear goal-line angle. This was the best camera shot of the play.

Was this a touchdown or touchback?
Was this a touchdown or touchback?

Was Whitlow in? It sure looks like he still has possession as the ball crosses the goal line. But officials deemed that it wasn’t definitive. Therefore Auburn got burned by the worst rule in football and Mississippi State got possession.

The Bulldogs turned the ball over on downs after the touchback but the best Auburn could do was another field goal. to make the game 16-9 before Fitzgerald’s TD.

Fitzgerald ran for 195 yards and 2 TDs

A second-half run put Fitzgerald over Tebow’s 2,947 career rushing yards. After a 195-yard performance against Auburn, Fitzgerald now has 2,999 yards. He’ll undoubtedly break 3,000 next week.

While Fitzgerald was successful on the ground against Auburn’s defense, he struggled passing the ball again. He was just 9-of-17 throwing for 69 yards and an interception. Mississippi State’s lack of a passing offense has been a big reason why the Bulldogs lost to both Florida and Kentucky in back-to-back weeks entering the game against Auburn.

But when you run for 349 yards as a team you can afford to have a bad passing performance. RB Kylin Hill had 23 carries for 126 yards.

Auburn’s offense is out of sorts

Whitlow was Auburn’s best rusher on Saturday and he entered the game limited with an injury. He had just eight carries for 88 yards. The rest of the offense combined for three yards rushing. Anthony Schwartz was the team’s second-leading rusher with his one carry for 17 yards.

QB Jarrett Stidham was 19-of-38 for 214 yards and no touchdowns and no interceptions. In terms of yards it was Stidham’s third-best game of the season. He’s only broken the 200-yard barrier in three of Auburn’s six games, though it was his second game without a touchdown pass. The game against Mississippi State is also the third-straight game where Auburn has failed to break 100 yards rushing.

Auburn’s offense is a much easier puzzle to solve when the running game isn’t working. And that funk is why it’s hard to consider the Tigers much of a threat to Alabama in the West even without two conference losses. Now that Auburn has two losses, it’s nearly impossible. Alabama will have to lose once before playing Auburn while the Tigers will have to run the SEC table until the final week of the season to make the Iron Bowl have implications for the division title.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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