Roundtable: The Auburn Wire staff talks Auburn-Mississippi State

After a grueling four-week stretch, things will start to lighten up for Auburn football.

The Tigers are on a four-game SEC skid, which is their worst start since the 2012 season. The losses have been justifiable, as three of the four losses in the stretch were to ranked teams. This week, Auburn faces Mississippi State. The Bulldogs earned their first SEC victory last weekend by defeating Arkansas in an ugly affair, 7-3. The Tigers feel confident that they can get back into the win column this week, but there are several questions that must be answered this week.

Who will take a majority of the snaps at quarterback? Who will have a great day on defense? How high is Auburn’s chance to win if Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers does not play?

Writers Taylor JonesJD McCarthy, and Brian Hauch weigh in on those questions, as well as many others surrounding Auburn in this week’s Auburn Wire roundtable.

A breakdown in the beauty

John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Last week’s game against Ole Miss seemed to be worse than the final score indicated. What was the most frustrating aspect of last week’s game?

TJ: Consistency at quarterback remains the biggest area of concern for me. I’m not sure if one quarterback gives Auburn a better chance to win over the other, but the inconsistency is not helping anyone.

JM: There were several but the quarterback rotation was No. 1 for me. It didn’t appear to help the offense at all and at one point resulted in a penalty. Neither quarterback has been able to get into a rhythm this season and with the continued struggles, it is starting to feel like they need to just pick one quarterback and trust him for an entire game.

BH: I hate to keep beating a dead horse, but the Thorne in this team’s side was once again the passing offense. Hugh Freeze either needs to let Payton Thorne ride out a full game or make a change at the position. Auburn’s offensive attack is really hindering a great defense.

Is No. 9 the answer?

The Montgomery Advertiser
The Montgomery Advertiser

Hugh Freeze hinted at giving Robby Ashford more opportunities to prove himself as an “every down quarterback.” How much do you expect to see Ashford this week?

TJ: If Freeze is going to pull the trigger and let one quarterback play a majority of the snaps, if not all snaps, this would be the week to do it. Thorne said earlier this week that he has never been in a system like this before, and appears to be uncomfortable. Ashford has more experience in a two-qb system but still has not had the chance to fully prove himself. Realistically, maybe 40% of the snaps is his ceiling for this game.

JM: I’m expecting we will see him get about 30 snaps or about half of the game. The real question to me is if they will trust him to throw the ball, something they have been extremely hesitant to do so far.

BH: I’m hoping to see him for most of the game, but expecting to see him play about 35-40% of the snaps.

Locking the Dogs up

Austin Perryman/Auburn Tigers
Austin Perryman/Auburn Tigers

The defense had several players step up to limit Ole Miss to 28 points on Saturday. Who do you anticipate will be the star(s) of the defense this week?

TJ: I enjoyed seeing the efforts of the defensive backfield, especially Donovan Kaufman, Keionte Scott, and Nehemiah Pritchett. I foresee those three having another big game to compliment Jaylin Simpson and DJ James.

JM: Austin Keys played a limited role in his return but I’m expecting his workload to increase and for him to show why he was named the starter before injury derailed his season.

BH: Jalen McLeod broke out in a monster way last week. He made one of the best defensive plays of the season in my eyes, and I anticipate him to continue to improve as he gets back to full strength. I’ve loved what I’ve seen from Donovan Kaufman this year as well, and I hope his playing time continues to increase.

Playing the best case/worst case game

The Montgomery Advertiser
The Montgomery Advertiser

After a brutal four-game stretch, the schedule seems to lighten up beginning this weekend against Mississippi State. What is best best-case/worst-case scenario for Auburn as they head into the final five games of the season?

TJ: I see best-case Auburn finishing the season at 4-1 with the lone loss being to Alabama at the end of the season. The worst case is a loss to Mississippi State and to Arkansas which will end their bowl hopes ahead of the Iron Bowl.

JM: With their next four games all against struggling teams, the best case is that they win all four to secure a bowl berth and that the Jordan-Hare magic is enough for them to beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl to cap the season off. The worst case is that they lose two out of the next four against Mississippi State, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, and New Mexico State before getting blown out in the Iron Bowl and failing to make a bowl game

BH: The best-case scenario is they go bowling and win the Iron Bowl. For the former to happen they have to take care of business this week. The next seemingly winnable game would be against Vanderbilt in Nashville before a senior day win would get Auburn to 6 wins. The worst-case scenario could start as soon as this week if they lose. I don’t see this team playing a bowl game if that happens.

Missing a slinger?

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Mississippi State is not ready to confirm if Will Rodgers will play on Saturday. If he does not play, how confident are you in Auburn to get a convincing home win?

TJ: I feel like it would help Auburn’s chances drastically. Rogers has been in an adjustment period going from an air raid style to a more conservative approach, but him missing the game will give Auburn a decent shot to win by at least two scores.

JM: Him not playing would certainly help Auburn’s chances of winning but I’m not sure how convincing it will be. The offense has not shown enough for me to expect them to put a team away, I expect the defense will shut down the Mississippi State offense but it will still be close, even if it’s clear that Auburn is in control of the game.

BH: If he’s not able to go, I would be shocked if Auburn loses at home. They’ve looked very good, at least in most facets of the game, at Jordan-Hare. If he does play the game will be closer but I still expect Auburn to end their losing streak.

Tigers end the streak

Michael Chang/Getty Images
Michael Chang/Getty Images

What is your final score prediction?

TJ: Auburn 23 Mississippi State 10

JM: Auburn 24, Mississippi State 17

BH: Auburn 23 Mississippi State 13

Story originally appeared on Auburn Wire