Sputtering offenses collide when Mississippi State travels to Auburn

Two offensively challenged teams will hook up when Auburn hosts Mississippi State on Saturday afternoon.

After a 7-3 road win over Arkansas last week, Zach Arnett’s Bulldogs (4-3, 1-3 SEC) enter the matchup with the Tigers ranked 12th in the 14-team SEC in total offense (351.1 yards per game) and 11th in scoring offense (26.9 points per game).

With starting quarterback Will Rogers out last week due to a shoulder injury, backup Mike Wright got the first start of his career — and delivered.

The 6-foot-4, 190-pound dual threat completed just 8 of 12 passes for 85 yards and an interception, but his 2-yard second-quarter touchdown pass to Jo’Quavious Marks turned out to be all Mississippi State needed to secure a win. Wright also led the Bulldogs in rushing with 60 yards on 11 carries, proving his ability as a runner.

Whether Rogers or Wright gets the start against Auburn (3-4, 0-4 SEC), Arnett knows his team will face a challenge against a capable Tigers team despite their winless record in conference play.

“They play really good on defense,” Arnett said. “I’ve always admired coach (Ron) Roberts’ scheme. Brilliant mind coordinating the defense. Coach Freeze has always been a great offensive mind. The athleticism at quarterback jumps off. Run game is very physical. It’s a big, strong, athletic football team. We’ll have to be on our game.”

Following a 28-21 home loss to then-13th-ranked Ole Miss, Hugh Freeze’s Tigers sit 13th in the SEC in total offense (337.0 YPG), last in passing offense (151.0 YPG) and 12th in scoring (26.7 PPG).

Despite ranking fourth in the SEC in rushing (186.0 YPG) behind the running ability of quarterbacks Robby Ashford and Payton Thorne and tailback Jarquez Hunter (309 yards and five touchdowns on 72 carries), Freeze is doing everything in his power to get an air attack that ranks 121st in college football going.

“It’s obvious we can get better,” Freeze said. “We should be able to get better. That will be the goal. My focus will be on that this week.”