September 8, 2011

Chizik talking Mississippi State

Auburn survived quite a scare in its opening week game against Utah State coming off a national championship.

The Tigers rallied back with two late touchdowns in the waning moments to snatch victory from the hands of an upset. But now Auburn and head coach Gene Chizik put their 16-game winning streak on the line against 16th ranked Mississippi State.

"Obviously we have a lot of work to do," Chizik said. "Mississippi State is an extremely talented, well coached football team. They are going to come in here ready to play. Just watching them in their first game, it's very evident that they've made a lot of strides since we played them last year. Again this is an extremely well coached, physical football team. For us to have a chance to win we're going to have to play much better than we did this past weekend."

The Bulldogs compiled a school record 645 yards on offense during its season opening 59-14 win over Memphis. MSU had a balanced attack of 336 yards passing and 309 yards rushing in that contest.

"There is no question that this offense has found it's identity," Chizik said. "They don't like getting into the third and long situations. They control the clock. They control the running game. They are not afraid to run the quarterback. They'll slip the quarterback up in there as another running game weapon and they've got Vick in there who's an extremely talented guy. The difference in this offense at this point in time versus this point in time last year is night and day in my opinion."

Auburn won a close game on the road in Starkville last year 17-14. The Tigers limited State to just 246 yards of offense in that contest, which was also held in week two.

At that point the Bulldogs were using a running back by committee backfield. The reigning SEC Offensive Player of the week Vick Ballard carried only five times for 13 yards and one touchdown in the 2010 game against the Tigers and is coming off a 10 carry, 166 yard, three touchdown effort against Memphis.

While Ballard may not receive the spotlight that several of his fellow SEC backs, Chizik feels he is just as talented.

"I don't think anyone that watches their film would say he is underrated," Chizik said. "I say that not even joking. This running back is extremely talented. He's extremely physical. He's definitely found his niche in the offense and they have definitely found a weapon they can rely on. It certainly helps schematically that they use their quarterback so much in the run game and certainly opens things up for him as well. But this is a very, very good running back and a very dangerous back. If he is underrated then people aren't watching the film."

The 2010 game against Auburn was also the first career SEC start for Chris Relf at quarterback for the Bulldogs. He completed 12-of-25 passing for 110 yards and rushed 14 times for 26 yards.

Since that time, Relf has gone on to win nine games as a starter including being named the MVP of the Gator Bowl.

"I've just seen so much maturity and confidence in a lot of these guys compared to where they were last year," Chizik said. "Chris is incredibly different in my opinion. He's incredibly confident and very poised. They've had a lot of success since we've played them. Their last two football games they are putting up 50-plus points. Those guys are very, very confident and he is very efficient in the way he runs this offense including throwing the ball much better than he did this time last year."

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