As the big game with the Auburn Tigers looms ever closer, we're going to get a feel for the Wildcats' next opponent by talking with the people who know them best: their enemies. To that end, we'll get started with the view from Starkville. Mississippi State has had its moments with Auburn. Auburn leads 58-26-3 in the series, which began in 1905, became semi-regular in 1937, and has been played every year since 1955. The biggest game of the series was probably in 1986, when the seventh-ranked Tigers visited Starkville in October to face the 14th-ranked Bulldogs and came away with a 35-6 win. And of course, nobody will ever forget the infamous 3-2 game in 2008.
Joining us to talk about CLANGA's relationship with Auburn is Justin Sutton from For Whom the Cowbell Tolls, SB Nation's Mississippi State blog. We've chatted with Justin before, after the two schools Twitter-agreed to a home-and-home a couple of months ago, and we're glad he had time to join us on this little venture.
Jon: Before we get into the product on the field, this wouldn't be any fun if we didn't dig into off-field topics too. So let's start with this: Tell us about your absolute worst memory of an Auburn game, and your favorite moment against them.
JS: The worst moment is pretty easy. It is simply known as the 3-2 game. Neither team could do anything well in the contest. As far as off the field, it had to be watching Cam Newton ring a cowbell in Starkville, but deciding to go to Auburn.
As far as best moments, it had to be Mississippi State's comeback in 1999. Many folks had given up on the game, but the Bulldogs went to the pay window that afternoon.
(Ed. note: the 13th-ranked Bulldogs traveled to the Plains in 1999 and escaped with an 18-16 win over the unranked Tigers.)
Jon: We're always a bit curious about how we're viewed outside the Big 12. We've talked about this on your podcast in connection with the series we'll be playing in a few years, but what are your impressions of K-State?
JS: I've always thought Kansas State was one of those teams close to breaking out, but never quite got over the hump. The team had a legitimate shot at playing for the national title in 1998 and in 2012, but could not quite seal the deal. That 1998 squad had to be a heartbreaker, losing in double overtime in the Big XII championship.
Other than that, this is a series that I think a lot of Mississippi State fans will look forward to in the next couple of years.
Jon: Luck plays a part in everything, obviously, and almost no team wins a championship without catching a break here and there. Do you feel Auburn's run to the BCS title game last year was more a function of fortune than talent, or did they really belong?
JS: There is no way around it. Auburn had an insane amount of luck. They squeaked past Mississippi State, and that might have only been the fifth craziest win the Tigers had that season. Were the Tigers good? I think you have to say yes. Good teams find ways to make their own luck. Were they lucky to be playing for that national championship and almost winning it? Absolutely they were.
Jon: How about this year? What are your impressions of the team in general, and how serious a threat do you think they are to reach the playoff? Other than Nick Marshall, who should we be really concerned about?
JS: This Auburn team should be solid this year as well. Nick Marshall should be much improved. Quan Bray is an all around talent on the team as well. Can this team reach the playoff? That might be a stretch. They have to look at winning the SEC with only one loss, and I think they will have a tough battle against Georgia, Mississippi State, Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M and a potential opponent in the SEC title game. This is a good team that might come away with as few as 9 wins and destroy someone in a bowl, or they could get all the bounces again and play for the national title.
Jon: Granted you probably don't follow K-State as closely as you do Auburn (which is why we're doing this in the first place), but is there anything you've seen with Auburn that you think K-State is well-positioned to exploit?
JS: Kansas State just needs to be explosive on offense and find a way to make a few plays on defense. Auburn will give up points during a game, and the Wildcats need to jump on that. Also, I think Kansas State would benefit from slowing the game down if they can.
Jon: They're coming to our place, and that means that at least some of their fans will be there too. Now, level with us: what's that going to be like if they've got any sizable presence?
JS: I've been to The Plains a few times, and I never really had any quarrels with Auburn fans. You could expect to hear "War Eagle" or "War Damn Eagle" way more than you ever wanted to hear. Yes, that phrase gets pretty annoying in a hurry. I'd take a "Roll Tide" over it.
Jon: Finally, it's that obligatory moment when I wring a prediction out of you. What's your call?
JS: I think K-State has a solid team this year, but I think Auburn is not too far from being the type of team that could get into the championship tournament. The Tigers are going to score points, so I say 42-31.
Although we certainly want a win, if Justin's prediction is accurate the Wildcats won't have anything to be ashamed of. Once again, our thanks to Justin for his time, and stay tuned for more Auburn insight from their fellow SEC members over the next week. Meanwhile, we close with some Twitter comments from another State fan on Auburn:
@jonfmorse fun to tailgate with— pessimisticlanga (@CoastalCowbell1) September 9, 2014
@jonfmorse those folks have some top notch equipment— pessimisticlanga (@CoastalCowbell1) September 9, 2014