STARKVILLE, Miss. — It wasn’t long ago that the mention of the numbers three and two brought sarcastic jokes and eye rolls from fans of Auburn and Mississippi State.
Now, they bring a sense of pride.
No. 3 Mississippi State (5-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) hosts No. 2 Auburn (5-0, 2-0) on Saturday in the first game between top 5 opponents in the history of Davis Wade Stadium. The winner will stay on top of the Western Division.
It was just six seasons ago that Auburn and Mississippi State played one of the ugliest games in recent college football history. The Tigers beat the Bulldogs 3-2 in Starkville, though it was hard for either team to claim victory after a game that featured 18 punts and in which the teams were a combined 3 of 30 on third-down conversions.
Now Auburn and Mississippi State have two of the most prolific offenses in the SEC.
The Bulldogs are averaging 42.6 points per game and have a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Dak Prescott. Auburn scores 42 points per game and has featured one of the nation’s best running attacks since Gus Malzahn became the coach last season.
For Auburn, big games are nearly a weekly occurrence. The Tigers won the SEC and played for a national championship last season.
“It is not going to be a shock to our system,” Malzahn said. “At this point in our season, in the west they are all big. So we are just going to go about it one game at a time just like we have done the last year and a half.”
For Mississippi State, this is new territory. The Bulldogs have never been ranked this high in program history.
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said Auburn’s experience in games like this — on top of a talented roster — make this the most difficult challenge of the season.
“They’ve played in big games and know how to play in big games,” Mullen said. “They have one of the top defenses in the conference. You look at them — they have a lot of talented players.”