After four straight losses, Auburn has a real chance to turn around its 2023 season. The Tigers just have to go get that formula.
(Austin Perryman/Auburn Tigers)
On Monday night, Jaylin Simpson posted several photos to Instagram with the caption “Plankton Mentality.”
When he was asked about it Tuesday, Simpson — one of the most entertaining Auburn players in recent memory — gave a full breakdown of what that meant.
“Since I've been knowing Plankton, dude’s just got one goal, man: get that Krabby Patty formula,” Simpson said. “He don't stop, no matter what. Every episode, he’s on it.
“We got to get that Plankton mentality every game. We got to get that formula every game.”
Plankton, for those who might not know, is the main villain in SpongeBob SquarePants. Like Simpson says, Plankton is completely focused on one thing. He just wants to get the formula that has made his rival so successful. No matter how many times Plankton fails to get the formula, he keeps coming right back for it.
Simpson wants Auburn to have Plankton Mentality. During their four-game losing streak, the Tigers have failed time and time again. They want to walk out with a win — and they’ve come close on multiple occasions — but they’ve failed.
Auburn head coach Hugh Freeze didn’t come up with Plankton Mentality, but he probably endorses it. He’s delivered a similar, non-cartoon-based message to the Tigers this week, as they look to end a skid that has lasted for more than a month.
“He was just basically saying, flat out: don't disengage… don't quit on us,” Simpson said. “Just keep going, having that Plankton Mentality. Just keep going. Whatever. Doesn't matter. Just don't quit.
“Things aren't going our way, but we're just, we're going to keep going.”
Saturday will mark a crossroads for Auburn’s 2023 season. After suffering their first loss of the season at Texas A&M, the Tigers dropped three straight games to three of the top 15 teams in the country: No. 1 Georgia, No. 15 LSU and No. 12 Ole Miss.
All the way back in the preseason, most people who looked at Auburn’s schedule knew the first half of SEC play would be survival mode. They weren’t expected to be favorites in any of those games, and they stayed underdogs the entire way. As tough as it is, a 3-4 record at this point in the season lined up with the early projections.
That changes Saturday. Auburn is favored against Mississippi State, marking the first time the Tigers will be favorites against an SEC opponent this season. Auburn has won eight straight games as a favorite, with the last loss coming in the 2021 season at South Carolina.
And the last time the Tigers lost as a home favorite, coincidentally, was the last time Mississippi State came to Jordan-Hare Stadium — where the Bulldogs rallied from a huge deficit to shock Auburn and truly send the Bryan Harsin era spiraling.
So, even though Mississippi State could be without starting quarterback Will Rogers due to injury, Auburn knows it can’t overlook the maroon-and-white visitors from Starkville. After all, Mississippi State has won five of the last nine games in this series.
How crucial is this game to Auburn’s season? According to SP+ projections, Auburn would have a 74.66% chance to finish the season with a bowl-eligible record with a win over Mississippi State.
“We need a win,” quarterback Payton Thorne said. “It has been four weeks since we were able to sing the fight song together. We’ve had chances to win, and that’s the frustrating part.”
With a loss, those bowl-eligibility probabilities on SP+ drop to 31.03%. It’s not impossible, but Auburn would most likely have to win back-to-back road games over Vanderbilt and Arkansas to make it happen.
“We need some momentum, and it starts here in Jordan-Hare,” Simpson said. “It's better to have it here than trying to start this on the road.”
It’s Plankton Mentality: Go get it right now.
“We believe we can win all these last games,” Thorne said. “Just go out there and play good football and get it done.”
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