A few quick thoughts from Starkville where Mississippi State continued a program-best stretch with its third consecutive win over a Top 10 team, this time beating Auburn, 38-23:

What it means: The largest crowd ever at Davis-Wade Stadium likely watched college football’s new No. 1 during a seismic performance against the defending SEC champions. Mississippi State never trailed after building a 21-0 lead in the first nine minutes, cashing in on a pair of turnovers against the second-ranked Tigers. The Bulldogs have outscored their last three SEC opponents, 49-7, in the opening frame.

What I liked: Mississippi State’s razor sharp focus led to a lightning quick start and relentless pressure from the SEC’s most underrated front seven kept Gus Malzahn’s offense out of rhythm throughout. It wasn’t always pretty offensively for the Bulldogs who turned it over four times, but the combination of Dak Prescott and Josh Robinson executed when it mattered on third down and made the most of short fields created by the defense.

Who’s the man: Prescott. De’Runnya Wilson. Robinson. Geoff Collins. Preston Smith. There’s plenty of game balls to go around, but the defense deserves much of the credit. An oft-criticized secondary came up big for the Bulldogs, interception Nick Marshall twice including the win-clinching turnover inside the 5 with less than four minutes remaining.

Key play: Auburn’s third turnover, a questionable fumble by Ricardo Louis on a kickoff return with 11:22 left in the fourth quarter, led to a Mississippi State touchdown two plays later to put the Bulldogs ahead, 38-20.

What’s next: Mississippi State heads into a bye week as the nation’s hottest team and deserving of the spotlight. Playing extremely well on both sides of the football at the season’s halfway point, the Bulldogs have proven to be a legitimate SEC West favorite and most of all, a College Football Playoff contender.