Les Miles awarding a walk-on a full scholarship.
Auburn has sparred with Clemson, been ambushed by Mississippi State, and gone the distance to overcome Louisiana-Monroe to open the 2012 season, but none of those teams challenged them like the LSU Tigers will tomorrow night. Baby tigers, meet the Bayou Bengals of Baton Rouge and get ready for things to get awfully physical.
I’m sure most of you are familiar (to varying degrees) with a vehicle that has a manual transmission and how difficult it can be to find the appropriate gear at times. Well, physically speaking, this game will be a lot like that for Auburn except that when they can’t find the proper gear Saturday there will be an LSU player waiting to make them pay. There’s no delicate way around it – If Auburn plays the same way tomorrow against LSU as they have against their previous 3 opponents things will get ugly in a small amount of time. The good news for Gene Chizik’s Tigers is that this game doesn’t have to go that route. Auburn can choose not to be LSU’s doormat to the SEC West and send a message to the entire conference that we refuse to go quietly.
“After the first couple of hits, everybody (on AU’s defense) was just backing up,” Copeland said “They didn’t want to hit at all. Before I got to them, they just fell down and just laid on the ground.” – J.C. Copeland, LSU fullback
Those have got to be painful words to read for anyone associated with the Auburn defense right now. I hold Auburn fully responsible for making Mr. Copeland re-think his assessment of the defense. There’s no doubt the coaches have used this quote to motivate the players, but I want to watch the defense play Saturday and see a group of guys playing with a mean streak.
Offensively, Auburn was able to do a little more last week against ULM, but they still imploded during the last quarter and a half after a Kiehl Frazier interception and Mike Blakely fumble. You could say that Auburn improved last week moving the ball, but the late mistakes preventing them from putting away ULM still give me concern.
- I’d like to see Kiehl Frazier scramble a little more and use his legs to hurt defenses. This is something I believe he’ll do more of once he gets closer to being fully comfortable at the position.
- The LSU defense will likely stack the box and force the sophomore quarterback to beat them through the air so this will be by far Auburn’s biggest test on offense thus far this season.
- Curtis Luper stated earlier this week to expect running-back Mike Blakely to receive more carries this week. That is both very good for the offense but also somewhat obvious. Tre Mason would (understandably) have a tough time carrying the ball so much against this LSU defense so Blakely’s increased snaps could very well just be a by-product of this week’s opponent (though if I had to guess, it is combination of the two).
- Finally someone other than Emory Blake or Phillip Lutzenkirchen made some impact plays in the receiving department last week. Sammie Coates made a heads-up catch in the back of the endzone last week off of a Frazier hail-mary and also had a diving touchdown catch called back due to a penalty. I got unreasonably excited about a new receiver making plays during the game last week. Auburn needed this in the worst way, and now they just have to make sure that this carries over week after week for the remainder of the season.
Regarding tomorrow’s matchup with LSU talk is cheap by and large. We all have a pretty good idea of what Auburn will look like scheme-wise. I do not expect any major surprises in that aspect of the game. For Auburn to compete they will have to find a new level of physicality on the field with LSU. That is something I do not think you can get in practice. At some point your back is going to be up against a wall and you have to make a choice to either lie down or to push back. Auburn is at the point where they need to learn to push back. They won’t reach that key moment of desperation on the practice field. LSU is going to push them like no one else has, and Auburn will have to make the decision to accept it or to start doing something about it. I’m not questioning their effort in previous games, but respect is something you earn the old fashioned way in the SEC. It isn’t given out every year on signing day to the most talented classes; it is taken by force on Saturdays.
Auburn has struggled more than expected at improving consistently week to week like many thought they would. With LSU comes the dire need for Auburn to make their first big leap at becoming SEC relevant once again. Tomorrow night we’ll find out exactly how this Auburn team responds to big-time challenges.