A Little Bit Goes a Long Way
Since early in the year, a hot topic on The Plains has been debating what record Auburn would carry into Baton Rouge in week 4. Thanks to a beautiful Marshall to Uzomah connection against Mississippi State last week, the Auburn Tigers will arrive in LSU’s Death Valley undefeated and looking to build on their hard-earned momentum in SEC play.
Auburn’s success will be dependent on numerous things, but one of the most important will be how well they can execute. Last week they got their first taste of SEC play, but this week will have an entirely different level of intensity.
It will be an interesting matchup with Auburn rebounding from a season in which they won no SEC games for the first time in decades and LSU’s true worth somewhat shrouded in mystery after a Chic-Fil-A Bowl loss to end their 2012 season and not facing much competition en route to a 3-0 record heading into Saturday’s game. Though the Bayou Bengals certainly have the pedigree of late to be considered a clear-cut favorite over Auburn at home, last year’s contest suggests that this year’s game could be another nail-biting installment of the annual battle between these two tigers.
In the last 2 games they have been able to show great improvement in areas of focus from the previous week of practice. I expect nothing different tomorrow against LSU. For Auburn to escape with a ‘W’, they must win the turnover battle and take care of the football. Teams that are successful on the road in the SEC are teams that have the ability to focus on their main objectives and not get distracted by what is going on around them. Will the crowd be a factor? Absolutely. However, this is a strong and resilient young group of players. You can count on a mistake here and there, but this doesn’t strike me as the type of team that implodes when things get dire.
Another facet of this Auburn team that is showing early promise is the wide-out position. Malzahn (along with Marshall) has done a great job of spreading the ball around through the air and hitting multiple targets for big plays. However, the early success has not come without disappointment. There have been several key drops in each game thus far this season. This is an issue that if Auburn can eliminate it, they will be able to create some serious matchup issues with other teams.
Auburn’s defense has done a great job this season in the second half of games, but has really struggled against power running plays regardless. That is something LSU will most likely look to do early and often against Auburn. The young front 4 will have to step up and do a better job of disrupting things upfront for the rest of the defense to be able to perform. LSU quarterback, Zach Mettenberger, has thrown the ball very well this season but has not faced much pressure at all. If Auburn can keep him out of his comfort zone, they stand a good chance of landing an interception or two from rushed throws under pressure.
Though LSU completely deserves to be favored in this contest handily, I can’t help but think that Auburn will give them a tough game. Malzahn and Lashlee will have a few wrinkles that will hopefully give us the edge to jump out to an early lead and see what happens. Depending on how the coaches attack this game, will tell their true expectations for the team this season. Not that they aren’t trying to win every game, but I could totally see them staying a little extra conservative here and there in hope they would find themselves in this very position with a chance to improve to 4-0 over the #6 ranked team in the nation.
Auburn can certainly draw inspiration from last year’s game as well as last week’s total team win over Mississippi State at home. I think looking back on it, the MSU game will be a blessing in disguise. A lot of people (myself included) wanted and were convinced that Auburn would handle them easier than they did. In retrospect, I think it was just the kind of game this team needed to further solidify their belief in the coaches and the direction of the program.
No matter the result, it’s sure to be a memorable contest. Here’s to Auburn pulling out a stunner in Death Valley!
War Eagle! BEAT LSU!