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Another Battle of Unbeatens!

By on October 21st, 2010 in Football Comments Off
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War Eagle, everybody! It’s really time to buckle up the chin straps this week, as Auburn will face one of its most physical games when undefeated LSU comes to town for a big CBS nationally televised matchup. A quick perusal of SEC stats reveals that LSU leads the SEC in both rushing and passing defense. The irresistible force meets the immovable object in this one. Auburn leads the league in rushing offense, averaging 283 yards per game. The LSU defense is only giving up 83 yards per game on the ground. Something will have to give! Head-hunting LSU linebackerKelvin Sheppard is second in the league in tackles, with 66 on the season.

 

     This is an awfully tough matchup for Auburn. It will easily be the best defense that we’ve seen on the field to this point. The LSU defense was expected to have some holes with 7 new starters, but aside from the opening game against North Carolina, those have been few and far between. LSU has held Vandy to 3, Mississippi State to 7, and West Virginia and Tennessee to 14 points each. The lone game on the slate where an opponent scored more than two touchdowns was against Florida in in Gaineville, where Florida managed 29.

 

     One would think you’d look to that game for a blueprint on how to break down the LSU defense, but a closer examination gives few answers. Florida was held to 89 rushing yards and 154 in the air. How did they score 4 touchdowns? An LSU interception started them on the LSU 17 for one, and a fumble recovered on the LSU 16 started another. Florida ran a kickoff back for a score. Florida drove the field only once in the game for a touchdown, a drive aided by a 51 yard reception byCarl Moore.

 

     The key for Auburn against the LSU defense will be offensive line play. Auburn MUST do better than it did a year ago in Baton Rouge, where LSU linemen camped out in the Auburn backfield. Auburn must open some running lanes, and create seams between the tackles. There won’t be too many break away plays on the edge against this defense. Auburn must force LSU to commit more defenders to stopping the inside plays, which should open up some one on one play-action coverage. Above all else, Auburn must avoid putting the football on the ground. The only thing that has stopped the Auburn offense consistently this year is turnovers. Expect LSU to try to rip the ball out.

 

     Auburn’s taken some leaps in special teams play this season, but there are still some holes in the punting game, both kicking away and on returns. LSU was expected to have some transition troubles this year adding return detail to starting corner Patrick Peterson‘s duties, but Peterson has been brilliant. He’s run two punts back for scores, and has been on the brink of breaking a number of kicks. Peterson’s averaging 21 yards per punt return, and 28 yards per kick return. Considering that Auburn only manages about 37 yards per punt, I’d expect Auburn to go for it on many 4th downs, especially in LSU territory. LSU’s usually stellar kick coverage numbers took a bit of a hit with the Florida return for a touchdown a couple of weeks ago, but LSU’s still only giving up 19.9 yards per return. Auburn’s most dramatic improvement this year on special teams has been kick coverage. Opponents are managing 20.3 yards per return this season. That’s down about 3 and a half yards from a year ago. Auburn kick returner Demond Washington is averaging 25.2 yards per return.

 

     Much has been made over LSU’s imagined offensive woes. With a defense that holds everyone to two offensive touchdowns or less, there’s no reason for LSU to risk the ball on throws down the field. The purple and gold clad Tigers focus on knocking out some first downs, and maintaining good field position. They’ve rung up a record of 7-0 with this strategy. The Auburn defense has actually been pretty decent at stopping running plays between the tackles, thanks to the presence of tackle Nick Fairley and middle linebacker Josh Bynes. Opponents are being held to 3.0 yards per rush, which doesn’t look too bad next to the LSU defense, which gives up 2.4. Where Auburn has been vulnerable is on the edge, both on screens and running plays. LSU has the players to hurt Auburn on the edge. Stevan Ridley is averaging 98 yards per game at 4.9 yards per carry, and leads a committee of about 4 backs.

 

     Russell Sheppard is a threat as both a slot receiver and a wildcat quarterback. Auburn hasn’t matched up on receivers well all year, and LSU features two good ones on the outside, Reuben Randle and Terrence Tolliver. Tolliver proved that he can win the big game, two weeks ago with a big catch in the Florida end zone. You won’t find the knowledgeable Auburn fan bashing LSU quarterbacks. We’ve got painful memories of Jordan Jefferson’s scrambles and big throws last season against us, and who can forget Jarrett Lee taking apart the Auburn secondary in the second half in 2008? With Auburn’s situation in the secondary, Those two quarterbacks are a big worry. Auburn lost starting free safety Aaron Savage for the season last week. Replacement options are junior Mike McNeil, and sophomoreIkeem Means. McNeil’s got a good bit of experience, but has played banged up all year. He also is not a fast as Savage was. In limited action, Means has looked good. He’s got good closing speed, and will hit. The former walk-on has never been tested in the heat of a big SEC battle, though. Starting nickel back T’Sharvan Bell is questionable for this one, too. 3rd and 4th cornerbacks may be true freshman Chris Davis and sophomore Anthony Morgan. All eyes are on the Auburn secondary in this one!

 

     I fully believe this game will require the winning team to score at least 35 points. Auburn’s likely to give up 30. The key will be line play. Neither team can afford to let the other run the ball well. We’ve seen what happens to LSU when they don’t win up front on the offensive line. We get the Tennessee game late “heroics.” When Auburn doesn’t win on the offensive line, we get the second half of the Mississippi State game, or the first half against Clemson. It’s important for Auburn players to remember that we HAVE been stopped this year, and it happened when Cameron Newton and co. had no room to operate on the line. This game will be an old-fashioned war in the trenches, and may the nastiest team win!

 

A brief look at mid-season net yards per pass, after the jump!

 

 

 

 

2010, Mid-year

SEC Eastern Division

Record

Record

Starting

Net Yards per pass

Team

SEC

Overall

Quarterback

 

Florida

2-3

4-3

John Brantley

5.7

South Carolina

2-3

4-2

Stephen Garcia

6.8

Georgia

2-3

3-4

Aaron Murray

8.3

Vanderbilt

1-2

2-4

Larry Smith

5.0

Kentucky

1-3

4-3

Mike Hartline

7.1

Tennessee

0-3

2-4

Matt Simms

5.3

 

SEC Western Division

Record

Record

Starting

Net Yards per pass

Team

SEC

Overall

Quarterback

 

Auburn

4-0

7-0

Cameron Newton

8.4

LSU

4-0

7-0

Jordan Jefferson

Jarrett Lee

2.1

7.1

Alabama

3-1

6-1

Greg McElroy

8.4

Mississippi State

2-2

5-2

Chris Relf

Tyler Russell

5.9

5.3

Arkansas

1-2

4-2

Ryan Mallett

Tyler Wilson

8.1

5.1

Ole Miss

1-2

3-3

Jeremiah Masoli

4.7

 

 

     As always, this stat reflect the yards gained per pass attempt, with a 50 yard penalty taken out for each interception. It’s interesting to note that two quarterbacks from the state of Alabama are tied at the top! Yes, for all the gnashing of teeth over Greg McElroy taking sacks, he’s pretty darned efficient when he lets the ball go. That’s why Alabama is 6-1, and the road to the SEC West title goes through Tuscaloosa. Raise your hand, if you thought there would be 8 SEC quarterbacks ahead of Florida’s John Brantley at this stage of the game!

 

     As usual, we’ll have an open thread up here at TrackEmTigers.com. As always, stop by and sound off! I’ll be in Jordan Hare Stadium for this one, so there won’t be my usual histrionics on the thread. I’ll be there in section 32 screaming my head off! War Eagle, and beat LSU!

 

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