Into the Tiger Den!
Can Auburn beat this bunch?
War Eagle, everybody! It’s LSU week, and the corn-dog jokes are flying here on TrackEmTigers.com. It’s a big week for Auburn football, as our Tigers head southwest, to play the powerful LSU Tigers, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It’s a game the experts give Auburn little chance in, but how realistic is that?
It’s true that Auburn is breaking in a lot of young defensive linemen and linebackers, as well as a new starting quarterback. When has that NOT been true, the last five seasons? It’s true that LSU has statistically been one of the best teams in the SEC, this season, and they are undefeated just like Auburn is.
Let’s look at the opponents each team has played. LSU has downed TCU in Arlington 37-27, UAB 56-17 at home, and Kent State at home, 45-13. Auburn has played all three of its games at home, defeating Washington State 31-24, Arkansas State 38-9, and Mississippi State 24-20. LSU’s opponents are a combined 2-6, with the wins coming against Southeast Louisiana and Liberty. Those losses include losses to Texas Tech, Bowling Green, and Troy. Meanwhile, Auburn’s opponents are 5-4 on the season, with the only non-Auburn loss coming to Oklahoma State. Auburn opponent Washington State has a win over Southern Cal, and Arkansas State beat Troy last weekend.
One of the keys to this game will be whether Auburn’s linebackers can make plays against LSU’s strong rushing attack. LSU’s lead blockers like J. C. Copeland are huge, even bigger than Jay Prosch. LSU players accused Auburn defenders of shying away from contact two years ago, and it was true, particularly in the second half. Will Holland, Frost, McKinzy, Garrett, and Therezie be able to take on these blocks at the point of attack and handle the LSU runners? I don’t know about that one.
Will Auburn be able to pressure Zack Mettenberger and force some bad throws? Can Auburn corners Jonathan Mincy and Ryan Smith stay with LSU receivers O’dell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry? That’s where Mett likes to go. Beckham Jr. has 15 catches on the season, and Landry has 17. The rest of the entire LSU roster has 14 total catches.
LSU will likely load the box like Auburn’s previous opponents, and dare Nick Marshall to throw the ball. It’s worth noting that the LSU defense, while its overall numbers are pretty good, has been susceptible to giving up first half points. LSU led TCU 16-10 at the half, UAB 35-17, and Kent State 31-10. That’s 37 first half points given up, which isn’t bad, unless you look at the level of the competition. Of course, Auburn has given up 37 first half points, also, against stiffer competition.
The key to keeping the LSU defense off balance will be throwing. It’s worth noting that Kent State’s quarterback Colin Reardon was able to hit 20 of 29 passes against LSU. LSU defensive coordinator Jon Chavis will play his safeties back watching for the run, unless Auburn is willing to challenge the LSU zone.
How well will Auburn’s young team handle their first road game to a very hostile environment? LSU has already played a road game against TCU in Arlington. While it wasn’t TCU’s home field, Arlington is basically an industrial park/train yard/airport between Ft. Worth and Dallas. And TCU is located in Ft. Worth, where I was born, incidentally.
And finally, does Auburn have a special teams advantage? Auburn has two very good, veterans kicking the ball. Cody Parkey has hit 7 of 8 field goals this season, with his only miss from 50 yards. He has also planted 14 of 20 kickoffs for touchbacks. Steven Clark is averaging 43.5 yards per punt, with 5 of 13 killed inside the 20. Auburn has yet to allow any punt returner to attempt a return.
LSU has a couple of new legs, on their side. Kicker Colbey Delahoussaye is 4 for 4 on field goals, but his longest has been just 28 yards. On kickoffs, James Hairston has planted 15 of 24 for touchbacks. New punter Jamie Keehn has a 40.4 yard average on 8 punts, with 2 killed inside the 20. LSU has allowed just one punt return for 2 yards. More alarmingly, LSU is giving up 26.1 yards per kick return, including one taken to the house by TCU return man B. J. Catelon. Auburn is giving up 20.2 yards per kick return, while averaging 34.8 yards per return, including a touchdown by Tre Mason in the opener.
Ultimately, this game will come down to how well the Auburn front seven can hang with LSU’s rush-heavy attack. If Auburn can keep LSU from running up and down the field, this could be a close ballgame, and the Tigers have a number of players on the offensive side who can break big plays at any time. Auburn also has had some spectacularly awkward offensive plays, that ended up turning out well this year.
We’ll be here all day this Saturday, with our usual open thread and theatrics. This game will be the Saturday night headliner on ESPN, and the nation will be watching. It’s a great chance for the Auburn Tigers to show the nation that we are BACK! Even if Auburn doesn’t win, I expect that we’ll show the college football world that we’ve once again become a team that will fight, and not roll over. War Eagle, and let’s beat LSU!