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Tigers Will Be Tested in Baton Rouge!

By on May 23rd, 2013 in Football 17 Comments »
AULSU2010

Can Auburn handle LSU up front like 2010?

     War Eagle, everybody! It’s time now for another Auburn opponent preview. On September 21st, Auburn gears up for its first road trip of the season, to face LSU in Baton Rouge. At first glance, LSU is a team gutted by graduation and early entries to the NFL. The Tigers lost 11 underclassmen off last year’s roster, and only return 2 defensive starters. Add in new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, and some off the field problems, and LSU looks vulnerable in week four.

     However, recent history is against Auburn in this one. Not since the infamous “Cigar Game” in 1999 has Auburn won in Baton Rouge. The game has not even been competitive in Death Valley since Tommy Tuberville left Auburn. One of the keys has been the quarterback position. Auburn took rookie Jason Campbell in there in 2001 and lost 27-14 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated. A dysfunctional offense in 2003 did no better, in a 31-7 blowout. Brandon Cox got only his second road start in 2005, and if Auburn would have had any semblance of a passing game in that one, history would not remember 5 missed field goals and an overtime loss. With veteran Cox in 2007, Auburn held a lead for much of the game, but a 17 point 4th quarter meltdown left the visiting Tigers with a 30-24 loss. In 2009, Chris Todd’s arm was ailing, and Auburn took a 31-10 beating. In 2011, Clint Moseley was given his first start ever, and it was an exceptionally ugly game for the Tigers, a 45-10 loss. Can Auburn go into Baton Rouge and win with the current crop of QBs on the Plains?

     If you’ve ever wanted to know what a “trap game” is, LSU’s opener is exactly that. They play former BCS-buster TCU in Arlington, Texas in a made for TV evening matchup. LSU will be tested early in the Jerry Dome. Following the opener, LSU has moribund UAB at home, followed by bowl team Kent State, before playing Auburn. LSU follows the Tiger battle with Georgia in Athens, MSU in Starkville, Florida at home, Ole Miss in Oxford, Furman for homecoming, then an off week. Following the break, LSU has Alabama in Tuscaloosa, then Texas A&M at home. LSU finishes the regular season with a black Friday matchup with Arkansas in Baton Rouge. I don’t think I’d trade schedules with them!

     It’s another year, and another round of questions about the LSU offense. It seems each year that LSU is seen as a team with strong defense and special teams, and an average at best offense. That will need to change this year, with a lot of new faces on the opposite side of the ball. LSU does have the advantage of 9 returning starters on offense, including starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger. What’s odd about this year’s offense is a thinning tailback situation. The past few years, it’s seemed like LSU had a bottomless stable of great backs. With the multiple arrests and suspension of formerly likely starter Jeremy Hill, LSU has only three scholarship guys right now, Alfred Blue, Kenny Hilliard, and Terrance Magee. That’s a pretty good trio, though. LSU worked extensively on the passing game this past spring, with mixed results in the spring game. There were a lot of big plays down the field on the reserves, there was clearly work still to be done on the screen game.

     The only returning starters on the defense are senior linebacker Lamin Barrow, and senior safety Craig Loston. However, a number of the new starters on defense have contributed significant minutes in the past, starting with junior tackle Anthony Johnson, who was for all intents and purposes a third tackle starter in 2012. Regardless of who winds up starting, LSU does have the talent to be strong in the front seven, and will try to force Auburn to pass. LSU’s last look at a Gus Malzhan-style offense was last New Year’s Eve in Atlanta, against Clemson. Tajh Boyd had a big day throwing the ball in the Clemson upset win, but LSU shut down the run, holding Clemson to just 99 yards on the ground. Auburn will have to have some success throwing the ball to have a chance in this one.

     LSU seems to always field brutally effective special teams units, and this year may be as well, although a good number of newer players should be on the field this time. Gone are the spectacular legs of Brad Wing and Drew Allemon, though. Can LSU continue to be special in the kicking game with a couple of walk-on starters replacing those two? Junior kicker James Hairston was the kickoff man last season, and he was effective there. Heir-apparent sophomore punter Jamie Keehn did have 12 punts last season, for a 43.7 yard average.

 Unit matchups, after the jump!

 Auburn defensive line vs. LSU offensive line: Auburn will likely go with a tackle rotation of Gabe Wright, Angelo Blackson and Jeffery Whitaker. Dee Ford, Kenneth Carter and Nosa Eguae will be the primary ends. The Tigers have depth beyond those six guys, but none except Ford have distinguished themselves, either. Last season against LSU, Auburn’s D-line had its best game of the season. LSU returns four starters on a re-shuffled offensive line, but the starting lineup might not be settled till fall, as a number of younger guys seemed to make a move during spring on this unit. Right now, the starting lineup from left to right is junion La’el Collins, senior Josh Williford, junior Elliot Porter, sophomore Trai Turner, and sophomore Vadal Alexander. Advantage: Even.

Auburn linebackers vs. LSU backs: Auburn’s starting linebackers coming out of spring drills are sophomores Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy. Neither has a huge amount of game experience, and it’s a concern going into the season. While we touched on LSU’s depth issues above, returnees are all talented. In addition, 270-pound senior fullback J. C. Copeland will be a load for Auburn to handle up front. Advantage: LSU.

Auburn corners vs. LSU receivers: Auburn is surprisingly deep at corner, and will need good play from starters Chris Davis and Jonathan Mincy to slow LSU down. From all indications this spring, Auburn corners are tackling well. LSU is explosive at wide receiver, with veteran juniors Odell Beckham Jr, and Jarvis Landry. Senior Kadron Boone provides depth. Advantage: Even.

Auburn safeties vs. LSU secondary receivers and quarterback: I’m lumping “star” Justin Garrett in with the safeties, because I’ve done that in earlier previews, and LSU will likely try to pass more this season. This may be another game where one will see both stars on the field, Garrett and Robensen Therezie. Both have the speed to stay with wide receivers, and Therezie does have a cornerback background. Junior free safety Jermaine Whitehead has really come on this spring, so the real question is who will play strong safety. Right now, converted corner Joshua Holsey is atop the Auburn depth chart there, but senior Demetruce McNeal will return this fall and likely make a serious run. LSU’s returning backs and tight ends were not much of a factor catching the ball last season, but that may change with a new coordinator. Leading returning receiver out of the backfield is Alfred Blue, with 7 catches. Starting tight end Travis Dickson had 6 catches last season. Senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger gives LSU a veteran signal-caller in this game. He was inconsistent at times last season, and word from this year’s spring game is that his accuracy is still “streaky.” Advantage: Even.

Punting: Auburn returns senior punter Steven Clark, who hit the ball well again this spring. Clark tends toward towering balls that can’t be returned. Clark had 70 punts for a 39.8 yard average, but only 5 were returned, for a total of 4 yards. LSU will likely go with sophomore Jamie Keehn, who had 12 punts for a 43.7 yard average. He killed 3 of those punts inside the 20. LSU’s coverage team was excellent, giving up only 3.5 yards per return. Auburn still hadn’t settled on a return man at the end of spring, while LSU returns veteran Odell Beckham Jr, who took two punts to the house last season. Advantage: Even.

Kickoffs: Auburn didn’t score enough to generate many kickoffs in 2012, but when they did, Cody Parkey nailed 33 of 48 of them for touchbacks. LSU’s James Hairston hit touchbacks on 27 of 79 kickoffs. When Parkey wasn’t putting the kickoff in the stands, Auburn gave up only 16.6 yards per return. LSU gave up 18.1. LSU does not have a kickoff returner coming back who averaged over 20 yards per return. Auburn’s Quan Bray averaged 20.2, and Tre Mason averaged 26.3. Advantage: Auburn.

Place kicking: Auburn’s Cody Parkey was 11 of 14 on field goal attempts, and perfect on his extra points last season. We’ll have to see how junior James Hairston does this fall in his new role. Advantage: Auburn.

Auburn offensive line vs. LSU defensive line: Auburn’s starting A-Day unit of sophomore Greg Robinson, redshirt freshman Alex Kozan, junior Reese Dismukes, junior Chad Slade, and sophomore Patrick Miller looked dominant. In addition, the 2nd line did well against the starting D-line. LSU rebuilds up front this season. Projected starters at tackle are juniors Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson. Depth behind those two might come from true freshmen this fall. Starting ends should be juniors Jordan Allen and Jermauria Rascoe. Sophomore Danielle Hunter is the depth there. Johnson’s clearly the star on LSU’s line, but Auburn counters with Dismukes. Advantage: Auburn.

Auburn backs vs. LSU linebackers: Auburn finished spring with a trio of dangerous running backs, and more are on the way this fall in the incoming class. Junior Tre Mason is a 1000 yard incumbent, JUCO transfer Cameron Artis-Payne wowed the A-Day crowd with his power and agility, and junior Corey Grant is a threat on the outside. In addition, the Tigers will have bruising senior H-back Jay Prosch paving the way. LSU returns starting will linebacker Lamin Barrow, who had 104 total tackles last season. Likely strong side starter is senior Tahj Jones, and in the middle is junior D. J. Welter. Sophomore Kwon Alexander is the most talented of the backups, and will likely see a lot of playing time. Advantage: Auburn.

Auburn receivers vs. LSU corners: Auburn’s starters on the outside post-spring are juniors Jaylon Denson and Trovon Reed, neither of who have done much previously on the field. Backups Sammie Coates and Ricardo Lewis should add an explosive dimension when they sub in. LSU does return veteran Jalen Mills on one side. He played extensively last season, starting several games and contributing 57 tackles and 7 passes defended. Penciled in on the other side is sophomore Jalen Collins, who had 30 tackles last season and 8 passes defended. He’s green, but he’s agile and fast. Advantage: LSU.

Auburn secondary receivers and quarterback vs. LSU safeties: Auburn has some matchup nightmares as secondary receivers, starting with C. J. Uzomah and Quan Bray. Few safeties can keep up with either in a foot race. If a team puts extra corners in to shut that down, Auburn will run over them. Put in beefier safeties, and those guys will be wide open. The real question is who’ll pull the trigger for the Auburn offense. The QB competition is said to be neck and neck between junior Khiel Frazier and sophomore Jonathan Wallace. Neither distinguished himself on A-Day. The race will become five-headed for a while when the newcomers arrive this fall. Senior strong safety Craig Loston has been through the wars, and he does a great job. He’ll be joined by junior Ronald Martin, who played in all 13 games last season and contributed 35 tackles. Advantage: LSU.

     Auburn’s first road game is a tough matchup. Auburn must win up front to have any chance in this game. LSU puts a lot of new starters on the field on defense, but it won’t matter if the Auburn offense doesn’t execute well. LSU’s talented enough to win a club fight. The defense must stop the run and force some bad throws from Mettenberger.

     Looking at the Auburn roster, quarterback Khiel Frazier’s only road start was last season at Mississippi State, and Jonathan Wallace’s only one was against Alabama in the 49-0 debacle. Neither looked good in those games, and the job may fall to an incoming guy, who’ll have never seen the road in the SEC. It’s a tall order for any new quarterback to win in Baton Rouge, and realistically it’s hard to pick a win in this game.

Prediction: It’s more of the same in this series, as the home-standing LSU Tigers take advantage of visitor mistakes. LSU wins, 27-10.

17 Comments

  1. DBAU81 says:

    Great preview, Acid. I like our chances in this one, with Gus going up against a rebuilding LSU defense and what should be an improved AU defense matched up against an LSU offense that was nothing special last year. The big question, though, as you point out, is how our QB (whoever he is) will fare on the road in Baton Rouge. If we can avoid turnovers and force a couple from LSU, this game could be there for the taking. An AU win would certainly be an upset, but it would be a huge boost for a team that is trying to get back on track.

  2. KoolBell KoolBell says:

    I look for Mettenberger to have a great year. He really should step up his game. Also, listening to NFL scouts this spring, in a QB camp with the top 4 of 5 draft prospects, Mettenberger was head and shoulders the better QB. The pros are salivating over his abilities.

    I said last year, that with Auburn being his first road trip, he would struggle. I was right. We were just too inept offensively to take advantage of it. Can’t get that horrid play calling out of my head. Sigh…

    Thanks for another wonderful post Acid.

  3. MyAuburn MyAuburn says:

    Another great breakdown. The only thing I don’t agree with is the final score. I think the HUNH offense will wear down the LSU defense and we will get at least 27 points but….I still think we lose this one as we will not be able to stop LSU or hold them to less than 35.

  4. domaucan1 domaucan1 says:

    As luck would have it, I will be on my way out of the country when this game is being played. Probably best for me since I may get clobbered by a corn dogger for yelling “WAR EAGLE !” too many times. It would be GREAT to win this one, especially here in Big BR. I would at least get 365 days of peace. It is extremely difficult to be all Orange and Blue in a purple and gold world like Big BR. I may not be there in body, but I will be there in Auburn Spirit.

    WAR EAGLE !!!

    GO BIG BLUE !!!

    BEAT LSU !!!

  5. Col.Angus Col.Angus says:

    Another great write up Acid.
    Well hopefully this will only be our first loss of the year. Thanks to Tubby, after the “Curse of the Monte Cristo”, you can always pencil in an “L” when traveling to Red Stick. I see no reason for our fate to change this year, but hopefully we will find a QB in fall camp and some confidence after three hard fought home wins, and will give the curse a run for its money. My bet is that Mettenburger is the best QB in the SEC next year, not nicknamed Johnny Football and he dissects us early and then theyWith “The Hat” on the sidelines, you always stand the chance he could make a monumental gaffe that gives you the OPPORTUNITY to squeek out a win, but Miles is the luckiest coach in the SEC and his gaffes usually don’t end up hurting him. Until I see dramatic improvement in terms of effort and execution I will remain doggedly pessimistic in hopes of being proven wrong. Final, Bad over good, 24-3.

    • Col.Angus Col.Angus says:

      “…..then they run the ball and the clock in the second half as we can’t muster a consistent passing attack.

    • Col.Angus Col.Angus says:

      Oh and before you call me a gloomy ANgus, and that SURELY we will score 3 or 4 times, Cam and Co. only scored 17 with Gus’ offense and that was with monster TD runs by Cam and OMac.
      LSU has too much talent and depth to be fazed by the HUNH.

  6. War_Eagle_2010 War_Eagle_2010 says:

    I completely disagree with your projected outcome. The worst AU team of the last 50 years nearly beat a better version of this LSU team last year. No, this is the year we start winning in Baton Rouge again. I’m betting this will be the game Nick Marshall or Johnson “emerges” as the surprise of the SEC’s QB world. Auburn wins 28-20.

  7. domaucan1 domaucan1 says:

    The year I was born, 1938, Auburn won in BR. Shug with Sully & Beasley and again with the Amazins, Doug Barfield with James Brooks’ 210 yards rushing and Pat Dye, with two field goals, came close, but all failed. It didn’t happen again until Terry Bowden brought a team to Big BR, and then again with Tubby.

    IF only, War_Eagle_2010’s prediction could come true, this would be ONE HAPPY BATON ROUGEON. I could wear my Auburn shirts, etc.(which I do all the time, win or lose) AND, a BIG smile for the whole year. Here’s to you, WE2010. May your dreams come true!

    IT’S STILL GREAT TO BE AN AUBURN TIGER !!! AND ALWAYS WILL BE!!!

    WAR EAGLE !!!

    GO BIG BLUE !!!

    BEAT those other tigers !!!

  8. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..Thanks for the comments, everyone!

    …..Oh, don’t get me wrong! When I pick Auburn to lose, I’d LOVE to be the 4-eyed idiot, and have a big win on the road! I’m not sold on Mett, yet, but Miles has had QBs take quantum leaps in their second year as a starter. Then again, he’s had Jordan Jefferson, Jarrett Lee, and Marcus Randle.

    …..We scored three times plus a field goal on LSU in 2010. A dropped/tipped 1st quarter pass interception by Zach Etheridge set Auburn up on the LSU 44. We pounded out 38 yards of that drive on the ground, and Cam ran over folks at the one for the score. Transitioning from 1st to 2nd quarter, Auburn went 44 yards in 10 plays, and Wes Byrum hit the field goal. First downs were provided by two screens to Zachary. Second TD was in the 3rd, as Cam wove 49 yards to paydirt, and wowed Heisman voters. That drive covered 91 yards; a screen for 19 to Adams, a 29 yard buck sweep to Dyer, then Cam veered to glory! Auburn’s third touchdown drive went 90 yards, all on the ground. Runs up the gut by Newton and Dyer gashed ‘em for 20, then OMac went wide and burned ‘em for a 70 yard score!

    …..Wow, that recap got out of hand! Auburn also had a 77 yard drive in the 2nd that resulted in a Byrum miss, and no points. Punter Derek Helton was LSU’s MVP. He had 5 punts for 53 yards, and 4 of ‘em killed inside the Auburn 20. Auburn would have scored more times if not for that, I think!

    • domaucan1 domaucan1 says:

      While the 2010 game was memorable, the one that I remember most of all is THE GAME from 9/13/94(I have a DVD of IT!) with all those wonderful interceptions and that come-from-benind 30-26 win with very little offense. It was pure retribution for this Auburn fan for all the years of frustration at the hands of those other tigers.

      WAR EAGLE !!!

      GO BIG BLUE !!!

      BEAT THOSE OTHER TIGERS !!!

  9. LSU Jonno says:

    Hey guys,

    Just wanted to chime in.

    With regards to the rebuilt D, its not quite as rebuilt as you might think.

    Returning Starters
    Barrow – LB
    Loston – Safety
    Mills – CB

    Also…
    Josh Downs and Anthony Johnson split time as starting DT’s last year, so Johnson wasn’t a full time starter, but has starting experience.
    Same with Jalen Collins who split starting duties with Jalen Mills last year. Mills eventually won the job, but Collins was the opening day starter.
    Tahj Jones was suspended for the year due to grades, but was starting by the end of the year on the 2011 defense and was going to start last year before he was suspended.

    So I tend to count all 6 of those guys as returning starters. That leaves two new DE’s, a new DT, a new LB and a new Safety. Still a lot of guys to replace, but replacing 5 guys is easier than 9.

    Regarding LSU’s performance in Auburn last year…There is no other way to say it than LSU played their worst game of the year, and Auburn played close to their best. Having said that, there were some extenuating circumstances on LSU’s side.
    1) LSU’s starting running back, Alfred Blue had torn his ACL vs. Idaho, the week before the Auburn game. Our running game wasn’t the same after that until Jeremy Hill grabbed the starting job, but that wouldn’t happen until the week after Auburn.
    2) Chris Faulk, our all american Left Tackle tore his ACL in the Washington game two weeks before the Auburn game. We plugged the hole by moving our RT over, causing a shift in the entire line. The rebuilt line played well enough against over matched Idaho so nobody knew exactly how bad it was, but it was exposed vs. Auburn. The line was never the same all year, but it wasn’t until week 7 vs South Carolina that Bull and Dozer (Trai Turner and Vadal Alexander) were inserted into the lineup on the right side. The RT who was moved to LT eventually quit midseason.

    I’m hoping the offensive line will be much better this year now that Greg Studrawa is back to coaching the Oline full time after splitting duties as the OC and OL coach the past two seasons. Word from the spring game is that they could still use some work.

    I think the WR’s will be much improved with JUCO transfer Quantavious Leslie and RS Freshman Travin Dural providing a deep threat that we lacked last season. Dural would have been our 3rd WR last year as a true freshman but tore his ACL in fall practice.

    How good the defense will be is anybody’s guess, but Chavis is one of the best DC’s in the country. Malzahn hasn’t had much luck against him without a Heisman QB running the show.

    27-10 sounds about right to me, but I could definitely see a young defense struggling early in the year. A 28-21 game wouldn’t surprise me either.

    • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

      …..I was all prepared to HARP on how bad LSU’s rookie defense was going to be. Most of the media pundits whose links popped up surely did. Jeez, folks. At least look at the stat page! I looked at replacement LSU defenders, and saw it loaded with guys who played all 13 games, and had stats worthy of a starter. Sigh.

      …..Maybe Auburn will be able to game-plan these new starters. A more likely winning Auburn scenario involves strategy melt-downs by the LSU staff, and/or a bad game by Mettenberger. I’d buy the latter. Problem is that even if Les Miles has mental meltdowns, the opposing coach tends to have 13 guys on the field.

      …..And while I’m at it, it’s time to stop calling Les Miles “an idiot who’ll stop winning when the program Saban built for him graduates!” Even if Saban DOES recruit 9th graders, all of those guys who might have signed with LSU are long gone. Miles has coached 8 seasons in Baton Rouge. It’s his legacy, now. And since all of Saban’s guys graduated at the end of 2009, Les has won ten games every year. I’d take that record and celebrate, at Auburn.

      • LSU Jonno says:

        Yeah, all of the articles published out there by the “experts” are vastly over stating our losses. Besides the fact that we don’t actually lose as many guys as people think…Something nobody wants to talk about is how all of our “stars” basically mailed in the season save for the Bama game.

        Sam Montgomery said as much during his NFL combine interviews. It’s always tough to replace talents like Eric Reid and Sam Montgomery, but it’s easier to replace the Eric Reid of 2012 than it is to replace the Eric Reid of 2011.

        BTW, you do a great job on these Acid.

  10. sparkey sparkey says:

    My least favorite team in all of college football. The LSU Tigers have destroyed Auburn in Baton Rouge for over a decade now. I don’t see this one being any different and I see my least favorite team beating us again in Baton Rouge and beating us badly.

  11. winston says:

    Acid Great post I agree you nailed it on the head although I won’t be hocked with a w I don’t see it although I think we may actually put points on the board unlike our last two trips to baton rouge I expect the final to be something like 41-20 lsu

  12. winston says:

    *shocked