Running Game The Key For Auburn

Auburn's running game needs to be hitting on all cylinders Saturday against a powerful LSU defense.

Auburn, Ala.—It will be a test of strengths Saturday afternoon at Tiger Stadium as Auburn enters at 5-2 overall, ranked 19th in the nation, and third in the SEC averaging 197 rushing yards per game. On the flip side the top-ranked team in the country LSU is giving up just 75.1 yards per game on the ground this season and has allowed a paltry four rushing touchdowns in seven games.

For Auburn to be successful this weekend Coach Gene Chizik's team will have to run the ball and run it successfully. That won't be easy said Coach Curtis Luper because his backs will have to do it against one of the top defensive fronts in the country.

"I see a defense that doesn't have any weaknesses whatsoever," Luper said. "They have NFL players at every players, multiple NFL players, at every level. First-round picks all over the defense. They can play the physical game and then they can play the finesse game. They proved that against Oregon. They can do it all well."

Rotating players all over the field at every position, LSU is allowing just 251.9 yards per game of total offense this season and the opponents have just nine touchdowns all year. Even with the expected suspensions of Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon in the secondary Luper said the Bengal Tigers are still plenty strong enough on that side of the ball.

"Two years ago, we were down there and on the third series, I said: Gus they have a new corner in," Luper said. "Oh, they have a new safety in and new linebackers. It was the whole back seven. I'm sure they had some d-linemen that were rotating in. Coach (Les) Miles has done a great job of building depth, a great job of recruiting. They play on Saturdays."

For Auburn's offense to work at peak performance on Saturday it will be up to the running game to take the pressure off first-time starter Clint Moseley. That means sophomore Michael Dyer needs room to run. Averaging 107.4 yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry this season with eight touchdowns, Dyer has been a workhorse all season for Auburn and it's something Luper said is just in his makeup as a back.

"That's his strength, he's hard to tackle," Luper said. "He has a low center of gravity and he doesn't want to go down. That's why he made the run in the National Championship game. Most guys just fall to the ground. He does not want to get tackled and that's one of the criteria I look for when I'm recruiting -- a guy who refuses to go down."

In addition Onterio McCalebb continues to provide a good compliment to Dyer in the backfield with his speed on the corners. Throw in a healthy Tre Mason and Auburn could be at full strength once again in the running game. Luper said because of that don't be surprised to see all of them on the field at the same time as Auburn tries to establish a ground game on the road against one of the top defenses in the country.

"We held him last week," Luper said of Mason because of a hamstring injury. "He's ready to go. He was chomping at the bit last week. We'll have some packages for him, ways to get him the ball. He can make plays. We'll have them all out there at the same time and some point. We have to get the ball in the hands of the guys who can make plays and he's proven that he can make a few plays -- especially in the kicking game."

Auburn and LSU will tee it up Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and the game can be seen nationally on CBS.


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