Series record: LSU leads the series 24-20-1.
2011 National Rankings:
Rush Offense: 27th/Rush Offense: 29th
Pass Offense: 106th/Pass Offense: 101st
Total Offense: 86th/Total Offense: 80th
Score Offense: 77th/Score Offense: 20th
Rush Defense: 87th/Rush Defense: 6th
Pass Defense: 62nd/Pass Defense: 15th
Total Defense: 77th/Total Defense: 4th
Score Defense: 61st/Score Defense: 7th
Coach Les Miles once again has the LSU Tigers in position to make a run for a conference championship as well as a national championship. Currently ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll and BCS rankings, LSU is 7-0 on the season, primarily on the strength of a top five defense and a physical ground game.
LSU has garnered convincing victories over No. 9 Oregon and No. 13 West Virginia as well as blowout victories over conference opponents Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee. Auburn is 5-14-1 against LSU in Baton Rouge, losing the last five road trips against the Bengal Tigers.
The LSU offense hasn't been explosive or dynamic, but the Tigers have been extremely efficient. They rely heavily on their running attack, which features a three-headed monster in Spencer Ware, Michael Ford and Alfred Blue. The trio of running backs has averaged 158.0 yards per game on 4.47 yards per rush.
If Ware is suspended from the game as news reports have indicated, LSU will play without its leading rusher who has gained 512 yards on 128 carries this season and scored six touchdowns.
Quarterback Jarrett Lee is currently the No. 22 rated passer in the nation with 10 touchdown throws and only one interception on the season. Jordan Jefferson will also see action, giving the LSU offense an additional runner in the backfield as well as plenty of experience on the field.
Coach Les Miles is in his seventh season as head coach at LSU.
When the football is in the air look for Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham to be the primary targets. They have combined for 50 receptions and seven touchdowns this season, becoming one of the best combinations in the conference.
Cornerback Tyrann Mathieu leads LSU in interceptions along with being second on the team in tackles, but like Ware he is expected to miss the game due to a suspension. Coordinator John Chavis has done a splendid job of reviving the LSU defense after a stellar career at the University of Tennessee and Mathis has been a key player in making that happen this year.
LSU possesses a dominating front four, which leads the conference in sacks and tackles for loss. Sam Montgomery, Bennie Logan, Michael Brockers and Barkevious Mingo will likely be the best defensive front Auburn will face this season.
LSU has allowed only 3.79 yards per play on first down, including 2.26 yards per rush. The Bengal Tigers smother the opponent on early downs, forcing obvious passing situations where they are ranked No. 23 nationally in third down defense and No. 13 in forced turnovers.
LSU has been solid on special teams with Top 15 rankings in net punting and punt return defense. Kicker Drew Alleman is 9-11 in field goals and LSU is No. 37 in kick return defense. The Bengal Tigers have a respectable average of 23.8 yards on kick returns.
Inside the Numbers...
•Since 1992 Auburn is 7-3 when out-rushing LSU.
•Under Gus Malzahn as offensive coordinator Auburn passed for 81 yards against LSU in 2009 and 86 yards in 2010.
•Eleven of the last 19 meetings between the two schools have been settled by seven points or less.
•During the last eight meetings against LSU, Auburn has averaged 15.0 points per game.
•Since 1992 Auburn is 5-1 against LSU when rushing for 150 yards or more.
•On the road Auburn has averaged 396 yards and 18 points per game in 2011.
•During Auburn's previous road games, the offense has completed 44 percent of its passes for two touchdowns and eight interceptions.
•LSU's pass defense has been exploited at times this season, allowing 24 plays of 15 yards or more and six of 25 yards or more.
•In four conference games LSU is scoring 32.3 percent more than its opponent allows and LSU's defense is holding the opponent to 66.3 percent below its scoring average.
•In four conference games Auburn is scoring 11.4 percent more than its opponent allows and its defense is holding the opponent to 25.4 percent below its scoring average.
•Take those scoring averages and margins from conference games only and LSU wins, 25-9 or 30-8, for an average score of 27-9.
•LSU enters the game as the No. 6 defense against the run. Against SEC competition the Bengal Tigers have held their opponent to 34.1 percent below their rushing average. If this holds true this Saturday, Auburn is projected to rush for 130 yards.
•Offensively, LSU has averaged 386 yards per game in its four conference outings, gaining 10.2 percent more than its opponent normally allows. In Auburn's last four contests the defense has allowed 307 yards per game. If these current averages hold true Saturday, LSU would project for 338 yards in total offense.
•Since the arrival of Miles at LSU the Bengal Tigers have been the third most difficult conference opponent for Auburn's offense when it comes to generating explosive plays.
Why Auburn should win...
•If Auburn can keep it a low scoring affair, it has an opportunity for the upset.
•As dominating as LSU has been, Mississippi State gave the Bengal Tigers their closest game this season with a 19-6 outcome. With Auburn's improvement on defense and a solid running game, the Tigers could make this a low scoring affair.
If the game is settled within one score, Gene Chizik's Tigers are 11-3 in games decided by seven points or less, including a current 10-game winning streak.
•Auburn could be catching LSU at the right time with LSU's showdown with Alabama, looming ahead.
•The key to playing LSU will be maintaining balance on offense. The play of new starting QB Clint Moseley could give Auburn an effective pass offense to go along with a strong running attack.
Running back Michael Dyer's Auburn team knocked off a Top 10 South Carolina team on the road earlier this month.
Why LSU should win...
•LSU is too dominating on defense for a struggling Auburn offense to have success against.
•Based on scoring margins and averages from conference games only, LSU should come out victorious, 27-9.
•Miles is 42-7 at home as head coach at LSU.
•LSU's average score this season in its four conference games is 33-8.
In terms of strategic philosophy, both teams have similar goals in their approach to winning football games. Auburn and LSU want to establish their running games, stop the opponent from running the football and execute well on special teams.
The quarterbacks on both teams are expected to manage the game and keep mistakes to a minimum. The difference between the two teams is the production of their defenses and the consistency of their pass offenses, both in favor of LSU. The LSU Tigers have a dominating defense and the No. 16 pass efficiency offense while Auburn can be dominating at times on defense and its pass offense has been inconsistent.
Offensively, Auburn will need to be more balanced to have the chance of putting points on the board against the LSU defense. The change at quarterback just might be what the Tigers needed with Clint Moseley at the helm. As he stated himself, what a great story it would be for a young quarterback making his first start on the road against the No. 1 team in the country.
Auburn's conservative approach on offense was what was needed to defeat the likes of South Carolina and Florida, but it won't be enough to beat the top-ranked team in the country. Offensive coordinator Malzahn will have to be aggressive and creative to give Auburn a chance at being competitive for an entire game.
Defensively, Auburn has made major strides since the Clemson game. Some will write it off due to the level of offensive competition, but they would be foolish to discount the improvement. Keep in mind the Auburn defense held South Carolina and Florida to less yardage and points than Florida Atlantic. Are the defensive Tigers where the coaches would like them to be? No, but they are certainly better than they were against Clemson, playing with more confidence and more aggressive in their schemes.
Auburn is certainly better on defense than Mississippi State, which held LSU to 361 yards and 19 points. Ted Roof's defense has been far more competitive against traditional styled offenses like LSU, which is averaging only 369 yards per game.
They say a zebra can't change its stripes, which is the daunting task the Auburn offense faces in Baton Rouge this Saturday. In the last three games that offense has a pass efficiency rating of 74.4, which would be the second to worst in the country if it were for the entire season. It is no secret Gus Malzahn has shown little confidence in the pass game this year and now it will be called on to produce plays against the No. 6 rated pass-defense (efficiency) in the nation.
Look for Auburn to make it a very competitive game, but in the end the Tigers won't have enough playmakers on offense to consistently challenge the LSU defense. Miles will ride his defense while showing patience with his ball control offense until Auburn runs out of the new wrinkles it prepared for this game. LSU 27, Auburn 13
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