Auburn Opponent Preview, Game 4: LSU

Auburn will face LSU for its fourth game of the football 2012 season in its conference home opener.

Part four in our series of previews of Auburn's 2012 football opponents features the LSU Tigers, who dominated Auburn 45-10 in Baton Rouge last year on their way to winning the SEC West and playing for the national championship.

LSU's stout defense and its combination of a strong group of running backs was too much for Auburn to overcome in 2011. Michael Ford led the LSU ground game with 82 yards on 12 carries with Kenny Hilliard adding two rushing touchdowns against the Tigers last season.

LSU quarterbacks Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson, who split time under center in 2011, are gone and will be replaced by Zach Mettenberger, who completed 8-11 passes last season for 92 yards. The junior will be without last year's leading receivers, Rueben Randle and Russell Shepard, but will have Odell Beckham Jr., who caught three passes for 42 yards against Auburn last year.

LSU also has four returning starters on the offensive line to protect Mettenberger and open holes for the running backs. That area is expected to a team strength for Coach Les Miles.

Michael Ford will be a key returner in the Tigers' backfield.

Former Auburn coordinator Gus Malzahn's offense was shut down last year in Baton Rouge. Auburn was held to 248 total yards, 150 less than the home team. With six defensive starters returning, including ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo who each recorded sacks in last year's contest, the LSU defense could be just as strong as it was a season ago.

The Auburn game will be LSU's first SEC contest since being shut out by Alabama in last year's BCS National Championship Game, 21-0. With LSU expected to make a strong push at winning it first national championship since 2007, Auburn will face the task of trying to knock off the defending SEC champs, who should be an experienced and confident opponent.

Key Players to Replace:Wide receiver Rueben Randle recorded a team-leading 917 yards and eight touchdowns on 53 catches in 2011. Safety Brandon Taylor made 71 tackles a season ago adding 7 1/2 tackles for a loss. Linebacker Ryan Baker recorded 64 tackles in 2011 with 3 1/2 for a loss a year ago. Cornerback Morris Claiborne lead the team with six interceptions last season along with 51 tackles. Jarrett Lee played in all 13 games last year, throwing for 1,306 yards and 14 touchdowns and three interceptions on 104-167 passing.

All-Star Candidates:Running back Michael Ford (127 rushes, 756 yards, 7 TDs); running back Spencer Ware (177 rushes, 707 yards, 8 TDs); wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (41 receptions, 475 yards, 2 TDs); safety Eric Reid (76 tackles, 2 INT, 2 forced fumbles); cornerback Tyrann Mathieu (76 tackles, 2 INT, 6 forced fumbles, 5 fumble recoveries); defensive end Sam Montgomery (49 tackles, 13 1/2 TFL, 9 sacks); defensive end Barkevious Mingo (46 tackles, 15 TFL, 8 sacks)

Spencer Ware's return will help the Tigers' rushing attack in 2012.

Series Results:LSU leads 25-20-1

LSU's Schedule:

Sept. 1--North Texas at LSU
Sept. 8--Washington at LSU
Sept. 15--Idaho at LSU
Sept. 22--LSU at Auburn
Sept. 29--Towson at LSU
Oct. 6--LSU at Florida
Oct. 13--South Carolina at LSU
Oct. 20--LSU at Texas A&M
Nov. 3--Alabama at LSU
Nov. 10--Mississippi State at LSU
Nov. 17--Ole Miss at LSU
Nov. 23--LSU at Arkansas

Key Games for LSU

South Carolina at LSU-This mid-season matchup provides what could be one of LSU's toughest tests this season if the Gamecocks are in the hunt to win the SEC East, which is expected to be the case. A major reason South Carolina is one of the favorites in the East is the return to good health of junior Marcus Lattimore, the top running back in the conference. LSU's defense vs. Lattimore should make for a compelling matchup.

Alabama at LSU-With national title implications on this game twice a season ago, the 2012 rivalry game should be a fierce one. Alabama coach Nick Saban's return to Baton Rouge to face his old team will have Death Valley rocking well before the 7 p.m. kickoff as the Tigers look for revenge from their BCS Championship loss to the Crimson Tide in January.

LSU at Arkansas-The Battle of the Golden Boot makes its first trip to Fayetteville since 1992, which dates back to before this rivalry was given its nickname. Despite interim head coach John L. Smith taking over the Razorbacks under trying circumstances, with returning quarterback Tyler Wilson still having good receivers to throw to and star tailback Knile Davis back from an injury the Razorbacks are a major threat to LSU or anybody else on their schedule.

Tyrann Mathieu returns to LSU's secondary as a 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist.

Worth Noting:Although the first 11 of 13 meetings in this series involved the losing team being shut out, neither Auburn nor LSU have remained scoreless in the Tigers vs. Tigers matchups since 1935.

The Challenge For Auburn:The LSU defensive line pressured Auburn quarterback Clint Moseley repeatedly in 2011, recording six sacks. Combine that with an Auburn running attack that only gained 146 yards and netted 87, the home team was able to cruise to victory after taking control of the contest just before halftime. With three defensive linemen returning for LSU, Auburn will struggle offensively in the 2012 matchup if its offensive line isn't able to perform more effectively than it did last year in Baton Rouge.

Game 3, Louisiana-Monroe

Game 2, Mississippi State

Game 1, Clemson

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