StatTiger's Breakdown: Auburn at LSU

StatTiger (Stuart Carter) analyzes what to expect when Auburn takes on LSU on Saturday night in an SEC football game at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge.

Auburn 3-0 (1-0 at LSU 3-0 (0-0)

Series Record: LSU leads 26-20-1

Last Meeting: LSU 12-10 (2012)

About each team...

Both are coming off victories this past Saturday with Auburn defeating Mississippi State 24-20 and LSU crushing Kent State 45-13.

Coach Les Miles of LSU enters the game with a 116-42 career coaching record, including an 88-21 mark at LSU. Gus Malzahn enters the contest with a coaching record of 12-3 and 3-0 at Auburn.

Under Miles, LSU is 6-2 vs. Auburn.

The LSU Tigers have eight returning starters on offense and five on defense.

Auburn returns six starters on offense and eight on defense.

Auburn has 31 players with at least 20 games of experience and LSU has 18.

LSU has defeated Auburn the last six times Auburn traveled to Baton Rouge. The AU Tigers recorded their last victory at Tiger Stadium in 1999 during Coach Tommy Tuberville's first season at Auburn.

The average score in the last six Auburn-LSU games in Baton Rouge is 31-14 in favor of the home team.

Les Miles has his team ranked sixth in the nation this week.

LSU under Miles is 25-7 in conference play at home.

Inside the Numbers:

*LSU is averaging 218.6 yards rushing per game at 5.5 yards per carry. Terrence Magee is the leading rusher with 210 yards on only 26 carries. Jeremy Hill is second with 167 yards on 17 carries.

*Auburn enters the game averaging 238.7 yards rushing per game with Corey Grant as the leader with 230 on 24 carries. Tre Mason is second with 206 yards on 39 carries.

Zach Mettenberger has stepped up during his senior campaign with a QB rating of 205.3, which includes nine TD passes to zero interceptions.

Senior Zach Mettenberger is shown in action vs. TCU.

*Auburn's Nick Marshall has a QB rating of 144.8, completing 61 percent of his passes for four touchdowns and two picks.

*Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham are LSU's two leading receivers this season. They have combined for 32 receptions, 576 yards and nine touchdowns.

*Sammie Coates and Marcus Davis are currently leading the Tigers in receiving. They have combined for 15 receptions, 233 yards and two touchdowns.

*LSU has 10 players in double-digit tackles with Ego Ferguson (DL) and Jermauria Rasco (DL) leading the way with 30 combined tackles.

*Robenson Therezie (LB/S) and Jermaine Whitehead (S) are Auburn's leading tacklers with 33 combined stops.

*Auburn is currently averaging 440 yards and 31 points per game while allowing 434 yards and 18 points per game. LSU is averaging 488 yards and 46 points per game on offense while allowing 268 yards and 19 points per game.

*Since 1992 Auburn is 7-3 against LSU when AU out-rushes the Bengal Tigers and 3-8 when it doesn't.

*Since 2005 LSU is 33-5 in conference play when it rushes for at least 150 yards and 16-14 when held under 150 yards rushing. Auburn during the same time period is 24-6 in SEC play with 150 yards rushing and 12-23 when held under 150.

*During the last eight meetings between the two teams LSU has averaged 363 yards and 23 points while Auburn has averaged 300 yards and 15 points per game.

What to watch…

*Based on what they have done previously, both teams will focus on running the football and defending the run. The team with the most success on the ground will likely come out victorious.

*Based on strength of schedule, Auburn might be the more prepared team for a close battle. LSU numbers are slightly more inflated and its season opening victory over TCU no longer looks as impressive with the Horned Frogs dropping to 1-2 on the season. On the other hand, Auburn has already faced a conference opponent, but must take to the road for the second conference game.

*Can the Auburn defense control an LSU offense which is currently generating an explosive play every 3.9 snaps?

*Mettenberger is one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the country, but he has struggled when facing 3rd and 10 or more. He currently has a passer rating of 118.9 in these long distance situations. Auburn opponents have only converted 4-20 third down situations of 10 yards or more.

*Can Auburn establish some consistency in it running game against a LSU defense allowing only 3.29 yards per rush?

*If the game is close, Auburn holds a statistical edge in four of the six major special teams categories.

Keys to victory…

*Auburn needs to rush for at least 140 yards to keep the LSU defense honest.

Running back Tre Mason is averaging 5.3 yards per carry this season.

Auburn cannot afford to self-destruct with penalties and turnovers. The environment and opponent is enough of a challenge without Auburn chipping in with costly miscues.

*Special teams and defense need to create short field opportunities. The average starting field position for the Auburn offense the last 31 possessions has been its own 26-yard line with zero short-field opportunities.

*Auburn must be physical just as it was last season against LSU. Auburn's defense is averaging 7.3 tackles for loss while the LSU offense is giving up only 3.0 per game. The LSU defense is averaging 5.0 tackles for loss while the Auburn offense is allowing 4.7 per game.

*Marshall must play as well as he did against Mississippi State minus the turnovers. Since 2000 Auburn is 44-7 in conference play with a pass rating of 130 or better and 22-33 when the rating is below 130.

*Through three games this season 64.3 percent of Marshall's pass attempts have been within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage as Malzahn has called plenty of short and high percentage passes to build the quarterback's confidence. Auburn will have to stretch the LSU defense vertically at times or the secondary will sit on the short routes all night long. The good news is that Marshall has a passer rating of 181.3 throwing beyond 10 yards from the line of scrimmage.

Final Word...

Baton Rouge has always been a difficult place for Auburn to play football games. Auburn is 4-15-1 against LSU on the road and the Bengal Tigers are a two-touchdown favorite to win again this season. This is the biggest test thus far of the 2013 season for Malzahn's team.

Though Auburn is playing with plenty of confidence, playing on the road in a hostile environment can make for a good, old fashion "gut check." Regardless of the outcome of this matchup, Auburn needs this game to see where the team truly stands in terms of making progress under the new coaching staff.

On the subject of the new coaching staff, Malzahn has not had a whole lot of success against LSU. In four previous meetings his offense has averaged 332 yards and 17 points per game.

Though his offense had great success running against LSU in 2006 and 2010, Malzahn's pass attack has struggled immensely against LSU. During the prior contests it has averaged only 97.5 yards per game with a dismal efficiency rating of 91.7. Unless Auburn is able to crack a few long running plays this Saturday night, it is not likely the Tigers will have great success running against a very physical defensive front seven. The pass offense will have to deliver as it did against Mississippi State.

Logic dictates that Marshall will have to play well against LSU to increase Auburn's chances of winning. For this reason alone, I hope Malzahn allows him the opportunity to do so. With an Auburn defense allowing more than 400 yards per game, Marshall will likely have to overcome not only the opposing defense, but whatever mistakes the Auburn defense makes.

Protecting Marshall with a conservative game plan will only prolong the inevitable. Marshall must have the opportunity attack the LSU defense for Auburn to be successful. I'm not advocating throwing the football 40 times, but designing a game plan to take advantage of the matchups LSU will concede. The Bengal Tigers will make run defense a priority and defending the short passing game second. This means there will be opportunities in the intermediate and long range routes.

Based on its strength of schedule through three games, it is difficult to gauge just how good this LSU team is at this point. As well as the Bengal Tigers have recruited under Miles, there should be no doubting their talent level. Odds are this will be a typical LSU team like we have seen for the last 10-12 seasons.

Auburn's coaching staff will learn more about its team on Saturday night and it could be a positive evaluation despite a loss. There have been plenty of good Auburn teams to come out of Baton Rouge with a loss. When it comes to Southeastern Conference games, I always favor the better defensive team with the more experienced quarterback. It appears LSU has both along with home field advantage. LSU 31, Auburn 17

Around the Southeastern Conference…

Vanderbilt over UMass
Georgia over North Texas
Arkansas over Rutgers
Florida over Tennessee
Texas A&M over SMU
Alabama over Colorado State
Mississippi State over Troy
Indiana over Missouri

Season Record: 30-3

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