Stat Tiger: Analyzing LSU at Auburn

Stuart Carter crunches the numbers and predicts what will happen when LSU visits Jordan-Hare Stadium for an SEC West football showdown in his StatTiger column.

No. 15 Louisiana State (4-1) at No. 5 Auburn (4-0)

Series Record: LSU leads 27-20-1

Last Meeting: (2013) LSU, 35-21

About the teams:

*Coach Les Miles is 127-46-0 overall and 99-25-0 at LSU. Coach Gus Malzahn is 25-5 all time and 16-2 at Auburn.

*Auburn is 4-0 on the season, coming off a 45-17 victory over Louisiana Tech. LSU is 4-1, coming off a 66-7 victory over New Mexico State.

*Auburn’s Nick Marshall has a quarterback rating of 143.6 with six touchdown passes to just one interception. His leading receiver is Duke Williams with 23 receptions for 357 yards and three touchdowns. Auburn’s Jeremy Johnson has a quarterback rating of 226.5 with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Duke Williams is Auburn's top receiver this season.

*Cameron Artis-Payne leads Auburn in rushing with 468 yards at 5.44 yards per carry. Marshall is No. 2 on the team with 273 yards rushing, averaging 6.5 yards per attempt.

*Cassanova McKinzy leads Auburn in tackles with 29 and Montravius Adams leads in tackles for loss with four. McKinzy was injured last week and is questionable for the LSU game.

*Auburn has 27 tackles for loss on defense while allowing 21 on offense. Auburn has nine quarterback sacks and allowed two.

*LSU's ground game averages 226.2 yards per game, led by Leonard Fournette with 322 yards at 5.75 yards per rush. Kenny Hillard is LSU’s No. 2 rusher with 298 yards at 5.23 per carry.

*Anthony Jennings leads LSU in pass attempts with a quarterback rating of 137.5. However, Brandon Harris is expected to start this Saturday. Harris has a quarterback rating of 242.9 with six touchdown passes and just one pick as a true freshman.

*Tarvin Dural and Malachi Dupre form a dynamic-duo at wide receiver for the LSU Tigers. They have combined for 30 receptions with an average of 24.4 yards per catch and nine touchdown catches.

*Linebacker Kwon Alexander leads LSU’s defense with 30 tackles this season and Danielle Hunter leads in tackles for loss with 4 1/2.

*LSU has recorded 29 tackles for loss while allowing 23 on offense. This includes 10 sacks on defense and 10 sacks allowed on offense.

*As LSU’s coach Miles is 7-2 in games vs. Auburn.

*Malzahn's offense vs. LSU has averaged 353 yards and 18 points per game with only six impact plays per contest.

*Auburn’s run offense is ranked No. 18 nationally vs. LSU's run defense, which is ranked No. 70. LSU is No. 31 in rushing vs. Auburn, which is ranked No. 14 in run-defense. Edge to Auburn.

*LSU’s offense is ranked No. 13 in pass efficiency vs. Auburn, which is ranked No. 24 in pass efficiency defense. Auburn is No. 17 in pass efficiency vs. LSU, which is ranked No. 4 in pass efficiency defense. Edge to LSU.

*LSU is No. 23 in yards per play on first down vs. Auburn, which is ranked No. 47 in yards allowed on first down. Auburn is No. 44 in yards per play on first down vs. LSU, which is ranked No. 30 in yards allowed per play on first down. Edge to LSU.

*Auburn is No. 2 nationally in third down offense vs. LSU, which is ranked No. 11 in third down defense. LSU is No. 61 in third down offense vs. Auburn, which is ranked No. 49 in third down defense. Edge to Auburn.

*Auburn is No. 23 in generating run plays of 10-plus yards and pass plays of 15-plus yards vs. LSU, which is ranked No. 4 in those categories on defense. LSU is No. 56 in generating impact plays on offense vs. Auburn, which is ranked No. 37 defending them. No edge.

*Auburn is No. 36 in generating run plays of 20-plus yards and pass plays of 25-plus yards vs. LSU, which is ranked No. 90 on defense. LSU is No. 16 in generating big plays on offense vs. Auburn, which is ranked No. 12 on defense. Edge to Auburn.

*Auburn is No. 12 in turnover margin vs. LSU, which is ranked No. 28 nationally.Edge to Auburn.

*Auburn is No. 51 in tackles for loss vs. LSU, which is ranked No. 54 in tackles for loss allowed. LSU is No. 41 in tackles for loss vs. Auburn, which is ranked No. 44 in tackles for loss allowed. No edge.

Kwon Alexander is a key performer for LSU's defense.

*LSU is No. 6 in net punting vs. Auburn, which is ranked No. 97. Edge to LSU.

*Auburn is No. 1 in punt return offense vs. LSU, which is ranked No. 42 in punt return defense. LSU is No. 66 in punt return offense vs. Auburn, which is No. 118 in punt return defense. Edge to Auburn.

*LSU is No. 30 in kickoff return offense vs. Auburn, which is ranked No. 110 in kick return defense. Auburn is No. 62 in kick return offense vs. LSU, which is ranked No. 55 in kickoff defense. Edge to LSU.

Keys to victory...

*During the last 25 meetings between the two schools the team with the most rushing yardage has won 18 times. During that same time span Auburn is 8-0 vs. LSU when it has at least 10 more rush attempts than the Bayou Bengals. This has been a physical series and the more physical team normally comes out victorious.

*With Miles as coach LSU has won six of the nine games when averaging more yards per play on first down. Since 1992 Auburn is 6-4 against LSU when averaging more yards per play on first down and 4-8 when it doesn’t. Malzahn's offense is built around its success on first down.

*Since 1992 Auburn is 7-4 vs. LSU when winning the third down battle and 3-8 when losing it. Auburn must be extremely efficient passing on third down plays.

*Auburn must avoid a first quarter collapse. LSU under Miles has out-scored Auburn 64-24 during the first quarter, a primary reason why they have dominated the series in recent years.

What to watch...

Under Malzahn’s direction Auburn has run the ball 78.4 percent of the time on first down. Auburn is 21-2, when it runs at least 80 percent of the time on first down and 8-2 when passing more than 30 percent on those plays. Against opponents from a major conference, Auburn is 2-2 when passing 30 percent or more on first down. Look for Malzahn to remain in his comfort zone unless his Tigers are forced to throw the ball more than they want.

Gus Malzahn is undefeated in home games as Auburn's head coach.

Look for more buck sweeps and pulling guards to allow Auburn to shift the point of attack. Auburn can also build a few bootleg-passes off these plays to get Marshall on the edge with a run-pass option.

Big plays in the passing game are great, but don't happen on a frequent basis. It will be important to have Marshall in rhythm early on and this can only be done with high-efficiency pass plays. Auburn may utilize the backs more than usual and give Marshall more slants, crossing patterns and square-ins to throw.

This could be a game in which Auburn backup quarterback Johnson takes more snaps than he has in the last three games. This could be by design or based on how the game is developing. A slow start by the offense dramatically drops Auburn’s probability for victory.

Seven of the last 10 meetings in this series have been decided by seven points or less. This is the kind of game which magnifies every snap. Special teams will likely play a major factor in the outcome.

Final Word...

Looking at the scoring averages and margins of both teams vs. FBS competition slightly favors the home Tigers. Auburn has scored 52.2 percent more than its opponent has allowed while its defense has held its opponent to 51.1 percent below its scoring average. LSU is 64.1 percent on offense and minus 48.0 percent on defense. Taking the scoring margins vs. scoring averages, it translates to a 26-22 LSU victory and a 24-19 Auburn victory. Average those two scores and Auburn wins 23-22.

If you look at Auburn’s games vs. Arkansas and Kansas State and compare them to LSU's games vs. Wisconsin and Mississippi State, it favors the home Tigers again. It projects an Auburn victory of 38-16 and a LSU victory of 30-23. Average the two scores and Auburn wins 31-23.

Six teams from the SEC West are currently ranked in the Top 15 of the Associated Press Poll. This Saturday's Western Division showdowns are about to reshape the destiny of those teams. Alabama travels to Ole Miss, Mississippi State travels to Texas A&M and LSU travels to Auburn.

This is a huge game for the Auburn Tigers and even larger for LSU because of its previous loss to Mississippi State. The LSU Tigers will compete and fight for their lives this Saturday night and Auburn must be prepared for a four-quarter, physical battle. It will certainly be a game of not how many times you are hit, but how many times can you get up after being hit.

With such a brutal conference schedule it is vital Auburn wins every conference game at home. Auburn has already recorded one conference victory at home and its close game at Kansas State could prepare Malzahn’s team for what should be a four-quarter game. Both offenses are still attempting to find their identity while Auburn has performed better on defense. Auburn playing at home with the better defense, better turnover-margin and the edge in the running game should be enough for the home Tigers to win a close ball game. Auburn 27, Louisiana State 23

Around the Southeastern Conference: Tennessee over Florida
Mississippi State over Texas A&M
Alabama over Ole Miss
Georgia over Vanderbilt
South Carolina over Kentucky

Record: 41-7

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