The announcement came down Friday morning that Auburn and LSU will play as scheduled Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium, and it was the proper decision. It was the same decision made by every other Southeastern Conference school.
Hurricane Ivan came ashore Thursday morning, leaving devastation in its wake, but playing a football game is in no way disrespectful to those who suffered loss.
Auburn and LSU spent the week preparing for a football game without knowing for sure it would even be played. That was fitting. No other SEC series has had been surrounded by so many bizarre events.
In 1988, with Auburn's national championship hopes on the line, LSU won 7-6 in Baton Rouge. When Tommy Hodson threw the winning touchdown pass to Eddie Fuller with less than two minutes left, the roar was so loud that it registered on the campus seismograph. What is not widely remembered is that, after LSU took the lead, sensational Auburn quarterback Reggie Slack overthrew wide-open Lawyer Tillman on a play that would have put the Tigers in position to try a game-winning field goal. The loss eventually cost Auburn a chance to play for the national championship.
In 1994, LSU led 23-9 going into the fourth quarter and was poised to break Auburn's 13-game winning streak. But the Tigers intercepted five Jamie Howard passes in the fourth quarter, returning three for touchdowns, and won 30-26.
In 1995, Patrick Nix dropped back to pass in his own end zone. Hearing a whistle, he stopped and was tackled for a safety. The whistle was blown by a fan in the stands. LSU won 12-6, intercepting a pass in the end zone on the game's final play.
In 1996, flames leapt above the stands at Jordan-Hare Stadium as Auburn and LSU played on the field. The beloved old Sports Arena burned to the ground, ignited by an ember from a tailgating LSU fan. Auburn's Jaret Holmes missed three field goal tries and quarterback Dameyune Craig was injured and sat out the fourth quarter. LSU won 19-15.
In 1999, Auburn players celebrated a 41-7 victory in Baton Rouge by smoking cigars. Some of them brought their cigars back on to the field at Tiger Stadium. LSU fans were enraged and some haven't gotten over it to this day.
In 2001, the game had to be moved from September to December because of 9/11. The winner would go to the SEC Championship Game, and LSU prevailed 27-14. Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville had to have help from security to run a gauntlet of angry LSU fans to get to the team bus.
With the nation watching on CBS, Auburn and LSU get together again Saturday. The winner will emerge as the clear favorite to represent the West in the SEC Championship Game.
It will be the fifth meeting between Auburn's Tommy Tuberville and LSU's Nick Saban. They've won two apiece, both winning two at home and losing two on the road. It is interesting that, as competitive as the series has been, the games between Tuberville and Saban have not been close. Auburn won 34-17 in 2000 and 31-7 in 2002. LSU won 27-14 in 2001 and 31-7 on its way to the national championship in 2003.
The oddsmakers say that pattern will be broken Saturday. Auburn is either a 1-point favorite or a 1-point underdog, depending on where you look.
The big questions: Can LSU quarterbacks Marcus Randall and JaMarcus Russell be productive enough on the road? Can Auburn's offensive line, dominant in last Saturday's 43-14 win at Mississippi State, make room for running backs Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown and give quarterback Jason Campbell time to operate? Can Auburn's defense, smallish at linebacker, keep big and powerful LSU tailback Justin Vincent from gaining chunks of yardage?
How those questions are answered will go a long way toward deciding who wins the game.
I'll stick with recent history. Auburn 24, LSU 13.
Other SEC picks:
Alabama 42, Western Carolina 7
Arkansas 56, Louisiana-Monroe 0;
Mississippi State 34, Maine 10;
(Last week's record: 4-2 despite boneheaded picks of South Carolina over Georgia and Ole Miss over Alabama. Overall record: 12-4.)