Baton Rouge, La.--The time has come once again for the biggest game in the SEC's Western Division this season. Just like it has been for much of the last 10 years, Auburn versus LSU Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium should be a knock-down, drag-out of mythic proportions.
In his second season at the helm of LSU's football program, Coach Les Miles has already gotten a taste of what this game has become. Last year LSU survived an overtime battle against Auburn on the way to winning the division title and earning a spot in Atlanta. Now preparing to face Auburn for the second time he says that he sees a lot to like about Auburn's offense heading into Saturday's game.
"The Auburn Tigers, third-ranked, are a tremendous football team," Miles says. "You look at them on film and you understand whey they are third-ranked. On offense with Kenny Irons and Brad Lester and Brandon Cox on offense it's a very efficient offense. They run the football well. Brandon Cox has yet to throw an interception this year. He's a very quality quarterback that handles checks and the mechanism of their offense very well.
Kenny Irons rushed for a career-high 218 yards last season against LSU.
"The offensive line graduated a number of guys," Miles adds. "You would expect that there might be some fall-off but they've really replaced those veterans with quality guys. They come off the football and protect the passer extremely well. Their wide receiver and go-to guy Courtney Taylor has had several big games and is off to a fast start. Offensively we're going to have to prepare well. They are awfully talented. We look forward to that challenge."
Looking at the other side of the football Miles says that Auburn is a complete unit under the direction of first-year coordinator Will Muschamp. Allowing just seven points per contest after games against Washington State and Mississippi State, Auburn is healthy and ready to face a LSU offense that leads the SEC in scoring at 45 points per contest. Miles says that he's been impressed by how quickly Auburn has adjusted to Muschamp's system and the things he does.
"On defense their front is a group of guys that really play concepts well," Miles says. "They understand where they are supposed to be. Everybody is in their appropriate spot and designation. Their front seven are real capable. Probably their biggest, fastest linebacker is Will Herring. He's a guy that gets to the ball and plays a number of roles for them. He plays on the tight end in the number of fronts they have, a very capable guy.
"There's another Irons (David Irons) in their secondary, number four, he's a very talented corner," he adds. "They always seem to be in the right spots. They make great adjustments to formation changes. They are a very aggressive defense. Will Muschamp has done a great job with them. They have incorporated a nice okie package (5-2 alignment) that they haven't had before. They've used it extensively the first two weeks. We look forward to attacking that defense."
Both LSU and Auburn could have some advantages when Auburn's defense is on the field because of the familiarity between Muschamp and LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher. While it should work both ways with each unit expected to add some new wrinkles this week, Miles says that in the end it won't matter a great deal in the game because it comes down to players making plays.
"I don't think so," Miles answers when asked if they have an advantage facing Muschamp. "I can tell you we certainly respect the work that Coach Muschamp did here and the work he's doing at Auburn but it's different times and different players and a different school. We know Will and the style of guy that he is but I don't know that we'll be able to use that specifically on the football field."
Following tune-up games for both, the eyes of the nation will be on Saturday's match up between Top 10 teams as each team is looking to make some noise early in the season. Miles says because of the hype and importance of the game he doesn't think he'll have any problems having his team ready to play this weekend in this season's biggest game.
"They have a quality, quality football team," Miles says. "There isn't any question. We look forward to preparing for them. I think you'll find there will be a lot of enthusiasm around our building. There will be guys looking to get after and play a traditional West opponent. We understand this only counts one. We understand that at the end of the year this will tally in one area, under the ‘W' or the ‘L'. But it is a very big one. We look forward to preparing for Auburn."