Auburn vs. LSU-The Game Within The Game

Auburn's struggling run defense faces a struggling LSU rushing offense this Saturday night.

The Auburn Tigers (5-2, 2-2) try to get back on the winning track this Saturday night when they face the ninth-ranked LSU Tigers (5-1, 2-1) in a key SEC Western Division showdown at Tiger Stadium. With a week off to work on becoming more physical, LSU will present a stiff challenge for an Auburn team that has struggled in its last two outings with losses to Arkansas and Kentucky.

In every game there are battles that ultimately determine who wins and loses. Field position, turnovers, third down conversions will all be important as in every game, but there is one thing to watch for that will be especially big for Auburn's chances to come out with a victory. That is how well the defense plays against an offense that has been anything but explosive this season.

Despite being 5-1, LSU hasn't been a juggernaut this season with close wins over Mississippi State and Georgia where the Tigers were very fortunate to come out on top. Perhaps the biggest surprise has been on offense where the inability to sustain a running game has caused the offense to sputter at times.

Averaging 23 points per contest, LSU enters the contest averaging 123.8 rushing yards and 171.2 passing yards per game. Their total offensive number of 295 puts the Bengal Tigers 112th out of 120 Division I schools. You have to move up 20 spots to find the next SEC team, the Vanderbilt Commodores, averaging 330 yards per game.

That's quite a drop from an offense that was very good at times last season despite being erratic at the quarterback position. Led by running back Charles Scott's 90.3 yards per game and 18 touchdowns, LSU averaged 166.8 rushing yards and 201 passing yards in 2008.

This season Scott and the running game hasn't been close to the same unit. In six games Scott has carried the ball just 75 times for 327 yards and two touchdowns while Keiland Williams has 41 carries for 188 yards and two scores. They account for all but one of LSU's rushing touchdowns this season. Twice this season LSU has been held to under 100 rushing yards as a team, including 30 against Mississippi State.

The other four games however LSU has been pretty good with 149 yards against Washington, 178 against Vanderbilt, 164 against Louisiana-Lafayette and 156 at Georgia.

Quarterback Jordan Jefferson is a weapon not only throwing the ball, but in the run game as well.

Scott and Williams aren't the only weapons that LSU has yet to get untracked. Speedy Trindon Holliday has just 10 carries for 45 yards this season while quarterbacks Jordan Jefferson and Russell Shepard also get into the mix with 106 yards each on the ground. Any and all will be players to watch this week facing an Auburn defense that has had problems in recent games slowing down the running game.

This week is the ultimate battle of the immovable force against the unstoppable object as Auburn's rushing defense is allowing a staggering 181.4 rushing yards per game, over 50 yards more than in 2008. After allowing just six yards in the opener against Louisiana Tech, the Tigers have given up 167, 207, 146, 151, 221 and 282 in successive weeks on the ground. That is an average of just over 210 yards per game, a scary thought facing an LSU team with a ton of firepower that has yet to get untracked.

If Auburn can limit LSU's success on the ground and make Jefferson beat them through the air then it could be a good night for the visitors. Letting Scott and company get rolling on the ground could be their worst nightmare. Which team can prove their numbers are a fluke and not a pattern? We'll find out Saturday night.


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