WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 5 pm CT
WHERE: Jordan-Hare Stadium (Auburn, Ala.)
TV/RADIO: ESPN/Tiger Sports Radio Networks
SERIES: LSU leads 28-21-1 (8-3 under Les Miles)
LAST MEETING: LSU beat Auburn 41-25
LINE: LSU -4
LSU is coming off probably the team's best performance of the year in a win over Mississippi State. That doesn't mean everything is trending well for the Tigers. The team has yet to play a complete game as a team and almost let the win against the Bulldogs slip away. Les Miles attributed the inability to close out Mississippi State to turnovers and penalties, which is partly true. The Tigers shot themselves in the foot offensively with a key fumble by Leonard Fournette on a fourth down run and penalties set drives back too.
Defensively, the Tigers have been extremely tough on opposing quarterbacks, chasing Bulldogs starter Nick Fitzgerald in favor of Damian Williams, who helped sparked the comeback attempt. The Tigers were victim of poor execution by the onside kick recovery team as well, allowing the Bulldogs a short field to work with and State capitalized. The Bulldogs did target some of the Tigers in the secondary for 1-on-1 opportunities, which were fairly successful. There's holes for the Tigers to fix, but relatively correctable ones to fix.
Auburn had a somewhat similar start to the season against a marquee opponent like LSU. Both teams' offenses were unsuccessful in generating much of anything against two tough defenses in Clemson and Wisconsin respectively. Both teams have juggled quarterbacks in an effort to rectify that. Auburn has settled on Sean White as the team's starter against LSU with backup and dual-threat John Franklin III available if White can't get things moving. Auburn may lead the SEC in rushing, but that hasn't meant points for the host team this weekend. Auburn has an impressive defense, but the team has to put together something offensively to have a chance this weekend.
Matchup to Watch
LSU's defensive line vs. Auburn's offensive line. Gus Malzahn mentioned it this week that LSU is one of the best teams in the country on third downs and it's because of Arden Key for the most part. That's not to say that LSU doesn't have great pass rushers including Arden Key and Tashawn Bower, who have been effective. Auburn's offensive line has been targeted by some people as a big part of the issue for Auburn. If the Auburn offensive line can't get it together against LSU, there's going to be major issues for the running game for Auburn and any quarterback the team rolls out on Saturday.
Keys to the Game
Third downs. Getting off the field on third downs for LSU will be key and extending drives on third downs on the road will be key. Auburn likes to go at a quick pace and if LSU can't control the clock and keep their offense off the field, it's going to be tough to win on the road. Danny Etling will have to make some plays and so will Key.
What to Watch For
When LSU is on offense: A heavy dose of Leonard Fournette. This was the big man's breakout game nationally last season and expect another big game as Fournette continues to get healthy and shake the rust off.
When LSU is on defense: An aggressive approach. With Auburn's quarterbacks all struggling in the passing game, I expect Dave Aranda to attack them with elaborate disguises in an attempt to confuse them.
When Auburn is on offense: A big dose of Kamryn Pettaway. Auburn isn't fully trusting in its quarterbacks, so expect one of the SEC's best backs to get a big role on Saturday in an attempt to open up some shots down the field. It's the third time in as many weeks LSU will face a zone-read attack.
When Auburn is on defense: Pressure from Carl Lawson. Lawson is one of the most talented players in the country, but just hasn't been healthy all the time for Auburn. He's healthy and Auburn's defense is much better with him.
Tiger Blitz Prediction
LSU wins 35-17. LSU gets another non-offensive touchdown this weekend against Auburn, Leonard Fournette rushes for 175 yards and a couple scores and generally, LSU rolls against Auburn.