Over the past few seasons, the LSU-Auburn matchup has generated a bevy of interesting episodes, ranging from the sublime to the downright ugly. It would seem that nearly 200,000 people claim to have been in Tiger Stadium the night of Oct. 8, 1988, when Tommy Hodson hit Eddie Fuller to rock the world and defeat No. 4 Auburn, 7-6.
During the Gerry DiNardo era, an old gymnasium on the Auburn campus burned to the ground literally feet from Jordan-Hare Stadium while the two Tiger teams battled away on national television.
More recently, Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville celebrated a win over LSU by lighting up cigars with his squad on the grass at Death Valley. Just last season in Baton Rouge, a pre-game display by the Plainsmen resulted in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, a game-opening onside kick by LSU and an eventual Bayou Bengal victory.
In the closing minutes of halftime during very same game, Auburn placekicker Damon Duval refused to yield to the Golden Band from Tigerland that was marching off the field and nearly came to blows with a member of the brass section.
So the question again arises: "What's gonna happen this year?"
The annual struggle for the SEC West Division title usually places big implications on the Auburn-LSU game, generating as close to a true rivalry as LSU has had in a while. Usually the winner of the game emerges on top of the West, and this has bred a true animosity between the programs and their respective fans.
While there will certainly be some unfriendly instances — on the field and off — this weekend when LSU visits the Loveliest Little Village on the Plains, this time the Tigers from LSU have the definite advantage.
LSU is riding atop the division with a 6-1 (3-0 SEC) record and is coming off two big wins against foes from the East Division — a 36-7 road thrashing of Florida followed by a 38-14 plucking of South Carolina.
Auburn, on the other hand, is reeling from a 38-17 home loss to Arkansas and a spirit-breaking 30-23 overtime drop to Florida that saw its leading rusher and scorer, Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, lost for the season with a broken leg.
"I think our players started executing as the game went on," offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino said after viewing game film Sunday. "We had some of the best effort that we've had all year long. That was very encouraging. We just continue to have little breakdowns. I thought we did a nice job physically in the second half running the ball. I think we had them worn down in the fourth quarter. When the players watched the video, they saw that they had their best effort. We were more physical than we've been. We just didn't make enough plays early in the first quarter to get the job done."
Auburn (4-3, 2-2 SEC) was down 23-7 in the fourth quarter of the contest but put together an impressive rally, scoring two touchdowns and two two-point conversions to tie up the score. The Gators were unable to convert a fourth-and-1 from its own 42 with under four minutes to play, and Duval had a potentially game-winning 23-yard field goal blocked to sent the game into overtime.
In the first possession of overtime, Florida quarterback Rex Grossman found Taylor Jacobs for a 25-yard touchdown to put the Gators on top. Tiger quarterback Jason Campbell, who led the Tigers' fourth-quarter comeback, was stopped on fourth down of Auburn's overtime try by Clint Mitchell to seal the Gators' victory.
Campbell is likely to get the start against LSU after increasingly poor performances by Daniel Cobb, who has borne the brunt of many Auburn fans' ire.
Cobb's decline began when he fumbled on the Tigers' opening drive against Arkansas, resulting in a 51-yard scoring drive for the Razorbacks. Since then, Cobb has come onto the field to a growing shower of boos from Tiger fans.
"I think it's just something that's part of the growing process when you're brought up as a quarterback," Cobb said of his detractors. "I saw how (Georgia quarterback) Mike Bobo had been through the exact same thing - ups and downs. Then I saw Quincy Carter get in the same type of deal. It's just part of the position. This is how it goes, and this is what you expect."
"I don't think too much of it," Petrino said. "He's given everything he can to the program. He studies real hard. He practices real hard. He's put a whole bunch into it. I don't think that is how you should treat him. That's hard to deal with."
Not that the Tigers' sub-par performance been all Cobb's fault. Auburn's defense allowed the Razorbacks to run at will, amassing 428 yards on the ground in an option-based attack that the Tigers had an open week to prepare for. Arkansas tailback Fred Talley had a field day, capitalizing on poor tackling by the Auburn linebackers to rush for 241 yards on 21 carries.
"The thing we tried to do is move our front, and then at the last minute get eight in the box. We tried to get the safety up," Tuberville said following the game. "When you have a running back like Talley running at you and a safety running up, it's not real easy to get them on the ground. We were trying to be aggressive, trying to make him change directions. It just comes down to making a tackle. …We were probably a little over-aggressive trying to get our offense back on the field."
The beating that Arkansas administered Auburn should be more of an encouragement to LSU fans than Florida's squeaker win, because the Tiger offense more closely resembles the Razorbacks than the Gators. In Marcus Randall, LSU has a highly mobile quarterback with a rifle arm who exhibited surprising maturity in his first collegiate start against the Gamecocks.
The Tigers also possess a bevy of talented runners in the backfield, any of which would be happy to surpass Talley's rushing total against Auburn.
Regardless of the outcome, the game will be an interesting event. After all, something's bound to happen.
What's your prediction? Sound off with other TigerRag.com readers.
- Auburn Sports Information contributed to this report.