"We know it's going to be a tough game because we're going to their house and both of us have good defenses," said LSU senior defensive end Tyson Jackson. "It will probably be low scoring like the last two times we went there."
Low scoring would be fine with LSU fans as long as the results are different since the Tigers haven’t won in Jordan Hare Stadium since 1998.
Leading Franklin’s attack is junior college transfer Chris Todd, who has started the last two games and has been good on 44 of 75 passes for 472 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Todd is the better passer while Kodi Burns, who started the opener against UL-Monroe, is the more dangerous runner of the two.
Burns has rushed for 68 yards and a touchdown but through the air he has passed for only 15 yards and has completed only 4 of 12 passes with one going to the opposition.
The two were locked in a fierce battle in fall camp and after the Tigers posted only three points on a field goal last week to hold off Mississippi State some thought that Tommy Tuberville may opt to go back to Burns.
However, that is not the case.
“If Kodi gets in the game, it will be for reasons of game plan and what they’re doing to us on defense,” said Tuberville.
The problems with Auburn’s offense last week and in the first three games do not rest solely on the shoulders of its signal callers.
Rather, it’s been a case of execution by everyone involved.
“I knew that we would make a lot of mistakes,” Tuberville said. “But we have to keep in mind that this offense is new to me. It’s new to the coaches and it’s new to the players. So, it’s a learning process that we all have to go through but one thing I didn’t expect was for us to fumble eight times in the last two games and have as many penalties and problems kicking field goals.”
Auburn is 11th in the league with 25 penalties but the dozen that they committed against Mississippi State make up nearly half of that total.
The fumbles are another problem for the offense as it has lost six of eight over the last two games with three in each contest.
Ball security is something that every coach harps on and the War Eagles worked overtime this week on that aspect of the game.
Aside from coughing the ball up, though, the running game has been the silver lining thus far averaging 204 yards a game led by Ben Tate with the help of his men in the trenches.
The big bruiser, as some refer to him as, has run for 278 yards and a touchdown, and is running at a clip of 5.8 yards a carry and 92 yards a game.
If Tate is the thunder then Brad Lester is the lightning but it remains to be seen just how much lightning LSU will see on Saturday since Lester went down with an apparent neck injury.
“He’s been cleared by to play and he has gotten better throughout the week but it will be up to Brad to see how much he plays,” said Tuberville.
Auburn’s passing game is not clicking the way Franklin and Tuberville envisioned with 162 yards a game but one thing they like about Todd is the way he has spread the ball around with 13 different receivers catching a pass led by Rodrique Smith’s team-leading eight receptions.
There doesn’t seem to be a lot of mystery for what Auburn intends to do on Saturday, at least in LSU’s mind.
“We know they’re going to try and spread the field and use both quarterbacks so we’re just going to have to be ready,” Jackson said. “They have a lot of speed but we have a lot of speed too so it should be a good matchup. Like I tell the guys, we just have to go in and play LSU football.”
In the past, playing LSU football has been characterized by a defense that prides itself in pressuring the quarterback and utilizing its team speed to harass its opponents from one sideline to the other.
The anchor of LSU’s defense in the past has been its defensive line but one thing the spread attack and quick passing game can do is neutralize the men up front.
That’s been the case the first two weeks as LSU’s defensive linemen have recorded only 2.5 sacks and only two quarterback hurries.
Despite those numbers, Tuberville knows his offensive line that averages 6-4 and 289 pounds across the front will have its handful with Jackson (3 tackles, 1 TFL), Ricky Jean-Francois (3 tackles), Charles Alexander (2 tackles), Al Woods (4 tackles), Tremaine Johnson (6 tackles), Kirston Pittman (3 tackles), and company.
“They have as talented of a front four as we’re going to see and probably that you’ll find anywhere,” said Tuberville. “They have as much team speed as anyone in the country and they are very physical. This game is always our most physical game of the year and we expect it to be like that again this year.”
LSU’s defense is fifth in America in scoring defense allowing only eight points a game and is 12th in total defense yielding 219 yards an outing.
This week, Doug Mallory and Bradley Dale Peveto’s unit will be without one of its biggest playmakers and the guy who gets the signals from the sidelines in Darry Beckwith, who is out with a knee injury.
Starting in his place is junior middle linebacker Jacob Cutrera, who has three career starts but none have been bigger than the one on his horizon.
“I don’t think there will be any real issue with him stepping in to communicate with the defense,” said Les Miles. “I think he has earned the respect of this team and I don’t think there will be a problem with them joining to make calls…Certainly I think Jacob will do a great job in his absence.”
Both have played well but just like several other young players will have to do this weekend they will have to grow up in a hurry.
Auburn has thrown the ball downfield more that it has in recent memory and that is likely to continue according to the man roaming the sidelines.
“We’ve thrown more deep balls and gone vertical more in the first three games than ever before,” said Tuberville. “I imagine we’ll continue to do that.”
Whether the riverboat gambler is trying to bluff Miles or if he is actually tipping his hand it won’t be known until Saturday.
Regardless of what Tuberville says, Miles has his own strategy and mode of attack. His defense is giving up a mere 48 yards a game on the ground and will need to bring it’s A-game on this trip.
“We need to slow those quarterbacks and those running backs down on the offensive side. That’s going to be the challenge anytime you play Auburn,” said Miles.
Something else to expect anytime you play Auburn is a battle and that is what LSU is expecting.
“Every time we go over there or they come over here it is a battle,” Cutrera said. “I mean it’s a battle. We don’t hold back nothing and they don’t hold back nothing. We’re going to have to come out on fire and they’ll come out on fire. It’s going to be a war out there.”