Tale of Two Tigers

Auburn is on a two-game losing skid and LSU is looking to avoid one of their own. One streak will come to an end on Saturday while the other continues. Which will it be?

Death Valley in Baton Rouge is widely considered one of the toughest venues for a visiting team to enter and compete for a win. That being said, the last time the LSU Tigers donned a helmet and pads in their own backyard they were held to three points. It was an embarrassing display for LSU from the top of the food chain all the way down.


While there’s no doubt that the Florida Gators have a formidable defensive squad, the paltry output by the LSU offense was inexcusable, disgusting to many. LSU was downright anemic on offense and the defense was not as effective as the score might indicate. Forget about the point total. Every time LSU needed a stop on Oct. 10, they could not get it.

Gameweek Links:
  • TSD TV: Brandon Taylor
  • Q&A: Auburn Style
  • Battle Between the Tigers
  • TSD TV: Richard Dickson
  • Jefferson's Still the Man
  • TSD Chat
  • TSD TV: Terrance Toliver
  • Preparing for Malzahn
  • TSD TV: Pat Peterson
  • TSD TV: Jordan Jefferson
  • Turning Towards Auburn
  • Watching Arkansas play at Florida last week, one couldn’t help but wonder why the LSU coaching staff didn’t approach the matchup in a similar fashion. Throw the ball deep. Blitz on defense. Be aggressive. In the matchup against Florida, it seemed like every Tiger, excluding Charles Scott, was reacting instead of attacking.


    This has to change for LSU to begin to be mentioned with the likes of Florida and Alabama in this year’s arm race. The talent is there. The performance has not been. Still, the Tigers head into Saturday night’s game with a 5-1 record, and still ranked in the top 10.


    Les Miles is an even 2-2 at LSU when the Tigers come off an open week – not including bowl games. The question is how will the Tigers respond to such a humbling defeat, and so much inconsistency on the offensive side of the ball?


    Meanwhile, another group of wounded Tigers head to LSU for the matchup. Auburn arrives in Death Valley with a surprising 5-2 record, and a new offense under head coach Gene Chizik. Before the 2009 campaign began, this was a game that most LSU fans penciled in as a “W”.


    Tommy Tubberville, one of the SEC’s best coaches, had departed, and Auburn finished the 2008 season very poorly. Furthermore, Chizik had struggled at his previous head coaching position, and there were questions in regards to his ability to turn around the program.


    The Auburn Tigers were playing some pretty good football before dropping their last two contests, and a win against a top 10 opponent would do wonders for their confidence. They know what they want to do with the football. Can they stop the run? And will they be able to run on the LSU defense?


    A blind man can tell you that these two teams don’t like each other. Throughout the last several years, there have been peculiar calls, devastating illegal chop blocks, flags waved off, and a general disdain clearly evident by players from both sides of the ball.


    This game is a war year in and year out. Don’t expect anything different when you tune in at 6:30 Saturday night. Blood, guts, sweat and tears. You’ll see it all on display in what has become one of the top SEC matchups and always seems to be a dogfight.


    When Auburn Has the Ball


    Look for these Tigers, or War Eagles, or Plainsmen, or whatever they call themselves, to run the ball primarily with Ben Tate. Tate is a big, bruising tailback who brings an aggressive, downhill style of running into the contest. The senior has carried the ball 150 times this year for 856 yards at an average of 5.7 yards a carry. Tate also has five touchdowns to his credit. Expect the senior tailback to test the interior of the LSU defense early and often.


    To add some lightning to Tate’s thunder, Auburn will spell the big bruiser with freshmen tailback Onterio McCalebb. It’s not often that you see a 164-pound tailback carry the ball as much as McCalebb has so far this season. He brings an impressive stat line of 80 carries for 461 yards, and four touchdowns. Auburn will look to get McCalebb out in space and test the athletes on the edges at LSU, provided he isn’t limited by an ankle injury that has plagued him for the last three games.


    Chris Todd will handle the job of running the Auburn offense. To date, Todd is having a good senior campaign. His quarterback rating is impressive at 138.32, and he has thrown 12 touchdowns and only two interceptions.


    Rahim Alem registers a sack against Chris Todd last year

    But the big question is which Chris Todd will show up? Will it be the guy who led Auburn to a 5-0 start and completed 81-of-138 passes for 1,230 yards with a dozen touchdowns and one interception?


    Or will it be the one who struggled in Auburn’s two straight losses – 44 to 23 at Arkansas and 21 to 14 at home to Kentucky – and was good on just 25-of-52 throws for 213 yards with no scores and one pick?


    It’s not a secret that Auburn wants to run the football. Most likely, they will rely on Todd to manage the game and not make too many mistakes. So far, that’s exactly what he’s done for the majority of the year.


    On defense, LSU will start in a base and see if they can handle the Auburn offense straight up. The LSU defense has now gone four games without recording a sack, so I’d be surprised if they bring a lot of pressure and have much success against an offensive line that has allowed the fewest sacks in the SEC – 5. They seem content with the “bend but don’t break” style of defense.


    It has worked to date in keeping teams out of the end zone and LSU in games. Despite the horrible output in sacks, LSU has held up pretty well against the run this year. Expect to see Auburn bottled up in the middle, and forced to move the ball through the air. Third downs will be key as LSU must do a better job of getting off the field. However, it won’t be easy as Auburn converts 41.7 percent on third down, while LSU is last in the league at stopping opponents on that same down – 41.8 percent.


    The strength of this LSU defense is their secondary. Anytime they can get opposing quarterbacks dropping back and trying to press the ball down the field, it’s to their advantage. Imagine how effective this defense would be if they could generate a pass rush.


    If LSU is well prepared, and motivated to compete, the defense should ultimately be able to secure the victory.


    When LSU Has the Ball


    I don’t have a crystal ball at my disposal and I can’t see the future. After watching the LSU Tigers play six games, I have no idea what they will do on offense. And anyone outside of the coaches themselves don’t either.


    However, I’ll put on my coaches hat, and tell you what they should do. They should line up in a power-I, offset-I (near and far), and run the football. They should run a toss sweep. They should run some play action, and look for Richard Dickson down the seam.


    In the last two contests, Charles Scott is running with more authority and determination. If LSU can establish the run against a questionable Auburn run defense, it will open up the field for Jordan Jefferson.


    Jefferson took a step back against Florida, holding the ball, and standing in the pocket confused. Simplify his options and protect him and he’ll play well.


    Russell Shepard has been sick, and hasn’t had much preparation time, but he should see some snaps. Curious as to why LSU has not gotten back to Shepard and Trindon Holliday together, or why they haven’t put Keiland Williams and Charles Scott in the backfield together.


    Les Miles has stated that Jefferson will still be counted on to run the option play. Frankly, that sounds like a mistake. We’ll see. Jefferson has taken some big hits so far this season, and maybe it’s time to see Jarrett Lee take a few snaps to give Jefferson the opportunity to look at the defense from the sideline.


    Brandon LaFell scored the game-winning touchdown against Auburn in 2008

    After establishing a running game, Jefferson will be able to take a traditional drop and look for Brandon LaFell or Terrance Tolliver. This is the best game plan for LSU, especially considering that Auburn has struggled stopping the run.


    With all that being said, LSU may line up in an I-formation on 1st down, and then have Jefferson in the shotgun with five wide outs on second down. Then, just to drive all Tiger fans crazy, they may run an option on 3rd and short. Who knows?


    Watch tape of both teams and one thing is clear. Auburn knows exactly what they want to do on offense. The same cannot be said for LSU.


    LSU has so much talent on offense they are able to move the ball periodically despite the schizophrenic nature of their offense. Did they get some medication during the bye week? Are LSU fans going to see an offense with some rhythm and identity? Well, friends, I can’t answer that, but we will find out soon enough.


    How We See It


    This LSU team is one of the most curious squads you’ll see in college football. By playing ultra conservative football, they can beat almost any opponent, if they don’t turn the ball over and execute the offense about 60 percent of the time.


    It could be argued that LSU doesn’t need to change anything. That they can play exactly the same way they have so far and finish 9-3 or 10-2. I don’t agree with that, but it could happen.


    I don’t expect Auburn to come into Tiger Stadium and beat LSU. Unfortunately for LSU fans, I don’t expect LSU to play up to their potential. Another close game is what you’ll see, and ball security, and special teams will dictate who wins this contest.


    LSU gets out to an early lead and holds off Auburn in another thriller…..


    LSU 24 Auburn 20

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