#15 LSU at #5 Auburn
Saturday, 7:00pm CT, ESPN
Line: Auburn -8.5
History of the Series
History has shown that the game between the two Tigers has developed into a big rivalry in the Western Division of the SEC. Between the years 2000 and 2005, Auburn or LSU won or tied the Western Division Championship every season. Auburn and LSU have met 47 total times and LSU leads the series 27-20-1 all-time. The first meeting between the two was November 20, 1901; Auburn won that game 28-0. In the last meeting, on September 21, 2013, LSU won 35-21. One big stat for this rivalry is the fact that LSU has beaten Auburn 9 out of the last 13 meetings, and since 2007, Auburn has only won one game which was in 2010. But, since 2004 (5 meetings), the games played in Jordan-Hare Stadium at Auburn have a combined total of 19 points of separation between the two.
In 2004, the defending National Champions in the #4 ranked LSU Tigers, were headed to visit Auburn, both undefeated. LSU took an early 9-3 lead, but missed an extra point that would make it 10 points for LSU. That would come back to haunt them later as Jason Campbell of Auburn, threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Courtney Taylor to make it a 10-9 Auburn lead with 1:14 left in the game. Auburn held off LSU to not only win that game, but to go on to win the SEC Championship and sport a 13-0 season; arguably the best overall team in Auburn history.
In 2005, John Vaughn, the kicker for Auburn, became the highlight of the 2004 matchup between the Bayou Bengals as he made a field goal and the game winning extra point. But Vaughn quickly went from first to worst as he missed five field goals in Death Valley. The most important one he missed was in overtime that bounced off the right upright that lost the game. They weren’t kidding when they said “dreams come to die” in Death Valley! Auburn ended up tying LSU for the SEC West Championship, but because of the head-to-head matchup win, LSU went over Auburn to Atlanta.
2006 was one of the most hyped games between the two. LSU visited Auburn with the highest head-to-head ranking ever. Both teams were considered National Championship teams early in the 2006 season. LSU kicked a field goal going into halftime that made it a 3-0 score. Auburn matched a score of their own with a third quarter touchdown to go up 7-3. That would be the final score as the Auburn defense dominated the game and had two huge stops going down the stretch in the second half.
The game in 2007, back in Death Valley, was made famous by LSU’s Demetrius Byrd over Auburn cornerback Jerraud Powers making a last second catch in end zone. A questionable call for Les Miles turned into a miracle play as the LSU Tigers won the game 30-24, on that play.
In 2010, a game that was played inside Jordan-Hare Stadium, displayed two undefeated teams, both ranked in the top 10 (#4 Auburn, and #6 LSU). Cam Newton had a monstrous performance on the ground gaining 214 yards and 2 touchdowns. The game winner was Onterio McCalebb’s 70 yard touchdown run that put the Auburn Tigers on top 24-17. Auburn went on to win the SEC and National Championship riding on their Heisman Trophy quarterback.
Last year’s game was merely a blowout in the first half, as the struggling 2012 Auburn Tigers tried to turn it around in 2013 in Death Valley. Even with the loss at LSU, 35-21, Auburn’s second half proved that they were a much improved team. Auburn used that momentum from the loss to LSU to improve to 12-1 SEC Champions before losing the National Championship to Florida State.
It goes without saying that the winner of this game, more times than not, goes on to play in the SEC Championship game. Or even the loser, like last year. So who are the better Tigers?
Keys to the Game
LSU and Auburn are both coming off their final tune-up games, New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech. Here are the keys to the game for each opponent. Auburn is currently an 8.5 point favorite.
–Make Nick Marshall beat you with his arm: Kansas State stopped the run and made Marshall pass the ball to beat them. He did it, but with an LSU defense it might be harder for Marshall to perform that feat again.
-Establish the rushing offense: After some troubles against Mississippi State running the ball, it will be important for LSU to have success running the ball and take pressure off of their true freshman quarterback making his first start (Brandon Harris). Not an easy task for the offense as Auburn is only giving up 90.8 yards per game which is good enough for 12th best in the nation.
–Keep special teams in check: Quan Bray for Auburn leads the nation in punt return average (36.8), and 2 TD’s on only 5 punt returns. WOW. Not to mention, keep the kickoffs away from Corey Grant, who is one of the fastest players in college football.
–Keep Auburn away from its slogan, “Auburn Fast”: Auburn is known for it’s up-tempo style offense. If LSU can throw Auburn off of it’s rhythm early in the game, they have a chance to keep this game within reach. Auburn has struggled the last two games getting their offense rolling early. It will be interesting to see if LSU’s defense can do the same.
–Don’t let Auburn enter the red zone: Auburn is a perfect 18 for 18 when entering the red zone…which means they score every time they are in it. LSU does not need to let them get that far, force turnovers in the red zone, or at the very least hold the Auburn offense to field goals.
-Put pressure on the QB: It is going to be very important for the Auburn defensive line to make true freshman Brandon Harris’ first start is a nightmare. Auburn needs to develop a pass rush in this game. Ellis Johnson (Auburn’s defensive coordinator) has dialed up pressure from the linebacker and safety positions that seems to be making up for the lack of a defensive line pass rusher.
-Find the running game: Over the last two games, Auburn has lost it’s identity of it’s running game. Whether it is missed assignments on the offensive line, running backs missing the holes, or the defense just figuring out the run game, Auburn has to fix it and rely on it.
-Force turnovers: Auburn creates a lot of turnovers, they have forced 9, (2 fumbles, 7 interceptions) and will make a team pay by gaining points off of them nearly every time. This will be important for Auburn to do against LSU’s offense that would help propel Auburn for a win over LSU.
–Get off to a fast start: Auburn has struggled the past two games getting off to a up-tempo start. If Auburn can score early, this game could be handled. Auburn needs to find a surge for their opening possessions of the game early for a chance to win.
-The ups and downs of special teams: Auburn’s Quan Bray and Corey Grant have done great jobs returning the ball on special teams so far this season. But on the other side of it, Auburn needs to find a punter, and they also need to block better on defending kick off and punt returns. That will be a big key to the game. Auburn cannot allow LSU good field position.
Auburn is playing at home, at night. Jordan-Hare can get rowdy and very loud. This is LSU’s first true road test. LSU is starting a true freshman quarterback. It’s pay back time for Gus Malzahn and company for giving them their only loss in the SEC last season. LSU would like to rebound in the SEC as they already have a loss to Mississippi State. All signs point to Auburn for the win. Let’s just say, I think it will take a lot to go wrong for Auburn, and a lot to go right for LSU.
So… Who will be the best Tigers Saturday? You decide.