In an SEC showdown that has lost a lot of luster over the last two years, the LSU Tigers will travel to Alabama this weekend to take on the Auburn Tigers in primetime action.
LSU has moved up to the No. 2 spot in the AP rankings thanks to their strong performance, as well as the misfortune of a few other teams that were ahead of them. Les Miles' crew still has to prove it can handle itself against quality competition, but so far the results are promising.
Auburn has had a terrible start to the season, losing its first two games by a combined score of 54-29. The Tigers nearly went the way of Arkansas, losing to Louisiana-Monroe, but were able to steal an overtime victory in Week 3.
Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama
When: Saturday, September 22 at 7:00 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Listen: Eagle 98.1 WDGL (LSU); WKKR 97.7 FM (Auburn)
Betting Line: LSU (-18.5), according to Vegas Insider
LSU Injury Report (via USA Today)
RB Alfred Blue (via New Orleans Times-Picayune), DE Jordan Allen (Knee), WR Travin Dural (Knee), TE Tyler Edwards (Ineligible), LB D.J. Welter (Ineligible), OL Evan Washington (Ineligible), LB Tahj Jones (Ineligible), T Chris Faulk (Knee)
Auburn Injury Report (via USA Today)
WR DeAngelo Benton (Suspension), C Reese Dismukes (Suspension)
What They Are Saying
Despite their No. 2 national ranking and BCS title aspirations, the LSU Tigers have had to do some maneuvering to get through games due to some injuries.
As Jim Kleinpeter of the New Orleans Times-Picayune writes, the Tigers have done well to showcase their depth early this season to make it to this point with a 3-0 record.
The play of the reserves helped the Tigers take back control of the game when they went through a lull and watched Idaho get within 21-14 midway in the second quarter. But they also allowed Miles to rest James Wright, Loston and Lonergan with little dropoff, and the SEC opener coming up Saturday at Auburn. All three are expected to return this week.
One reason that LSU and Alabama have been able to separate themselves from the pack in college football through three weeks is the talent at the top and the amazing way they can plug in reserves without suffering a real drop in production.
LSU Player to Watch: QB Zach Mettenberger
While the defense and running game will always be the strength of the LSU team, you ultimately need a quarterback who can make plays in big moments if you want to win a BCS Championship.
Mettenberger has not been tested so far this season, which makes it hard to evaluate him. Given the way Auburn has struggled, you wonder if he will get the chance to open things up from time to time.
Even evaluating the game from afar, I would like to see what LSU does with Mettenberger in this game. It is his first SEC game as the team's starting quarterback in a hostile environment. At some point, Les Miles has to trust him to make plays in big games.
Auburn Player to Watch: RB Tre Mason
The biggest problem for Auburn this season has been inconsistent play at the quarterback position. Since you can't bank on that getting better against an LSU defense that shines in the secondary, they will have to create offense with their running game.
Mason is the key to the running game. When he gets touches, good things tend to happen. He had 14 carries in the season-opener against Clemson for 106 yards, and Auburn was able to keep it close.
Against Misissippi State, Mason only had eight carries for 25 yards, leading the Tigers to an 18-point defeat. He came back last week with 90 yards on 22 carries, albeit against Louisiana-Monroe, but you can only play the teams in front of you.
Mason has to figure out a way to breakthrough that big LSU defensive line for Auburn to have a chance in this game.
Key Matchup: LSU Defensive Line vs. Auburn Offensive Line
This game is going to come down to what happens in the trenches. LSU has so much size and speed up front that it is so difficult to get through, and if you do there are going to be three or four linebackers waiting to drill you.
Auburn has to be so precise and efficient with its offense because it isn't capable of scoring in bunches, especially against a defense like this. If the Tigers can't figure out a way to contain LSU's big men up front, this could be painful to watch.
If you want to pick an upset for upset's sake, go right ahead. On paper, it is hard to figure out how Auburn keeps this game close, much less actually wins. Strange things tend to happen in the SEC, but not with one of the two best teams in the country.
LSU wins 41-17