The Auburn Tigers head into the biggest test so far this season Saturday night. The Tigers will host the No. 2 LSU Tigers in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn is listed as a 20.5-point underdog, but there may be a blueprint that could lead to Gene Chizik guiding the Tigers to a victory.
Chizik has lacked a major win outside of 2010; he needs a big victory this weekend. If he doesn’t get a win, a big loss will turn the stove nob from six to eight rather quickly. Auburn fans are not happy with a 1-2 start. An overtime victory over Louisiana Monroe fueled the fire instead of extinguishing it.
Considering the slow and clumsy start for Auburn, it doesn’t look good heading into Week 4. If there is a chance that Auburn could pull out a surprise performance on Saturday night, this is how the Tigers could do it.
Auburn will be facing the No. 13 rushing attack in the country this Saturday. Auburn has not played against the run very well in the first three weeks, giving up 217 yards per game on the ground.
Auburn will have to find a way to stop LSU on the ground, but loading the box won’t do it. The Tigers will be facing a quarterback that has completed nearly 73 percent of his throws this year. Leaving cornerbacks on islands will not provide the defensive stops Auburn is looking for.
Auburn will give its best effort by staying balanced defensively. The Tigers will be facing one of the best offensive lines in the country this coming weekend, but LSU has yet to face a defensive line that brings the edge pressure that Auburn will. That should help seal the edges.
Auburn should bring consistent pressure, but not at the cost of the big play. LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger has a live arm and could take advantage of an open secondary.
Auburn has introduced a few new looks defensively this season. One successful package has been the L.O. package. It is nicknamed after Ladarius Owens, a defensive end that plays a hybrid role in the formation.
The set is essentially a 3-4 scheme that allows Ladarius Owens to play a roving-linebacker-type position. He simply plays to the flow of the offense or covers the quarterback in a spy situation.
Zach Mettenberger does not bring an option attack to the LSU offense, so allowing L.O. to roam free and play the ball will be a big advantage for Auburn. The Tigers can cover the deep routes and prevent big plays while also keeping tabs on the rushing lanes with Owens’ size providing help against the big-bodied LSU running backs.
Because Auburn lacks ideal size at linebacker, this formation has allowed Auburn to put more productive bodies on the field during crucial downs when they need to shore up the middle of the defense.
Against LSU, this will be a pivotal scheme for Auburn. The Tigers need to find ways to plug rushing lanes while also not giving up coverage mismatches. The L.O. package will fit the bill nicely.
There hasn’t been a lot of success against the LSU defense so far this season, but when it has come, it appears in the deep passing game.
Auburn has a quarterback that can throw the ball deep, and last Saturday, Sammie Coates proved that he can be a threat on the edge. Auburn is not going to open up the flood waters with deep passes against the quality defense that LSU will field, but challenging them early may land one or two big plays and should open up some rushing lanes.
LSU is very good against the run because every defensive player is involved. LSU has great closing speed from the secondary. Keeping the Tigers defense occupied deep should help open up the run early, and it could give Auburn a big play to boost some offensive confidence.
Auburn has yet to unleash the option play so far this season. There is no better time than now.
There isn’t any firm evidence that the Tigers actually have the option in their repertoire, but against LSU, it may be successful. LSU relies on speed to control the line of scrimmage, crashing down on rushing lanes to kill their opponents' rushing attack.
Getting around the edge with the speed Auburn possesses in the backfield would cause some issues for the Tigers, placing some defenders out of position due to over-pursuit.
The option play would be something the Tigers could use to spice up the offense and build some confusion for the LSU defense.
Kiehl Frazier has not been the most consistent passer so far this season, but early in last Saturday’s contest, he showed that he could make the right reads on occasion. One way to help get those occasions to happen more consistently is to push the play action.
LSU plays aggressive football. If Auburn can have some success on the ground early, it can pivot to the play action to help build some steam in the passing offense and settle Frazier in this game.
LSU is No. 83 in the country in sacks right now. They are not getting the consistent pressure that was witnessed a year ago. Assuming the trend continues, Kiehl Frazier will have a little time to watch plays develop, and he could cause some issues for the Bayou Bengals through the air off of the play action.
Auburn doesn’t necessarily need to create turnovers—although that would be a huge help—they simply need to stop giving them up. The Tigers have been extremely giving in the first three games, falling to No. 117 in turnover margin this week with a negative-2.33.
That means the Tigers are giving up more than two turnovers a game than they are getting. That is a bad place to be.
LSU will be very responsive to big plays playing in a hostile environment for the first time this season. The Bayou Bengals will travel well, but they still don’t want to keep the Auburn crowd in the game late into the second half.
If Auburn wants to keep the crowd rowdy and push for a possible win, they must stay flawless throughout the game.
Kenny Hilliard has turned into the Tigers' leading threat on offense. Hilliard is a 6’0”, 231-pound back that bruises through the competition. Hilliard is almost always a two-man tackle.
Auburn will need to be aware of his presence when he takes the field.
Hilliard is averaging 8.2 yards per carry, has 303 yards on the ground and six touchdowns to his name so far this season. Cover the workhorse; cover the offense. There is a line of talent that will play behind Hilliard, but if Auburn can stop this bulldozer, they will be in great shape.
Auburn has struggled to find consistency on offense, handing a lot of time to opposing offenses. This has increased the Tigers defensive snaps, wearing down the Auburn defense and hurting productivity late.
The Tigers are currently ranked No. 98 in the country in time of possession. LSU isn’t much better—they fall in at the No. 51 spot. Still, Auburn can’t allow the dangerous LSU offense to control the clock.
Auburn has to have time to develop its offense in this game. If Kiehl Frazier can get the offense moving, churning up yards and time will be the goal. Auburn can manage this game if it can push four yards per play.
If the Tigers can make getting four yards per play their goal, they can simplify the offense, giving Frazier confidence in the small completions. This would churn the clock and keep the chains moving in Auburn’s direction.