After three straight home victories to start the season, LSU faces its first true test on Saturday when the team travels for an SEC clash with Auburn. It's not the toughest game on LSU's schedule, but it should be a good measuring stick of where the Tigers stand right now.
The LSU offense has been on fire in the early going, scoring at least 40 points in all three games. It will be interesting to see how Zach Mettenberger and Co. fare when they start facing off against SEC defenses, however.
It's been a rocky start for Auburn. After dropping the opener against Clemson, the Tigers went on the road to face Mississippi State and were overwhelmed in the second. Perhaps last week's overtime win against Louisiana-Monroe, which beat Arkansas, will provide a boost.
Which team will earn the SEC win?
Let's take a look at all the important viewing information for Saturday's game followed by a game breakdown and prediction for the battle of the Tigers.
Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala.
When: Saturday, Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. ET
Live Stream: ESPN3.com
Spread: LSU -20.5 (Vegas Insider)
This is a tricky spread. Based on results alone, LSU would seem like the way to go. However, when you consider the schedule each team has faced so far, Auburn has already been tested and should be more prepared for an SEC battle.
It's not uncommon for an elite team like LSU to have a letdown in its first big game after blowing out a couple overmatched opponents. That doesn't mean it will lose, but simply there's a good chance the game will be close than anticipated.
After a close first half, LSU will start pulling away in the third quarter, but it wouldn't be enough to cover the nearly three-touchdown spread. Auburn is the pick.
Over/Under: 49 (Vegas Insider)
Once again, it's safe to disregard previous results when making this pick. On average, LSU has almost been covering this line by itself in the first three weeks. Everything changes in SEC country, though, especially on the road.
Heading into Jordan-Hare Stadium, one of the toughest places to play in the country, is a new experience for Mettenberger. While he's shown good poise in his first season as a starter, he hasn't faced this type of environment yet.
When paired with an Auburn offense that ranks outside the top 100 nationally, picking the under is the way to go here. It's not going to become a shootout.
Key Injuries (via USA Today)
LSU: Alfred Blue (out, knee)
Auburn: No injuries reported
BCS/Top 25 Poll Implications
It's pretty simple for LSU. If the Tigers want to remain in one of the coveted top spots, they must continue to win every week leading up to their early November clash with Alabama. There are several roadblocks before that point, including Saturday.
As for Auburn, it has fallen off the Top 25 radar due to those early losses, but a victory over LSU would immediately bring the Tigers right back in the mix. With three games against teams currently in the top five, they still have a chance to make a major impact.
Will LSU play in the national title game?
Keys to LSU Win
It's no secret that LSU's defense is the foundation of the team, which is why the biggest keys are on offense. If the Tigers can build off their play in the first three games as SEC play gets underway, they will be in terrific shape.
Not having Blue available due to a knee injury will put extra pressure on Kenny Hilliard and Michael Ford to carry the backfield load. Hillard has been impressive, gaining more than eight yards per carry and scoring six touchdowns.
Ultimately, it will come down to how Mettenberger handles the pressure. He doesn't need to dominate, but he must come up with several big plays on third down to move the chains. If he does that, LSU will roll to victory.
Keys to Auburn Win
Auburn must make life difficult on Mettenberger. The defense needs to send pressure and throw different looks at him early to try to knock him off balance. He's proven he can tear apart a defense if given a clean pocket to work.
On offense, it's all about ball control. Auburn has two solid running backs that can rotate to ensure they don't get worn down by the stout LSU defense. Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb need to grind out yards, burning clock in the process.
Auburn is a heavy underdog. The best chance it has is limiting possessions with the running game and making key stops on defense. A few early three-and-out drives will doom the team's chances of shaking up the college football landscape.
LSU 28, Auburn 14