LSU vs. Auburn: For Gene Chizik, a Moral Victory Is Possible vs. LSU

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterSeptember 20, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31:  Head coach Gene Chizik of the Auburn Tigers against the Virginia Cavaliers during the 2011 Chick Fil-A Bowl at Georgia Dome on December 31, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It's a cliche, but it's often true.

"There is no such thing as a moral victory."

However, for Auburn head coach Gene Chizik, there is such a thing this weekend.

Chizik's Tigers have sputtered to a 1-2 record to start the season, and are facing the No. 2 LSU Tigers on the Plains this weekend.

If Auburn can compete, it's certainly a step in the right direction for Chizik and the Auburn program.

Just how bad is it for the Tigers?

New offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler's offense is last in the SEC in total offense (336 yards per game), last in passing offense (160.7 YPG) and last in scoring offense (20 points per game). Meanwhile, first-year defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder's defense is last in rushing defense (217 YPG) and 13th in total defense (442 YPG).

That's not exactly what Chizik had in mind when he brought them in.

The slow start, coupled with a 17-12 record at Auburn in years outside of the magical 2010 national championship run, have brought Chizik's job status into question.

To be clear, barring a total disaster—as in, a 3-9 season—Chizik won't be fired. However, judging from the first three weeks of the season, a total disaster seems more possible for this Auburn team than it did in August.

It's for that reason that a close loss, or a loss in which Auburn executes better than it has in the last two games, would be encouraging against LSU this weekend.

It takes time to break in new systems, and the amount of time varies from program to program, based on situation.

We saw Florida struggle going from the spread to the pro-style last season.

Sure, the Gators' woes were exaggerated by injuries to quarterbacks and the decided schematic advantage that then-offensive coordinator Charlie Weis didn't bring to Gainesville.

However, this year, the Gators look like a different team thanks to the emergence of Mike Gillislee as a reliable every-down back and Jeff Driskel as a legitimate weapon at quarterback.

If Auburn's offense looks better this weekend against an LSU defense that's statistically the best in the SEC (205 YPG), it's absolutely something that Auburn can build on.

If Auburn's defense—particularly the linebackers—show flashes of competence against the vaunted LSU rushing attack (even without Alfred Blue), that's a step in the right direction.

LSU will enter Jordan-Hare Stadium as nearly three-touchdown favorites for a reason. Auburn has been consistently inconsistent on both sides of the football. If that changes this weekend versus LSU, it will be a moral victory for Chizik's crew and send them into the bye week with at least a little bit to look forward to.