SEC Football: LSU Tigers vs. Auburn Tigers in-Depth Preview and Predictions

Dr. SECAnalyst IISeptember 22, 2012

STARKVILLE, MS - SEPTEMBER 08:  Quarterback Kiehl Frazier #10 of the Auburn Tigers looks for a receiver in the first quarter of a NCAA college football game against Mississippi State Bulldogs on September 8, 2012 at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images)
Butch Dill/Getty Images

On paper, it is hard to find much going right for the Auburn Tigers during the 2012 season. With LSU headed to the Plains, things could be getting worse. The Bayou Bengals have outscored their opponents this season by a combined score of 145-31.

Is there any hope for Auburn? The short answer is yes. However, they will need to play far more effectively than they have the first three games of the season. The biggest challenge for Auburn will be to slow down LSU's running game.

However, when you consider that LSU leads the SEC in rushing yards per game (269.3) and Auburn is dead last in rushing defense (217.0), it will not be easy.

The Bayou Bengals will be led Kenny Hilliard, who leads LSU in rushing with 303 yards and six touchdowns. He usually shares the load with Alfred Blue, who is just behind Hilliard with 270 yards and two touchdowns. However, Blue will be sitting out the game with a knee injury.

Spencer Ware is likely to move into Blue's spot but he has also been slowed by a hamstring injury. LSU has the nation's top stable of running backs. However, Auburn must stack the box and make first-year starter Zach Mettenberger beat them with his arm.

Mettenberger has been accurate this season, completing 48-of-66 passes for 609 yards and four touchdowns. While those numbers are solid, they have all been in the comfort of Tigers Stadium in Baton Rouge.

While LSU dominated Auburn last season 45-10, they have been defeated five of their past six trips into Jordan-Hare Stadium. Will Mettenberger lead his team down the field in a hostile environment? 

In my opinion, Mettenberger will be a true star and future first-round selection. However, if Auburn can force a couple of early turnovers, and make a few plays on special teams, an upset is not out of the realm of possibility.

LSU is leading the SEC in scoring at 48.3 points per game. However, you must remember, defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has only given up 30 points once in his 55-game career as a college defensive coordinator.


Something Will Have to Give on Saturday

It has been said that they key to a good defense is a good offense. For Auburn, this will be a necessity. Frazier was more efficient last week, but this week's Louisiana team is much different than the one from a week ago.

Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb will need to step their games up to another level this week. Moreover, Frazier will need to be effective in the intermediate passing game. A couple of home run plays would be nice, but they will need to commit to getting three- to four-yard gains on each play.

Another avenue of hope for Tiger fans is the Les Miles factor. Yes, last season Miles never had that game where his Tigers played down to their level of competition. However, he has in every previous season. Such as the Tennessee game in 2010 when the Tigers were defeated by the Vols until a penalty flag gave them another shot.

LSU is not above losing this game but Auburn cannot give it away either.

Prediction: I believe that Auburn will keep this game closer than most believe in the first half, playing off the energy of the crowd and a conservative approach by Miles. However, LSU will pull away in the second half and send Auburn to a 1-3 record.

Predicted Score: LSU 34, Auburn 17

Predicted Stat Line: Zach Mettenberger, two touchdown passes