LSU Tigers vs. Auburn Tigers Complete Game Preview
LSU against Auburn is always interesting, no matter where either team is ranked. Last season, No. 2 LSU edged out the unranked Tigers 12-10.
LSU is heading into its first SEC game after a 3-0 start. The Bayou Bengals have looked impressive on both sides of the ball.
Auburn already boasts a conference victory, as it scored with 10 seconds left to beat Mississippi State at home. The Tigers are still unblemished under first-year head coach Gus Malzahn.
Auburn has yet to play a game outside of Jordan-Hare Stadium this season. Going into Tiger Stadium for the first road game of the season is not an easy task.
Only two of the last nine meetings have been decided by more than one possession. But those blowouts happened the last two times the game was played in Death Valley, both of which ended in LSU's favor.
What you need to know:
Time: 7:45 EST, 6:45 CST
Place: Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, La.
Spread: LSU by 18.5, via Scores and Odds
LSU Keys to Victory
Don't Shoot Yourself in the Foot
LSU's first drive against Auburn last season ended with a fumble on the 2-yard line on a bad center-quarterback exchange. This set the tone for what was an ugly game on both sides of the ball.
The same center, Elliot Porter, and quarterback, Zach Mettenberger, will be playing this year's contest. Mettenberger has yet to turn the football over. LSU has only fumbled once in each game, a mark that could use improvement.
If LSU takes care of the football, the rest will take care of itself. Auburn has solid talent but cannot match the speed, strength and depth of LSU.
Get to the Quarterback
Junior quarterback Nick Marshall was clutch last week in leading Auburn to the game-winning touchdown against Mississippi State. Marshall did something quarterback Zach Mettenberger has not done, which is throw for over 300 yards in a game.
LSU recorded four sacks in last year's victory. But the Bayou Bengals were facing Kiehl Frazier then, who is not good. Marshall is a massive upgrade to what Auburn has had in years past.
LSU's pass rush has improved this season. But the defense must hit Marshall early to send a message.
Auburn Keys to Victory
Make LSU Run the Ball
This may sound crazy, but LSU looks as if it's a passing team. Mettenberger and receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry have yet to be slowed down this season.
So make LSU win the game on the ground.
Auburn should not pack the box with defenders. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is too good and will eventually hit the Tigers from the Plains with a deep ball. Also, running back Jeremy Hill is superb at running past safeties who are too close to the line of scrimmage.
Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson could shock his Tigers counterparts by playing his safeties deep and not allowing the explosive plays over the top. Allow LSU to gain reasonable chunks of yardage on the ground, and then make them be efficient in the red zone.
Keep Blocking Schemes Simple
The LSU defensive line is fast. Do not play to its strengths.
The last time Malzahn played LSU, he was the offensive coordinator at Auburn in 2011. His offense was suffocated by the speed on the field.
Malzahn's biggest mistake was calling plays that required offensive linemen to pull, chop and do other techniques that were nontraditional dropbacks. This allowed defensive linemen to initially get free runs off the line of scrimmage.
While the plays are creative, they are nullified by linemen who are speed demons. Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery had a field day in 2011, raking in three sacks that totaled 36 yards. Mingo and Montgomery were aided by blocking schemes they could outrun.
The LSU defensive line still has plenty of speed and will shred Auburn if Malzahn tries to do the same thing. Jordan Allen has rushed the passer well this season, but his only sack came when UAB tried to cut him with a running back.
Malzahn needs to call plays that require his offensive line to block traditionally, particularly in the passing game. If not, it could get ugly quick.
Players to Watch for LSU
Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry
The attention this week will be centered around Zach Mettenberger's stale performance against Auburn last season—and rightfully so. Mettenberger did turn the football over on the road in the SEC.
But Beckham Jr. and Landry deserved just as much blame. They combined for 38 yards on five catches and no touchdowns. Neither could get any separation.
Beckham Jr. and Landry have been the best receiving duo in the SEC. They will certainly want to make up for their lack of production last year in this season's SEC opener.
Alexander is LSU's most versatile defender. He can affect the game on both defense and special teams.
Malzahn loves to manipulate linebackers with misdirection. Alexander is a player with great instincts who can also change directions quickly.
Defensive coordinator John Chavis has plenty of linebackers at his disposal, so expect him to continue a heavy rotation at the position. But Alexander could affect the game on special teams, much like Landry did the last time the two teams met in Tiger Stadium.
Players to Watch for Auburn
Corey Grant and Tre Mason
Can Auburn run the football against LSU? Most would say no.
LSU defensive tackles Anthony "Freak" Johnson and Ego Ferguson are playing at a high level. Ferguson won SEC Defensive Player of the Week for his play last week against Kent State.
Auburn's rushing attack has been exceptional. Running backs Corey Grant and Tre Mason have rushed for 436 yards and four touchdowns.
If Auburn can get something going on the ground, the play-action pass will open up for junior quarterback Nick Marshall.
The Auburn Defensive Line
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger has shredded defenses, mostly because his pass protection has been exceptional.
Former Auburn defensive end Corey Lemonier gave the offense headaches with constant pressure on Mettenberger in last season's matchup. With Lemonier now in the NFL, somebody has to fill that role.
Craig Sanders, LaDarius Owens, Ben Bradley, Angelo Blackmon and Montravius Adams have all registered sacks on the season. If Auburn cannot get hits on Mettenberger, it has no shot of winning the game.
What They Are Saying
LSU head coach Les Miles believes his team needs to fix its fumbling and penalties. If not, it could pay against SEC opposition, per Les East of The Advocate:
"We can't afford in conference play to make those kind of mistakes," said Miles.
Miles says LSU running back Jeremy Hill is "not quite there yet," even after Hill lit up Kent State for 117 yards and two touchdowns. Hill agrees, via Glenn Guilbeau of USA Today:
"Seeing some of my cuts, I definitely missed a few," he said. "I'll just go back in the film room and look at it and improve on those things for next week. I needed to get the rust off and get a feel for playing the game at a high speed. I'm still knocking the rust off."
Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee thinks LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger will have a field day against a porous Auburn secondary:
Auburn's secondary is reeling and Mettenberger is hot, so expect the senior to have a big night in Death Valley in the battle of the Tigers.
LSU against Auburn always produces some sort of drama. So expect a few things out of the ordinary on Saturday.
Auburn showed some resolve at home against Mississippi State. Quarterback Nick Marshall was probably the biggest surprise in the SEC last week.
But now, Auburn is going into Tiger Stadium for its first road game. Marshall is no Cam Newton. The defense has a lack of playmakers.
LSU has played cupcakes the last two weeks, but expect it to handle its Tigers counterpart easily. Jeremy Hill rushes for a career-high 150 yards, leading the Bayou Bengals to their first SEC victory.
LSU 38, Auburn 17