The "Tiger Bowl" has had it all: earthquakes, fires, magic, cigars, bad calls, comebacks, etc. We mention that every year. This year, however, something feels a little different. With Auburn starting hot and then cooling off most recently with losses to Arkansas and Kentucky, and LSU dropping a snoozer to Florida, the shine on this series has worn off a bit.
I don't expect the players and coaches to agree with that though. For them, this is a must win game.
For Auburn, if Chizik and company want to get back in the good graces of the War Eagle nation again, a win over LSU will be just what the doctor ordered. Even though the game will be played in Baton Rouge and the home team has been extremely successful in recent years, the Bengal Tigers broke serve last year at Auburn with QB Jarrett Lee leading a rousing comeback.
I think if Auburn can get past an LSU team that's been in a fog all season, this season may not be lost on the Plains.
For LSU, this is a must win for the Tigers if they still have designs on a division title and a trip to Atlanta. With the way the Crimson Tide have been playing, LSU cannot afford to drop games especially ones at home. Not to mention all the heat the coaches and players have received from an unruly fan base. A loss to Auburn means bad things for Les Miles and company in the eyes of the insatiable Tiger fans.
LSU will win if...
A little life is breathed into the offense
LSU had a bye week to get some things worked out on offense. I have some bad news LSU fans, if the Tigers can't figure things out against Auburn, then they will never figure it out.
Auburn's defense isn't what it used to be under Tubbs, however their offense has had some octane under Gus Malzahn. LSU is in some serious need of continued drives and big plays and it's possible the Auburn defense may be the cure for what ails a punchless offense in Baton Rouge.
It all starts with the running game. Miles always looks to establish the run and if Charles Scott and Keiland Williams can get out of the blocks fast then they'll take the load off of QB Jordan Jefferson who is still learning his way around the SEC the hard way.
All of this, however, is dependent on the offensive line who has been underacheiving all season. It doesn't matter who carries the ball if the line can't create holes or hold blocks. Jefferson has come under much scrutiny this season but if his line was playing better, he in turn would look better as well.
If the line can hold their own and Scott can average almost five yards a carry like he did against Florida then that should open up the passing game for Jefferson and the scoreboard operator may not get to snooze as much this week.
LSU will lose if...
Mistakes Mistakes Mistakes
It seems obvious and cliched to say the team that makes the most mistakes will lose, but this series is kind of weird and it doesn't always work out that way.
The fact remains that LSU will not be able to afford serious mistakes in the form of turnovers, penalties, and botched fundamentals.
The Auburn offense is potent and the last thing the Tigers need is to get in a scoring contest with AU. LSU won't win that way.
Les Miles knows that in order to win, they'll have to be solid on both sides of the ball.
If the offense shoots itself in the foot with mistakes then they're not going to give the defense a chance.
If both teams play good football then watching Malzahn and John Chavis match wits should be fun for all.
Winning third down
LSU obtained most of its success in this decade by being solid on third down on both offense and defense.
While LSU's offense is in the middle of the pack in the SEC converting on third down (that high?), the defense is dead last allowing opponents to convert at an almost 42 percent clip.
The flipside of that coin: Auburn is second in the conference on offense converting on third downs just after Florida.
This is huge for LSU because failing to convert on offense will keep the defense on the field longer and the defense can work themselves into a hole by allowing third down conversions which may get worse as the game goes on if the Tiger defense can't get off the field.
LSU could become the victim of its own vicious cycle on third down.
The team that plays better on third down in this game will win it and it will be up to the purple and gold to be clutch when the down marker reads "3".
I was really worried about this game but somehow the Auburn fan base has alleviated most of those fears. I'm still a bit frightened of the Auburn offense no matter what happened against Kentucky for the Tigers.
I think most LSU fans are wanting to see the offense open up, but really, I don't think you'll see more wrinkles as much as you'll see better execution on what's already been in the gameplan.
With a week off, I would expect to see some trick play if the situation presents itself, but the Tigers will rely on a heavy diet of Charles Scott and Jordan Jefferson being consistent as possible.
Defensively, it comes down the LSU secondary having to be better than Auburn's receivers. No team in the SEC is better at protecting the passer than Auburn who has only given up five sacks in seven games. LSU gave up six to Florida. Much of it has to do with scheme but LSU's secondary will have to be on their game in order to defend this offense.
The linebackers also play an important role in coverage and will probably face just as tough of a challenge as they did against Florida.
It will be the D line's job to disrupt the passing game by pressuring and getting their hands into passing lanes.
Overall, I think the game will go back and forth and I think it's a game that won't be decided until the waning moments because hey, it's LSU-Auburn.
These teams can deliver on drama.
LSU 27 Auburn 24 OT
For the Auburn side of this Justin vs Justin check out Justin Hokanson's take on the Tiger Bowl here