The No. 19 Auburn Tigers (5-2, 3-1 SEC) travel to Baton Rouge Saturday to face the No. 1 LSU Tigers (7-0, 4-0 SEC).
The LSU Tigers were ranked first in the initial BCS Standings released on Sunday night. Auburn is ranked 20th.
Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. CT on Saturday afternoon. The game will be nationally televised on CBS.
The Tigers have been dominant this season and will enter the game ranked No. 1 in both the polls and the BCS Standings. LSU, looking to go 8-0 for the first time since 1973 and has defeated all seven of their opponents by double digits.
Les Miles’ team is sparked by a talented defense that ranks among the nation’s best. The Tigers are giving up only 11.7 points per game, which ranks seventh in the nation. LSU checks in at fourth overall, with opponents only managing 251.9 yards per contest. Standout cornerbacks Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne, as well as pass rusher Sam Montgomery, are some of the key players to watch. The Tigers have given up only 31 total points over their first four SEC games.
LSU’s offense is not to be overshadowed, averaging 38.4 points per game. Steady veteran quarterback Jarrett Lee is surrounded by plenty of talent, led by an excellent wideout in Rueben Randle. The Tigers employ a committee approach at running back, with Spencer Ware leading the way.
This is the 45th meeting between the two sets of Tigers. LSU holds a 23-20-1 advantage heading into Saturday’s game.
Auburn has not won a game in Baton Rouge since 1999, with LSU winning the last five meetings as the home team. Auburn is 5-14-1 overall when visiting LSU, while Les Miles is 40-6 at home during his LSU tenure.
The winner of this game has gone on to reach the SEC Championship Game in seven of the last 11 seasons.
The Tigers will feature a new starting quarterback this weekend, as sophomore Clint Moseley will be under center. Moseley replaces Barrett Trotter, who threw for 1,009 yards and 10 touchdowns over the first seven games.
“We spent the last 48 hours really evaluating and looking again at what we think is best for Auburn, and we’re going to start Clint Moseley,” Chizik said in his Tuesday press conference. “We’ve been struggling offensively the last few weeks. I don’t think that’s a secret. I feel like we need a spark there.”
Moseley, who was passed over as the starter heading into the season, was inserted as the starter last week against Florida after Trotter struggled in the first half. He completed 4-of-7 passes for 90 yards in his first extended action of the season.
I wrote last week about how sophomore defensive end Corey Lemonier is emerging as a star for Auburn. He backed up the hype against Florida, earning SEC Player of the Week honors with six tackles, two sacks and four quarterback hurries.
“I just think that he’s at the point in his career where he’s got the game figured out, he’s getting better and better, the game has slowed down for him,” said Gene Chizik about Lemonier. “We talked after the first couple of games. I was not pleased with his production at all, and I feel like he’s really taken it upon himself to take his game to a new level.”
Auburn will need a similar effort from Lemonier on Saturday in order to put pressure on LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee, who has been very accurate this season.
Auburn running back Michael Dyer had a tough night against Florida, rushing for 73 yards on 23 carries. Despite the off night, he is still one of the nation’s best running backs, ranking 13th in the nation with 713 yards.
Things won’t be any easier on Saturday, as Dyer will have to handle one of the nation’s best run defenses. LSU only gives up 75.1 yards rushing per game, the sixth best average in the nation.
With Auburn breaking in a new starting quarterback in one of the most hostile environments in college football, it’s imperative that Dyer gets off to a good start on Saturday. He ran for 100 yards on 15 yards in last year’s meetings between the teams, but now there is no Cam Newton for LSU to focus on.
LSU’s defense has plenty of starts, but the biggest this season has been sophomore cornerback Tyrann Mathieu. The New Orleans native, nicknamed “Honey Badger," has been making plays all over the field for LSU. His knack for big plays has led some to tout Mathieu as a Heisman Trophy candidate.
He enters Saturday leading the SEC with three fumble recoveries and four forced fumbles. He also has two interceptions on the year and is second on LSU with 42 tackles.
Mathieu was named Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in the win over West Virginia that included a forced fumble and recovery and an interception. He also earned the Jim Thorpe Defensive Back of the Week honors in the victory over Oregon.
Auburn will see a change on the offensive line this week. Jared Cooper is now out for the season with a foot injury, so redshirt freshman Chad Slade is the full-time starter at left guard. Slade initially filled in at right tackle to begin the season.
Senior wide receiver Emory Blake, Auburn’s top receiver, is questionable again heading into Saturday’s game. Blake briefly played against Florida but is still hampered by an ankle injury. Fellow wideout Trovon Reed is also still questionable after missing the last three games.
The LSU quarterback situation was thrown into flux before the season with Jordan Jefferson’s legal troubles. Fifth-year senior Jarrett Lee stepped in and excelled with Jefferson under suspension. Lee has now thrown 11 touchdowns and only one pick, totaling 1,085 yards.
Jefferson was cleared a few weeks ago and has been sharing playing time with Lee. The unusual situation has worked so far, as the Tigers have kept winning.
The strategy can be a challenge for Auburn, as they now have two talented quarterbacks they have to prepare for rather than one. Lee is a highly accurate passer at 62.2 percent, while Jefferson adds a running element that makes him especially dangerous in the red zone.
The odds seem stacked against Auburn with a new starting quarterback on the road against possibly the most talented defense in the nation.
In a better situation, Auburn would be able to rely heavily on the run and have Moseley try to do too much, but LSU is as good at anyone at stopping the run.
Auburn’s defense had a good game against Florida, but LSU will be a much bigger challenge with an experienced quarterback and playmakers all over the field.