LSU-Auburn: Five Tigers Key to Beating Auburn

Keyon Jeff@kkjeffCorrespondent IOctober 18, 2010

LSU-Auburn: Five Tigers Key to Beating Auburn

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    ATLANTA - SEPTEMBER 4: Kelvin Sheppard #11 of the LSU Tigers tackles Johnny White #34 of the North Carolina Tar Heels at the Georgia Dome September 4, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    After an easy victory over McNeese St., No. 6 LSU travels to Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday afternoon to play the fourth-ranked Auburn Tigers.

    LSU and Auburn sit atop the SEC West division with identical 7-0 (4-0) records. While both teams still have to face Alabama in November, the winner will be in the driver's seat to get to the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta on Dec. 4.

    It is a matchup between one of the nation's best offenses (Auburn) and a top-notch defense (LSU).

    For LSU to win, here are the top five players they need to play a huge game.

No. 5: Michael Ford, RB

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    Auburn has been generally good against the run, allowing only 101.7 yards a game. But opponents have been able to rush away from stud defensive tackle Nick Fairley.

    Ford is better suited to get outside on the Auburn defense than bruising north-south runner Stevan Ridley, who is the starter.

    The freshman led LSU in rushing against McNeese St. with 10 carries, 86 yards and two TDs. Les Miles is showing that he has confidence in Ford. He will reward the Mad Hatter with another solid performance.

No. 4: Russell Shepard, WR

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    BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 16:  Russell Shepard #10 of the Louisiana State University Tigers is tackled by London Durham #10 of the McNeese State Cowboys at Tiger Stadium on October 16, 2010 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  The Tigers defeated the Cowboys 32-10
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Auburn has the nation's 108th-ranked pass defense, permitting 266 yards a game.

    No matter the quarterback, the LSU pass offense has been limited to quick outs and slants.

    Eventually LSU will have to call immediate and deep routes against Auburn or they will just stack the box. Shepard brings the big play ability to exploit a weak secondary.

    Shepard had his most productive game in over a month against McNeese St. (seven catches, 53 yards), but he still hasn't scored a touchdown since the second game of the year versus Vanderbilt. Time for him to find the end zone again.

No. 3: Morris Claiborne, CB

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    Opposing quarterbacks have been smart enough to limit their throws to Patrick Peterson's side of the field.

    Thus they have been going after Claiborne, who has responded with four interceptions this season, a team high and tied for second most in the country.

    The sophomore cornerback can expect more passes targeted his way while defending Terrell Zachery.

No. 2: Chancey Aghayere, DE

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    Chancey Aghayere replaced Sam Montgomery, who is out with a season-ending injury, as the starting defensive end. He has responded well with 15 tackles, including 1.5 for a loss.

    Aghayere has a difficult task against Auburn. He must prevent dual-threat quarterback Cameron Newton from breaking containment on rushes.

    Sacking Newton will also be a priority for the sophomore. Auburn's offensive line will likely be double-teaming LSU's stellar DT Drake Nevis all game, so Aghayere might have the best chances of getting to Newton.

No. 1: Kelvin Sheppard, MLB

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    TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 07:  Quarterback Greg McElroy #12 of the Alabama Crimson Tide is tackled by Kelvin Sheppard #11 of the Louisiana State University Tigers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 7, 2009 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Sheppard leads LSU with 66 tackles (second in the SEC) and also has 2.5 sacks.

    The senior will have the most important defensive assignment: He must stop Newton (6'6", 250 lbs.) from getting yards after contact, which accounts for about half of his 860 rushing yards this season.

    Sheppard will also be spying Newton from sideline to sideline and disguising the Tigers' pass coverage schemes. All will be key to keeping the emerging Heisman Trophy candidate from running wild on LSU.