The Tigers of LSU have their first road test in SEC play against Auburn this weekend, when they travel to Jordan Hare Stadium.
LSU has won 4 of the last 5 match-ups between these two teams, and with the exception of 2012 (LSU won 12-10) the scores have been pretty lopsided.
Since 2006, LSU has lost to Auburn 3 times, all on the road.
Les Miles reminded his team of its 41-7 beat down at the hands of Auburn in 2014, and would not let them relish in the fact that the favor was returned when the Bayou Bengals dismantled Auburn in Baton Rouge last year (45-21).
Sep 19, 2015; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) breaks a tackle by Auburn Tigers defensive back Jonathan Jones (3) during the second quarter of a game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
As it is, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn might be the only coach in the SEC whose seat is hotter than Les Miles.
Auburn has lost 6 straight games at home to SEC opponents and 10 of 12 conference games overall.
That is a rough stat for any team, much less one within the SEC.
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In the game last year, Leonard Fournette rushed for 228 yards and 3 touchdowns. LSU will need to repeat this feat in order to come out of Jordan Hare Stadium with the victory.
Auburn has a solid defensive line and the defense ranks 65th in the country against the rush, allowing an average of 21 points per game.
LSU is averaging 182 yards per game on the ground and is ranked 60th in the country in that category. If the offensive line can step up, I can see the combination of Fournette and Guice having a big day.
Now, let’s flip the sides here.
Auburn is ranked 15th in the country rushing the ball, averaging over 260 yards on the ground per game.
Sep 17, 2016; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers running back Kerryon Johnson (21) runs the ball ahead of quarterback Sean White (13) during the second quarter against the Texas A&M Aggies at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports
Lead RB / sophmore Kerryon Johnson has 278 yards on 56 carries and a long run of 47 yards that resulted in a touchdown.
Add Kamryn Pettway to the mix, and Auburn boasts two running backs that can break a big play at any moment.
LSU is ranked 29th against the run. The front seven will have to bring their “A game” against this potent Auburn ground attack. This will be a big match-up to look for.
Auburn may be solid on the ground, but their air attack leaves much to be desired.
Sep 17, 2016; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers quarterback Sean White (13) looks to pass during warm-ups prior to the game against the Texas A&M Aggies at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports
Much like LSU, the Tigers of Auburn have trouble getting big plays down field. Starter Sean White has a little over 500 yards passing on the year with 3 touchdowns and 1 interception.
The sad thing is, Auburn’s passing offense is ranked ahead of LSU (I’m looking at you, Cam Cameron).
Both teams need to prove that they can throw the ball effectively to open up the run game. I would expect a fair amount of loaded boxes and blitzing from both teams. I would expect LSU defenders Davon Godchaux and Arden Key to be impact players in this contest.
If LSU can get the run game going early, then expect QB Danny Etling to take some more shots down field to Chark, Dural and Dupre on the offensive side of things for the Tigers.
Needless to say, this is a “must win” for both teams.
Sep 3, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; LSU Tigers head coach Les Miles looks to the scoreboard surrounded by players during the fourth quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports