Who: Auburn Tigers (3-0, 1-0) at #6 LSU Tigers (3-0, 0-0)
When: 6:45 p.m. CT (ESPN)
Where: Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, LA
All-Time Series Record: LSU leads 26-20-1
Most Recent Meeting: LSU 12, Auburn 10 (2012)
The Earthquake Game in 1988. The Interception Game in 1994. The Night the Barn Burned in 1996. The Cigar Game in 1999. The Extra Point/Hurricane Game in 2004. The John Vaughn Game in 2005. The 7-3 Game in 2006. The One-Second-Left Game in 2007. Cam Newton’s Run in 2010.
Needless to say, the “Tiger Bowl” (that’s not the rivalry’s official name, but it sure does have a nice ring to it) has had its share of spectacular moments, cementing itself as one of the strangest and most thrilling rivalries in the SEC.
Could another classic be in the making in 2013? With two unbeaten teams with high-flying offenses facing off in a night game at Death Valley, it most certainly could be a thriller.
Yes, Les Miles’s Bayou Bengals are 17-point favorites, but as history shows, this game rarely goes as expected. Just look at last year, when a 1-2, poorly coached Auburn team nearly took down #2 LSU at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn-LSU is always a game that both fanbases look forward to. It’s usually a very good game, and with Gus Malzahn calling the shots on the Plains once again, this match-up has a real substance to it that it has been lacking for the past couple of seasons.
I mean, just LOOK at this ESPN commercial promoting the game. Doesn’t it just make you want to run through a wall while riding a dinosaur and shooting off fireworks?
Anyways, here’s a preview of this year’s Tiger Bowl….
Key for Auburn: Secondary play. Starting CB Chris Davis might not play against LSU, which is bad news for Auburn. Worse news, the Tigers are dead-last in the SEC against the pass. Granted, that was expected early in the season seeing as the first opponent was Mike Leach and Washington State, but still, 276 passing yards per game on defense doesn’t bode well against a QB like Zach Mettenberger, who has thrown for 797 yards, 9 TD and no INTs in three games in Cam Cameron’s dynamic offensive scheme. Guys in the back seven will have to step up more than ever to stop what is easily the best offense they’ve faced yet.
Key for LSU: Ball security. If early forecasts come to fruition, there will be a little bit of water in Baton Rouge on Saturday. There will be thunderstorms in Baton Rouge throughout the day, so even if the rain stops before kickoff, the field will surely be slippery. LSU’s offense has been extremely good at keeping the ball so far, as Mettenberger has no interceptions and the talented stable of running backs haven’t had one lost fumble in 71 carries. However, battling the weather and an Auburn defense that has forced more interceptions this year than it did all of last season, LSU’s main concern on offense should be to simply continue holding onto the ball.
Auburn players to watch: Justin Garrett and Cassanova McKinzy. These two weak-side linebackers are in the midst of an open competition for the starting job this week, per defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. After Garrett sustained an injury in preseason camp, Robenson Therezie became the starter at the Star position, and since then, he’s led the team in tackles and interceptions, giving Garrett no shot at coming back to steal the job, thus leading to his position change. LSU likes to throw the ball more than they did in the past, so expect to see more Garrett when Auburn’s in the dime package and McKinzy when the defense is playing the run.
LSU players to watch: Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. Keeping with the theme of Auburn’s suspect secondary, I present LSU’s dynamic duo, who have accounted for 32 of LSU’s 46 receptions this year. Odell Beckham leads the SEC in all-purpose yards through three weeks, with 15 catches for 330 yards and 4 TD, 5 punt returns for 68 yards (including a 60-yard return) and 6 kickoff returns for 171 yards (including a 75-yarder that led to LSU putting TCU away). It’s safe to say that he’s pretty dynamic, as is Landry, who has 17 catches for 246 yards and 5 TD. If these guys can get open against Auburn’s secondary, LSU will move the ball on Auburn all night without stalling on drives like Auburn’s first three opponents have.
Auburn vs. LSU edges:
Quarterback: Nick Marshall has boatloads of upside, but Mettenberger is a veteran who’s having a big year so far. LSU.
Running Back: Mason, Artis-Payne, Grant. Hill, Magee, Blue, Hilliard. This is very hard to decide. EVEN.
Wide Receiver: Auburn’s WRs have potential, but LSU has proven, dynamic weapons. LSU.
Tight End/H-Back: CJ Uzomah made Auburn’s play of the year thus far. AU also has Jay Prosch. AUBURN.
Offensive Line: This is very close, as both O-Lines are good, but LSU’s is very experienced. LSU.
Defensive Line: Auburn’s D-Line has shown flashes of brilliance, but isn’t consistent. LSU.
Linebackers: LSU’s linebacker group is mature and very talented. AU’s has room to grow. LSU.
Cornerbacks: Chris Davis’s status is questionable. LSU has young CBs. LSU.
Safeties: So, this Craig Loston guy is pretty good at playing safety. LSU.
Kicker: LSU Delahoussaye is 4/4 on FGs, all short. AU’s Parkey is 4/4 on 40-49 yards alone. AUBURN.
Punter: Jamie Keehn has 8 punts with a 40.4 average. Steven Clark has 13 punts with a 43.5 average. EVEN.
Coaching: Gus Malzahn has lots of potential, but Les Miles has a track record surpassed by very few today. LSU.
Interesting Facts: Auburn’s last win in Baton Rouge was in 1999. Since then, LSU has won six straight home games against Auburn by an average score of 31-14…. In the last seven Auburn-LSU games, the winner has out-rushed the loser by 104 yards per game…. LSU has won 5 of the last 6 against Auburn, with AU’s lone win coming during the 2010 national championship season…. The home team has lost this game twice in the past 13 years (Auburn in 2008 and 2012), both by teams that failed to qualify for bowl games and eventually fired their coach…. In 1997, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2010 and 2011, the winner of this game went on to play in the SEC Championship Game. In 1997, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2007 and 2010, the Tiger Bowl was the deciding game in the SEC West and, had it gone the other way, the other team would have played in the SEC Championship Game…. Nick Marshall’s 339 passing yards against Mississippi State was the most by an Auburn QB since Cam Newton threw for 334 in the 2010 SEC Championship Game. Marshall also set the new school record for passing yards by a QB in his first SEC game…. Auburn has outscored opponents 20-0 in the 4th quarter this season. Last year, through 3 games, Auburn had been outscored in the 4th quarter 31-3…. This season, Auburn and LSU have combined to outscore their opponents 41-10 in the 4th quarter…. Zach Mettenberger has thrown for 9 TDs this season in three games. Last year, in 13 games, he threw for only 12 TDs. Cam Cameron was quite the hire by Les Miles…. 7 of the last 9 games in this series have been decided by a touchdown or less….
Prediction: Auburn’s off to a nice start this season and they’ve shown improvement in every area. Gus Malzahn has done a good job implementing his offensive scheme and Ellis Johnson has been great at making halftime adjustments. However, the offense has been inconsistent this season and the defense has been playing with a bend-but-don’t-break style. Auburn can’t let LSU drive on them all night and expect to win. Unfortunately, I don’t think the orange and blue Tigers will have much of a choice. LSU’s offense moves the ball, Auburn’s offense struggles to find consistency in a hostile environment (even if the run game ends up being more productive than it was a week ago). LSU comes away with a solid win before going to Georgia for a huge, College GameDay-esque match-up.
#6 LSU Tigers 30, Auburn Tigers 14
#1 Alabama 49, Colorado State 14 (Poor Jim McElwain.)
#9 Georgia 38, North Texas 16 (Dawgs won’t show too much creativity with LSU rolling into town next week.)
#10 Texas A&M 55, SMU 35 (A&M’s defense is downright ridiculous, but Johnny Manziel is an unstoppable force.)
#19 Florida 24, Tennessee 14 (Tennessee isn’t quite as bad as the Oregon game showed, but they’re not on Florida’s level.)
Arkansas 27, Rutgers 24 (OT) (Hogs get a big road win against a suspect Scarlet Knight defense.)
Mississippi State 45, Troy 35 (Troy has a huge offense and no defense. Can you say shoot-out?)
Indiana 41, Missouri 30 (The Hoosiers are looking to show they’re ready for a bowl game. They’ll show it here.)
Vanderbilt 59, UMass 3 (I don’t need to explain this pick, do I? UMass is just dreadful.)
Other Notable Games:
#3 Clemson 41, NC State 23 (This could be the game that Clemson Clemsons. But this NC State team isn’t exactly great.)
Fresno State 27, Boise State 21 (Bulldogs get a nice win on their potential march to a BCS Bowl.)
#5 Stanford 26, #23 Arizona State 21 (Cardinal’s defense will have a nice day and Stanford pulls out a close late win.)
#15 Michigan 35, UConn 10 (Wolverines are much better than their near-death experience against Akron shows.)
#16 Miami 77, Savannah State 0 (SSU doesn’t even care because they’re raking in some serious money from The U.)
#20 Baylor 52, UL-Monroe 35 (This game will be closer than expected, but the Bears won’t lose this one at home.)
Michigan State 21, #22 Notre Dame 17 (Spartans get surprisingly adequate QB play and knock off the Irish at home.)
BYU 30, Utah 27 (Cougars win at home on a last-second field goal to claim the Holy War.)
Kansas State 38, Texas 28 (The Longhorns’ ship is sinking fast. 2012 Auburn Tigers, anyone?)
USC 28, Utah State 24 (I’m tempted to pick USU, but USC at home should win this game in really close fashion.)
Maryland 35, West Virginia 27 (Terps QB C.J. Brown has played out of his mind so far. Can you say 4-0 Maryland?)
UPSET ALERT! Marshall 23, Virginia Tech 17 (I’m 3-0 in my Upset Alert picks this year, and I feel confident in Marshall. Well, not so much Marshall, but Scot Loeffler’s offense having no identity against a pretty good C-USA team.)