Auburn Football: Auburn Tempo Key to Victory vs LSU


Sep 27, 2014; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers players gather on the field for prayer prior to the game against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

At Auburn University, the tempo is pivotal in determining play calling and production. Last year, the Tigers’ rushing attack was the most powerful in the NCAA. That marked the first time in history that an SEC team has led the country in rushing.

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I was astonished (like most) that the 2013 Auburn team was the answer to Saturdays Aflac Trivia question, “How many times has the SEC led the nation in rushing?”
When Jesse Palmer responded to Brent Musberger’s answer of 12, I was puzzled that last year’s squad was the first team to accomplish this.

The 2013 Auburn team was so dominant on the ground that only select teams could disrupt the tempo. Often times this meant committing to defending the run and with fresh legs, Sammie Coates, and a handful of miracles it took the Tigers to the final BCS National Championship Game. Fans rallied behind this team and fell in love with Gus Malzahn and his offense (if 2010 wasn’t convincing enough) and what he could do with the talent he had.

There are many pieces that make up the scheme and some parts that are frustrating to fans through the first four games of the 2014 season.
Why is the rushing attack not as effective? Why is it taking longer to move the ball?

The answer is really not that hard to find.

Fans stick to the success of Gus Malzahn and have every right to, but Malzahn is always evolving his offense. He is constantly tinkering with what he has and the abilities of his athletes have week to week. This is not the 2013 team and Gus has addressed this on several occasions. He has different weapons and new weaknesses. This opens up doors for new opportunities with his complicated offense.

A great example to look at is the arrival of Duke Williams. Having Williams at the opposite side of Sammie Coates is allowing Auburn to spread the field. With this in mind he is promoting a more balanced attack using Williams and other players like Melvin Ray as well. Auburn is still going to predicate the run and will always be a power-run team utilizing athletes. They will have success at the point of attack, but not in the same ways of last year.

Like last year, Auburn is fighting an uphill battle to gain momentum towards the nightmarish mid-season schedule. The LSU game last year was where Auburn offense hit its stride. They dug deep and opposed their will on defenses all the way to the SEC Championship. The LSU game is this weekend and I see similarities in the evolution of the Auburn tempo. We may see an Auburn team becoming more comfortable with the offense through this conference battle.

Last year’s loss put a bitter taste in Malzahn’s mouth and his offense faces the same tempo challenges as a year ago. The only difference is how it develops its momentum; being a more balanced team it faces new struggles.

This year’s Auburn team will find out who they are this weekend when they face a rebuilding LSU squad. This LSU team has a lot to prove after their tough loss to SEC West opponent Mississippi State.

If Auburn lets off of the gas for a second, the outcome could be drastically different. This game has a lot at stake; Auburn has not beaten the LSU Tigers since the 2010 National Championship run and looks to change that this weekend. If the Auburn offense can become more comfortable, this game could be used a springboard for the rest of the season. The momentum could pick up and the tempo would be established.

I see Auburn picking up slack in the second half and defeating LSU 38-21.

Cameron Artis-Payne will have to make a statement and our defense will face LSU’s Brandon Harris. This will be Harris’ first start this season and LSU needs a victory to keep them alive in the West.
Apart from Alabama versus Ole Miss this weekend, this looks to be one of the best matchups on Saturday.

The LSU – Auburn game will kick off at 6:00 p.m. Central time and air on ESPN.

I am more than excited for this battle to be underway.