Auburn vs LSU: Game Day Prediction


Sep 27, 2014; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers cheerleaders run the flags after a touchdown during the first half against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn vs LSU: Today’s important SEC West showdown will feature a pair of Tigers ranked in the top 15 in the nation. How will the game play out?

So far this week, the Fly War Eagle  staff has touched on a few of Auburn’s keys to victory in today’s matchup with LSU. First, as Collin Dillard points out, the Tigers must use tempo. In his weekly Previews and Predictions, Nathan Deal mentions the crowd, creative play-calling and pressuring the true freshman QB. Todd Duvall wants Nick Marshall to step up for he Tigers to not only beat LSU, but contend for a title.

Now, I’ll offer my own two cents.

Auburn will host the rebuilding LSU Tigers this Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Each of the last two seasons, LSU has lost more underclassmen to the NFL Draft than any team in the country, but it hasn’t really impacted their roster due to the constant restocking Les Miles and his staff are able to do each off-season.

Therefore, the Bayou Bengals are just as talented this season as they were in 2013, 2012 or 2011 – the three straight seasons in which LSU defeated Auburn. However, here are three keys to victory for the Auburn Tigers, who are a 7.5-point favorite, to snap that streak.

Establish the Running Game

There has been grumbling across the fan base that the Auburn rushing attack has struggled this season. While they have not been as dominant overall as the unit that propelled the Tigers to the SEC Championship, the BCS National Championship Game appearance and led the nation in rushing yards per game, this year’s group is still very effective. In fact, the Tigers are off to a better start this year than last.

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Through the first four games of the season, the Auburn Tigers are averaging 260.5 rushing yards per game. Last year’s group ran for an average of 234.5 across the first four weeks of the season. So, we might actually see an even more impressive total this season once the HUNH gets up and running for SEC play.

And speaking of SEC play, it truly begins today against LSU. Sure, the Tigers played Arkansas in Week 1, but that was over a month ago. Today begins a stretch of seven games against top flight Southeastern Conference opponents in nine weeks. The Auburn Tigers were able to earn a 7-1 conference record last season, but they didn’t really get rolling until the third SEC contest.

Despite a season low of 120 yards against Mississippi State in Week 3 and 213 against LSU in Week 4 last season, Auburn still averaged 315 yards per game on the ground in SEC play. After the matchup with LSU last season, when the coaching staff placed a greater emphasis on the running game, the Tigers averaged 364.5 rushing yards against SEC opponents in the regular season – which doesn’t even include the incredible 545 they had against Missouri in the SEC Championship Game.

Today, Auburn needs to return to the philosophy that was so successful in SEC play last season. Not only has it proven successful before, but against an LSU run defense that has struggled against quality competition, it will be successful again today.Establish the run, which will help to…

Create Big Plays With Play Action

This one is short and sweet.

Sammie Coates was a beast last season, and the vast majority of his damage, and the reason he led the SEC and was third in the nation with 21.5 yards per catch, was play action passing. When the Auburn offense is committed to running the football first and foremost, and looks to impose the will of the offensive line on the defense, it creates big play opportunities in the passing game. I already mentioned this week that Coates needs to step up, but even if he is still hampered by a leg injury, there should be play action opportunities for D’haquille Williams, Quan Bray and the rest of the wide receiving corps as well.

And finally…

Force LSU (and Brandon Harris) to Try and Win Through the Air

True freshman Brandon Harris will be making his first collegiate start, on the road in a big SEC West showdown. He is an extremely talented player, and has a big time arm, but Auburn will have the greatest chance to win if they force Harris to throw often.

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  • In limited duty as the backup, Harris has completed 22 of 30 passes for 394 yards and six touchdowns (four of which have gone to fellow true freshman Malachi Dupre) and only one interception (which was a Hail Mary at the end of the 34-29 loss to Mississippi State). However, expect for the comeback attempt against the Bulldogs, Harris has not had much pressure on him while throwing the football.

    Tonight in Jordan-Hare Stadium, with an ESPN prime time audience on hand, there will be much more pressure – even before the ball is snapped. Thanks to an improving Auburn pass rush, there should be pressure after the snap as well. Therefore, it would make sense for LSU to commit to running the football as well. That’s just fine with Auburn.

    Currently, Auburn is the 14th best team in the country against the rush, 15th in points allowed per game, 20th in total yards allowed on average. The defense has made strides early in the season, and is improved statistically compared to last year’s squad.

    “This year, we’ve played really good against the run, especially inside,” Johnson said. “I think our front guys have really played disciplined. They’ve been good, and they’re talented guys, they should, but we haven’t been able to find that pass rush.”

    Should that trend continue, Auburn can make LSU turn to the air to try and win. And with a true freshman making his first career start, on the road, against the 5th ranked team in the nation, that would play right into Auburn’s hands. If it turns out that way – and I think it will – Auburn will pull out the win, and cover.

    Auburn vs LSU Game Day Prediction:

    Auburn 35, LSU 24