Auburn football: Three areas of concern going into SEC West showdown vs. LSU

Seth Williams let this third down pass slip through his hands against Alabama State. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
Seth Williams let this third down pass slip through his hands against Alabama State. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images) /

When you look at the 63-9 score from the game Saturday, it’s easy to conclude that the Auburn football team was a well-oiled machine in dismantling Alabama State.

And the Tigers were very good.

But still, there is work to be done with No. 12 LSU coming to Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS).

After Auburn beat Washington in Week 1, we pinpointed three areas of concern heading into Week 2: the offense not letting up, the defensive backs struggling with pass interference and back-shoulder throws and the Tigers getting too cute on a couple of two-point conversion attempts.

Clearly, the offense didn’t let up, Auburn had no need to go for two and the defensive backs were much better as the Tigers intercepted three passes and held Alabama State to less than 50 percent completions.

It’s time to look at the LSU game and our biggest concerns:

Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers

Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first.

Auburn coughed up the ball four times against Alabama State. If that happens Saturday against LSU, Auburn won’t sniff 63 points and will face a steep uphill climb to win the game.

Related Story. After easy win, Auburn is all about LSU. light

We’ll throw out the Griffin King muffed punt. King made a poor decision to try and field the kick, but Ryan Davis will be Auburn’s primary punt returner.

That leaves the other three:

  • JaTarvious Whitlow had the ball knocked loose inside the Hornets 20 on what looked liked what was going to be Auburn’s first scoring drive of the game.
  • On Auburn’s first possession of the third quarter, freshman Asa Martin came in as lead back. After a 5-yard run, Martin had another 5-yard gain but the ball popped free just across midfield.
  • On the first drive of the fourth quarter, receiver Matthew Hill got his first touch on a run and it was a good one. He gained 22 yards but tried a little too hard for a few extra yards and the ball was stripped from him at the Alabama State 8.

Ball control always will be an important thing. Yes, Martin was touching the ball for the second time in his career and Hill for the first, but if they’re going to contribute this season, they need to put those fumbles behind them.

Whitlow’s fumble came on his fourth consecutive run and his 12th run of the season. LSU is going to come at him hard Saturday and try to separate him from the ball. He can’t let that happen.

Getting over the hump

One of the most accurate quarterbacks in the country, Jarrett Stidham had his worst performance against LSU last season. He completed just 9-of-26 passes.

After Auburn built a 20-0 lead in the first half, Stidham was 0 for 2 on third-down passes over the rest of the half as LSU trimmed the lead to 23-14.

You probably want to sit down for this next one.

In the second half, Stidham was 2 for 12 passing for six yards. He was 0 for 5 on third-down pass attempts. That’s brutal.

And it’s not all on Stidham. Auburn went into hibernation on offense and was way too conservative. It didn’t feel like the Tigers were playing to win that game in the second; it was as if they were playing to hold on — and that didn’t work.

That led to Auburn going 3 for 14 on third down against LSU and an overall miserable offensive performance in the second half that allowed LSU to win the game.

auburn football
LSU first-year QB Joe Burrow is off to a conservative start. That could change Saturday against Auburn. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

The unknown on the other side

Just how good is LSU quarterback Joe Burrow?

In the season-opening win against Miami (Burrow’s first game in an LSU uniform), he was 11 for 24 for 140 yards passing.

Last week against Southeastern Louisiana, Burrow completed 10-of-20 passes for 151 yards with TD passes of 9 and 41 yards. In two games, he hasn’t thrown an interception.

In Week 1, the LSU defense did the heavy lifting. In Week 2, LSU could afford to not pull out all the stops against an overmatched opponent.

So it remains unclear what the former Ohio State backup brings to the LSU offense.

Here’s what Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said about him Sunday:

Next. Offensive playmakers? Yeah, Auburn has a few of those. dark

In other words, Burrow remains a mystery and the Auburn football team will have to be prepared for multiple possibilities Saturday.