ANNNNNDDDDD we’re back with another Auburn football opponent preview. In my last article a couple weeks ago, we detailed the Georgia Bulldogs, in all their annoying glory. This week we’ve got the *unofficial* 2022 SEC Newcomers of the Year: the Louisiana State Tigers.
LSU, one of Auburn’s biggest rivals, will face Auburn football for the final time as an annual opponent, as the conference will move to a new schedule model that excluded both teams from each other’s calendars. The Tigers have been a thorn in the side of Auburn for the majority of the last decade, but there’s hope with Hugh Freeze in tow.
Lets talk about it.
LSU coaching staff
The Bayou Bengals are led by resident awkward uncle Brian Kelly. Kelly, the active winningest coach in major college football, came to Baton Rouge by way of South Bend in hopes of proving he could win in a real conference. Spoiler alert: we should’ve never made fun.
Kelly led LSU all the way to Atlanta with wins over Auburn and Alabama for the first time since 2019, as both teams had won the 2020 and 2021 editions of the matchup. A last second opening week loss to Florida State as well as embarrassing losses to Tennessee and Texas A&M were enough to keep the Tigers out of serious playoff contention. But when you beat Alabama and Auburn football, it helps.
In year two under Kelly, the Fighting Tigers look to correct the A&M and Florida State blemishes while also replacing Tennessee with the one team in this conference who has found every possible way to lose a game: Missouri. I fully expect LSU to be in serious playoff contention with Jayden Daniels in Heisman contention late in the year.
LSU’s offensive coordinator remains Mike Denbrock. Hired from Luke Fickell’s Cincinnati staff after the 2021 season, he was a questionable hire at the time. Fast forward a year and he’s the reason that Daniels flourished at QB. His pro-style system from shotgun and pistol sets meshes well with JD’s dual threat abilities.
Matt House also returns for his second season as defensive coordinator. The well traveled Michigan native has a Super Bowl ring under his belt through his time as the Chiefs’ linebackers coach from 2019-2021. LSU’s defense was very impressive last year and House’s aggressive approach was a big reason why. Look for the Tigers’ defense to be a weapon once again this season.
LSU on offense
Mike Denbrock probably didn’t leave the 2021 Peach Bowl thinking he’d be back in Atlanta facing the Dawgs so quickly. But lo and behold, he was. The Tigers’ offensive coordinator was the Bearcats’ playcaller in that game when Georgia came back to win a thriller.
Just two years later, Denbrock found himself across the field from Kirby Smart at Mercedes-Benz Stadium playing chess once again, this time in the SEC Championship Game. While Denbrock and current Atlanta Falcons starting quarterback Desmond Ridder were facing off against a REALLY good Georgia team in 2021, he and Jayden Daniels found themselves against one of the best teams in college football history.
None of that matters now, as LSU will not face Georgia until Atlanta. The pro style spread offense that led LSU to its highest yardage output of any season in which Joe Burrow wasn’t the starting quarterback will make its return. Yes, LSU put up 453 yards per game last season, and scored almost 35 points a game. That brilliant offensive output will likely improve this year.
Jayden Daniels also returns and is going into 2023 as the top returning quarterback in the SEC, depending on who you ask. He was 87 passing yards and 115 rushing yards away from a 3,000/1,000 season. For reference, all but two QBs who have achieved those numbers were a Heisman finalist: Jordan Lynch, Lamar Jackson (twice), Deshaun Watson, Vince Young and Johnny Manziel. Colin Kaeparnick and Chandler Harnish are the only QBs to not go to New York after a 3,000/1,000 season.
This offense should be electric this year. Now let’s see if the defense can help them.
LSU on defense
LSU will enter the 2023 season with another aggressive defense in tow. The arrival of LSU’s defense halfway through the 2022 season is largely the reason why they were able to win the SEC West when facing the likes of Bryce Young, KJ Jefferson, and Will Rogers. Limiting the run game and forcing low percentage passes was the focus and they succeeded.
Last year’s matchup with LSU started off hot with a 17-0 lead for the good guys. Albeit with Robby Ashford starting for Auburn football and having just one week of SEC football on his tape, LSU initially struggled before the worst trick play of all time handed them the ball.
This season, the two Tigers will face off in a matchup of aggressive defense versus high flying offense. While this DBs unit isn’t what it was a few years ago in prime DBU time, they can still limit downfield passing and force intermediate concepts, something that has been lost on Auburn’s offenses over the years.
I expect this to be a tough road test for the Tigers offense after a week off from Georgia.
Auburn football vs. LSU – Overall
The Tigers should be right in the thick of the final SEC Western Division standings. They are my preseason pick to win the division and head to Atlanta. With Alabama downgrading at the offensive coordinator and QB spots, the West is up for whoever wants it. I expect LSU to take it.
As always, War Eagle.