Early Analysis: LSU vs. Auburn

Gene Chizik
Batman or a joker?

No. 2 LSU at Auburn
Saturday, 7 p.m. ESPN
Line: LSU -20.5

Know that whole “The Dark Chiz Rises” thing? Auburn’s coach as Batman, Les Miles as Bane and all that?

Just like old Bruce Wayne, Gene Chizik is seemingly treading water on the Plains. His team has lost two of its first three games, narrowly beating Sun Belt stalwart Louisiana-Monroe in overtime a week ago.

If we’re holding true to form with the film, Chizik will slay his nemesis on the opposing sidelines and save Jordan-Hare Stadium from despair.

Vegas likes the Bayou Bengals by three touchdowns.

Doesn’t sound like a Hollywood ending to me.

For Auburn to Win: Take your pick – Auburn ranks 105th in the country in points scored (20.0 per game) and 80th in points allowed (27.3). This team is struggling on both sides of the ball.

Everything begins and ends for LSU with its bruising running game, which is a bad sign for a defense that is surrendering 5.05 yards per rushing attempt (100th nationally). Auburn has to figure out a way to slow LSU on the ground and force Zach Mettenberger to get it done through the air in the first road start of his career.

For LSU to Win: The easy answer here is “show up,” but it’s also not correct. For all of its shortcomings to this early point in the season, this is still a highly talented, young Auburn team. Those kinds of squads can be pretty volatile, prone to breakout games at any point.

LSU really has no reason to deviate from its typical plan of attack. Auburn quarterback Kiehl Frazier has been erratic in the passing game. Assuming that the LSU D can hold Auburn’s running game in check without crowding the line, no need to make things easier on Frazier by opening up throwing windows for him. LSU should play it straight.

Key Player, Auburn: Auburn’s best hope to win this game is to accept that stringing together sustained long drives will be nearly impossible and, instead, try to make some magic with a few big plays. Senior running back Onterrio McCalebb has played that role his entire career. This year, he’s averaging nearly 7 yards per carry and remains the Tigers’ best bet to take it to the house on any given play.

Key Player, LSU: From a defensive standpoint, Auburn’s best chance to win this game is forcing it upon the shoulders of LSU’s untested quarterback. If Auburn can slow LSU’s rushing attack – a dubious proposition – Zach Mettenberger can’t afford to make mistakes when opportunities present themselves.

Key Stat: 3.

OK, so that should really be “third,” as in third down. (And, yes, that is not a stat. It's a number, so work with me.)

Auburn ranks 104th in the country in converting third downs with a success rate of 31.58 percent. Meanwhile, LSU is one of the top teams in the country when it comes to getting opponents off the field, allowing first downs on 26.67 percent of third-down conversion attempts.

If those trends hold up, this could get out of hand quickly.