Auburn (3-0, 1-0 SEC) at #6 LSU (3-0)
Saturday, 7:45 PM EST, ESPN
Line: LSU -17
We will find out over the course of the next two games how much improved this Auburn team is under Gus Malzahn. So far, the Tigers have won three games and they did it against three teams that could have (and probably would have) beaten the 2012 Tigers. Led by JUCO QB Nick Marshall the Tigers are currently averaging 31.2 ppg and while they don't necessarily look like world-beaters, they have certainly looked like they are headed in the right direction.
The LSU Tigers had a tough game in their opener against TCU but have since coasted against lesser competition. Is LSU's 46 ppg average a function of who they've played so far or have they turned the corner on offense? LSU is very tough at night and at home and this game will be a good litmus test for both teams.
For Auburn to win: Auburn needs to play mistake free football on offense and needs to make LSU earn their points when they have the football. Sounds like a lot doesn't it? That's why Auburn is a 17 point underdog. Despite being 3-0, the Tigers have turned the ball over 5 times so far in 2013 (which is 2nd to last in the SEC). Nick Marshall will be starting his first road SEC game and he needs to play under control and take what the game gives him. If LSU forces him into bad decisions early in the game then it could be over quickly.
For LSU to win: Pound the rock at the Auburn defensive line and pick their spots with Zach Mettenberger. On defense, they need to contain Nick Marshall and force him to win the game with his arm rather than his feet.
Key Player (Auburn): QB Nick Marshall. As I previously mentioned, this will be Marshall's first road SEC game and there isn't a tougher environment than Death Valley at night. For Auburn to win this game, Marshall has to have a very strong outing. In his first SEC game last week, he threw for 339 yards (as well as 67% completions) but also had 2 INTs. Marshall was a big key for Auburn winning last week. He will be the key this week.
Key Players (LSU): The defensive line. Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery, Bennie Logan and Lavar Edwards all got drafted off of the LSU line into the NFL during the 2013 draft. So far the DL is giving up 110 rushing yards per game and has yielded four rushing TDs. Going into the fourth game last season, the defense had given up just 47 ypg on the ground and no TDs. The defensive line needs to limit the run as Auburn will use three different RBs with three different styles against LSU and they also need to respect and limit the Malzahn pass offense. The LSU defensive line should be able to handle the line of scrimmage and if they do it will make like extremely difficult for Nick Marshall and Auburn.
Key Stat: LSU has won six straight at home in this series. The last time Auburn won at LSU was in 1999. LSU was coached by Gerry DiNardo (they went 2-8 that season before DiNardo was fired) and Auburn was coached by Tommy Tuberville (who was in his first season).