(Saturday, 6:45 pm, ESPN)
When LSU has the ball
Les Miles finally found a running back to hitch his wagon to. His best offenses usually feature a great running back that can chew up yards and Charles Scott appears to fit that profile. He has been on a tear this season averaging a ridiculous 11.4 yards per carry and his strength/speed combination seems to be on par with Beanie Wells at Ohio State. Linebacker Tray Blackmon will have his work cut out trying to keep up with Scott. He’ll have to play a disciplined game to keep LSU’s running game in check.
You can expect a heavy dose of Scott (and Keiland Williams for that matter) because LSU is very inexperienced at quarterback. Jarrett Lee and Andrew Hatch have been splitting time this season and both will see time Saturday. Auburn’s defense is up to Tommy Tuberville’s usually high standards so you better believe they’ll be looking to put the pressure on the newbies. Sen’Derrick Marks is one of the best defensive linemen in the nation so he’ll be keeping Lee and Hatch company in the backfield all night long.
In a vacuum LSU might have a slight edge with their wide receivers going up against Auburn’s secondary. Demetrius Byrd is a great all around wideout and speedsters Brandon LaFell and Terrance Toliver provide big play ability. However, when you factor in the questionable quarterback play the Auburn DBs have a definite advantage. Warren McFadden has been playing as well as any cornerback in the nation so far.
On the whole I think LSU will be able to manufacture field position with their solid running game and at some point one of the talented wide receivers will make a play to break the game open.
When Auburn has the ball
Whoo-boy. If Auburn’s offense plays the way it did last week in a 3-2 win over Mississippi State I don’t know that they’ll even move the ball past midfield against LSU’s stingy defense.
Where to begin? First there is the complete lack of a real ground attack. Auburn has gone to the spread with new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin. That’s fine and all, but Franklin has completely abandoned any non-shotgun formations in favor of a lot of passing and a sideways running game. The Tigers have been unable to convert in short yardage situations this season due to the change, and they haven’t even faced a defense the caliber of LSU yet.
Then there are the turnovers. Chris Todd and Ben Tate have struggled with shotgun handoffs this year, and that has led to turnovers at critical moments late in games when Auburn is just trying to run out the clock.
If all that isn’t enough, the Tigers benched Kodi Burns, a quarterback that can beat you with his legs, in favor of Todd. Todd might eventually be a solid player in this offense, but right now he’s not executing consistently enough to make the passing game click.
So Auburn can’t run and they can’t string together enough completions to sustain a drive. That’s not a good combination because across the line of scrimmage waits one of the most athletic defenses in the nation. Defensive linemen Ricky Jean-Francois, Kirston Pittman, and Tyson Jackson might make a meal out of Chris Todd if Auburn’s struggling offensive line doesn’t improve. Linebacker Darry Beckwith shouldn’t have any problem containing Ben Tate either.
All things considered, I’m not sure Auburn will even scrape together one drive that ends in an offensive touchdown. Prove me wrong Tony Franklin.
Make no mistake – this game will be dictated by the defenses. The Auburn defense will not only have to play the best game they’ve played all season, they’ll probably have to score too since Chris Todd and the offense don’t appear likely to put many points on the board.
If Kodi Burns sees action at quarterback for Auburn I’ll give them a slightly better chance of winning. Despite the inexperience at quarterback, LSU still seems to be in much better shape to score points. In a game where points will be at a premium, that will be enough to get the win.
J.Pike’s Pick: LSU 16, Auburn 6
Thanks to The Helmet Project for the helmet logos.