LSU (2-1) vs. Auburn (1-2)
Since 2011, LSU has won four of the last five games over Auburn by an average margin of victory of 18.1 points per game. Auburn beat LSU in 2014 in Auburn by a score of 41-10.
The Tigers are averaging 182 rushing yards per game and have been handcuffed in stretching teams vertically passing for only 157 yards per game. Quarterback Danny Etling passed for 215 yards last week in the win against Mississippi State and will need to duplicate that effort on the road against the Auburn secondary. On the year, Etling has completed 56% of his passes for 315 yards with 2 touchdowns and one interception.
Running back Leonard Fournette returned to the lineup last week after an injury and looked good rushing for 147 yards with 2 scores. However, this week the LSU offense will have to be patient running the football as Auburn will stack the box and force Etling to throw over the top to beat them.
Wide receivers Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural could have a big night against the Tigers if offensive coordinator Cam Cameron opens up the playbook to allow Etling to attack the secondary. On the year, both players have combined for 17 receptions for 173 yards with one score.
Defensively, LSU has been very good in stuffing the run and is giving up 103 rushing yards on the ground this year. The secondary is allowing 222 passing yards per game and must be able to put pressure on Auburn’s quarterbacks in this game. LSU has recorded 11 sacks on the year with defensive lineman Arden Key leading the team with 5 sacks. The defense has done a solid job in third downs and has held opposing offenses to 27% third down conversions on the year.
Entering this game, the Tigers are -1 in turnover margin and must be able to force turnovers on the road. Last year, LSU was +7 in turnover margin but -1 on the road last season.
The pressure is mounting for Gus Malzhan after last week’s loss to Texas A&M. This is a must win game for the Tigers. Quarterback John Franklin will likely get the start against LSU as he came in at the end of the game and led a scoring drive against the Aggies. However, Sean White can be utilized as well because he is a drop back passer that can attack the Tigers secondary that is yielding 222 passing yards per game.
White has completed 63% of his passes for 510 yards with 3 touchdowns and one interception. Franklin has completed 5 of 9 passes for 34 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
Running backs Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway are two tough runners that can move the chains on Saturday night. Johnson has rushed for 278 yards with 4 touchdowns while Pettway has rushed for 275 yards with one touchdown. Auburn has not had the same type of offense that can run sideline to sideline with former quarterback Nick Marshall.
The Tigers have struggled to find a consistent identity on offense and rushed for 87 week one against Clemson followed by a 462 yard effort on the ground against Arkansas State. In last week’s loss, the offense was able to move the football between the tackles for 236 yards on the ground and looks to play low scoring games in which they can run the football. Auburn is rushing for 261 yards per game and is passing for 194 yards per game. The offense is averaging 26 points per game and will need to strike first to put the pressure on LSU quarterback Danny Etling to respond.
However, the weakness of the LSU defense has been the secondary. Auburn must be able to take advantage of that off of play action. They cannot afford to get into a shootout at home because of the lack of explosive play makers on offense. Auburn will have to get into a low scoring battle that forces an ugly game. If the offense is one dimensional due to falling behind and is forced to pass to get back into the game, it can put pressure on an offensive line that has allowed 9 sacks through the first three games this season.
Defensively, Auburn is allowing 20 points per game and has been very good in stopping the run allowing 149 yards this season. The secondary has allowed big plays and is giving up 251 passing yards per game. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele was the defensive coordinator at LSU last season and should have a read on the LSU offense.
Auburn has recorded 3 sacks this year and only had 19 last season which ranked 104th of 127 teams in FBS. If they cannot get pressure on Etling early on it will put pressure on their secondary to cover for long periods of time which can lead to big plays.
Auburn is -3 in turnover margin and must do a better job to help out their offense on Saturday.