For a week, could we please temper those “Game of the Century Part II” talks?
Even with Tua Tagovailoa’s high ankle sprain suffered against Tennessee, many of us are still expecting a shootout that would be the exact opposite of that touchdown-less overtime thriller in Tuscaloosa in 2011. And rightfully, everyone in the country is excited to see it.
But that game loses significance if LSU slips up this Saturday at 2:30 p.m. against Auburn. Before I go any further, it’s important for me to state off the bat that I believe LSU will win this game, and there are plenty of reasons to believe so:
— Auburn quarterback Bo Nix looked like a true freshman in Gainesville when Florida fans got after him. Nix has had happy feet in the pocket all season long, and sometimes steps into pressure. That will bode well for an LSU pass rush that’s seemingly getting better by the week.
— Auburn allows 225 passing yards per contest, which is ninth in the SEC. Florida quarterback Kyle Trask completed 61 percent of his throws and threw for 234 yards and two touchdowns in Florida’s 24-13 win on Oct. 5. Joe Burrow and this LSU offense shouldn’t have trouble getting the passing game going against this Auburn secondary that has been exposed already this season.
— The recipe for success for Auburn is running the football. The Gators were able to beat Auburn earlier this year by limiting the Tigers on the ground to just 124 yards. LSU enters this matchup giving up less than 94 yards per game on the ground per contest. While Auburn’s defensive line might be superior to LSU’s, those Bayou Bengals have been successful in playing defensive backs, such as Grant Delpit and JaCoby Stevens, close to the line of scrimmage to aid in run support. LSU has the means to take away Auburn’s greatest weapon and force Nix to beat LSU through the air.
— The high school kids I cover on a weekly basis have never seen Auburn beat LSU in Baton Rouge. LSU has beaten Auburn at home for nine consecutive years. The last time Auburn beat LSU in Death Valley was in 1999.
Now, all of those things may be true, but here’s the thing: it’s LSU vs. Auburn. The unlikely happens here. We’re talking about a rivalry that featured the valley shaking in the earthquake game (1988), the pick six game (1994), an actual barn burner (1996), a tobacco celebration on the field (1999), the first Eye of the Tiger logo stomp (2001), an infamous pass interference no-call (2006), a Demetrius Byrd game-winning catch with one second left (2007) and Les Miles’ last stand (2016) as LSU head coach. All of which were unpredictable, including Cole Tracy’s game-winning field goal in Jordan-Hare Stadium a year ago.
This game means so much it actually started the Orgeron era in 2016. Orgeron became the interim then the full-time head coach, and I’d say that’s worked out well considering the Tigers are the No. 2 team in the country today.
It’s true, LSU should win this game on paper. But this rivalry has featured more weirdness than any other LSU rivalry.
It’s cliché, but it’s apropos given the situation — anything can happen when LSU and Auburn meet, so let’s save that LSU/Bama talk for Saturday evening when we know LSU has avoided that unlikely upset.