The LSU-Auburn game is usually wildly unpredictable. Who thought, for instance, that a struggling Auburn team would slap a blowout on LSU last season? We have seen Ed Orgeron’s LSU teams mount big comebacks against Gus Malzahn.
By Matt Zemek
Now we step into a new chapter of this fierce Tiger tussle, with Bryan Harsin stepping into the seat of power at Auburn and challenging Coach O in a game which – while not for the top spot in the SEC West or for New Year’s Six bowl positioning – is still very important. Both LSU and Auburn have not played Alabama, or Texas A&M, or Arkansas, or Ole Miss. All those games are still ahead on the schedule.
The loser of this game is in a world of hurt. Let’s see what LSU has to do to get a crucial win.
1 – Max protection
Max Johnson did enough to beat Mississippi State, but the LSU offense is not healthy and thriving right now. The Bayou Bengals went through long periods of drift and stagnation against Mississippi State, and they needed a few key breaks in the second half to extend their lead before holding on late for a win in Starkville. It’s a win, and that sure beats losing, but no one should be misled about the state of the LSU offense: It’s not even close to where it needs to be. Giving Max Johnson adequate protection in the pocket will be central to LSU’s fortunes in this game. LSU would like to be as ambitious as possible in its passing game, but it’s hard to just let it fly freely and play with total abandon. Given Auburn’s limitations, LSU has to think first about minimizing Johnson’s mistakes. If it knows it can do that, then open up the playbook as the game goes along.
2 – Frustrate Finley
T.J. Finley returns to Tiger Stadium against his former team. Finley took the starting quarterback job away from Bo Nix. LSU certainly knows Finley well. Let’s see what the defensive game plan achieves. It ought to reflect an intimate knowledge of what Finley is – and isn’t – capable of.
3 – Pass rush
Auburn’s offensive line is just not up to par. It is one of the weaker position groups on the Auburn roster, and so any attempt to beat AU begins with achieving mastery of the Plainsmen’s offensive front. LSU was outmuscled by UCLA a few weeks ago. Everyone on the LSU roster needed to play with more pride and passion against Mississippi State, and that’s exactly what happened. Let’s see if LSU can sustain and maintain that higher standard and possibly improve upon it versus Auburn.