That was a close one.
Auburn needed overtime to earn its first victory of the season, a 31-28 decision over UL-Monroe, last Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Now for the second time in as many weeks, the War Eagles will play host to an opponent from the Pelican State. However the Tigers from the state’s Flagship university figure to be a much more formidable foe than the Warhawks from Monroe – even if quarterback Kolton Browning sliced and diced Auburn for 295 total yards and four total touchdowns last week.
Not sure if Zach Mettenberger can match those numbers, but he may not have to. Auburn has had a difficult time doing anything offensively in 2012. The War Eagles rank last in the SEC in total offense (102nd nationally, 336.00 yards/game), passing offense (111th nationally, 160.67 yards/game), passing efficiency (106th nationally, 110.89 yards/game) and scoring offense (104th nationally, 20.00 points/game).
Defensively, Auburn isn’t much better.
They’re second to last in the league in total defense (94th nationally, 442.00 yards/game) and third to last in the SEC in scoring defense (78th nationally, 27.33 points/game). Sprinkle in five tackles for loss allowed per game (12th SEC, T-83rd nationally) and a minus-2.33 turnover margin (13th SEC, 117th nationally), and the War Eagles have been a model for how not to play football in 2012.
Individually, Kiehl Frazier has taken the mantle as one of the worst starting SEC quarterbacks in recent memory. He’s got two touchdowns (one on a Hail Mary) and five interceptions so far this season and has been a huge liability for first-year offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler.
Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb have split the load as Auburn’s running backs this season, and they’ve actually done pretty well considering opponents don’t have to respect the pass too much. They’ve averaged 5.0 and 6.9 yards per carry, respectively, but they each have just one score apiece and that accounts for all of Auburn’s scoring on the ground.
Six offensive touchdowns in three games isn’t getting it done.
LSU has by far the best defense the War Eagles have faced this season, so expect quite a few more turnovers and not very many points and production from the home team’s offensive unit.
The Tigers intercepted four passes a week ago and have seven takeaways so far this season.
LSU’s got the best rushing (47.00 yards/game) and total (205.00 yards/game) defenses in the league, so making an already one-dimensional offense even more one-dimensional than usual is bad news for Auburn.
On the other side of the ball, Mettenberger might just face his toughest defense yet as a starting quarterback (that isn’t saying much). However, as previously mentioned, Auburn has struggled to stop any of their three opponents. Opposing quarterbacks Tajh Boyd (Clemson), Tyler Russell (Mississippi State) and Browning (UL-Monroe) have combined to throw for 667 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception.
The War Eagles also allowed a pitiful 228 rushing yards to Clemson running back Andre Ellington on the ground. With or without Alfred Blue, the Tiger ‘O’ should be a steamroller on the ground, setting up open wide receivers when LSU goes play-action.
One matchup to keep an eye on may be LSU’s question marks at the tackle positions versus pass rushing stud Corey Lemonier. He’s got three sacks in 2012, which actually contributes greatly to placing Auburn in the top half of the SEC in something. He lines up on both sides of the field, so whether it’s Josh Dworaczyk, Alex Hurst or Vadal Alexander going one-on-one with No. 55, they better be ready.
Auburn’s best chance will be hoping a raucous road environment throws off Mettenberger in his first start away from Tiger Stadium and forces him into making mistakes that place the blue-and-orange Tigers in position for easy scores.
However, Auburn’s fourth-to-last turnover margin in America shows that if Mett does have an off game, Auburn might just give it right back to LSU.
All in all, LSU should like its chances more than any previous trip to the Plains in recent years – a place where LSU is 1-5 since the new millennium.