Auburn still controls its destiny, but there's no room for error now
When Auburn jumped out to a 20-0 lead in the first half against LSU on Saturday afternoon in Baton Rouge, it looked like a rout was on.
However, the home Tigers managed to cut into Auburn’s lead by halftime, entering the break facing a 23-14 deficit. From there, it only got worse for Auburn, as LSU climbed all the way back to earn an impressive 27-23 victory.
The loss was a major setback for Auburn, to be sure, but it wasn’t a season-ender for coach Gus Malzahn’s squad.
In fact, the Tigers still control their destiny in the SEC West, though they eliminated any margin for error they had left.
However, there’s still a very clear route to the SEC Championship Game (and potentially, if they catch a few breaks, the College Football Playoff) for the Tigers, but it certainly won’t be easy.
Here’s how the Tigers can make 2017 a special season even in the wake of Saturday’s devastating collapse:
Georgia game is now do-or-die
It’s always dangerous to assume, but it appears Alabama has a great chance to go undefeated in SEC play heading into the Iron Bowl on Nov. 25.
If that does indeed happen, then Auburn’s loss to LSU won’t matter at all. Because if the Tigers also win all their remaining games before the Iron Bowl, it’ll be a winner-take-all affair for the SEC West title.
Unfortunately for Malzahn and his squad, that means they need to beat Georgia on Nov. 11, which will be easier said than done.
Georgia is now 4-0 in SEC play after crushing the Missouri Tigers on Saturday night and are 7-0 overall. The Bulldogs have looked like one of the nation’s best team, and their standing in the AP Poll reflects that.
Yes, there are still two games to go (at Arkansas and at Texas A&M) before Georgia, but if the Tigers can’t take care of business in those contests, they don’t deserve to be playing in the SEC Championship Game.
Their toughest games are at home
The Georgia game and the Alabama game will both be played at Jordan-Hare Stadium, which gives the Tigers a big advantage.
Their two losses this year have come at Clemson and at LSU, so playing at home in the biggest games of the season will make things easier.
Granted, that doesn’t mean the Tigers can sleepwalk through the two huge games, but Jordan-Hare has provided memorable moments against both the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide in recent years — the Miracle at Jordan-Hare against Georgia and the Kick-Six against Alabama.
The math is simple — defend Jordan-Hare and the Tigers will likely go to the SEC Championship Game. Lose, and the conference title game and any CFP hopes die. If that’s not great motivation for the Tigers, nothing will be.
They know they need to make adjustments
Perhaps the biggest positive from Saturday’s loss was the fact that Malzahn and OC Chip Lindsey now know they need to be better at making adjustments.
LSU coach Ed Orgeron said after the game that there was a certain formation Auburn was using that let LSU know a run was coming. However, formations aside, Lindsey called runs on 17 straight first-down plays in the second half of the loss.
Against Georgia and Alabama (and heck, even against Texas A&M and Arkansas), that sort of predictability isn’t going to work.
The Tigers have one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC in Jarrett Stidham, but even he can’t be counted on to consistently overcome second-and-long situations after opponents stuff predictable and unimaginative first-down runs.