LSU football: 5 biggest concerns I have about Auburn
LSU is 7-0 and ranked No. 2 in the country.
It’s 3-0 in the SEC.
It’s 1 victory from an epic showdown against No. 1 Alabama on Nov. 9 in Tuscaloosa.
But first No. 9 Auburn visits Tiger Stadium on Saturday.
That’s a pretty substantial matchup that can keep LSU on track for all of its goals – or force it to take a challenging detour.
So there is a lot at stake for LSU this week.
Here are the 5 biggest concerns I have about Auburn:
1. Last season
Of course there’s enough at stake in this game to have both teams primed. Auburn already has lost to Florida but still has lofty aspirations about its own game against Alabama.
If either of these teams can find an extra bit of motivation, it can have an impact.
Auburn was ranked No. 7 and LSU was No. 12 when these teams met in Jordan-Hare in the 3rd game of last season.
The home team had a 21-10 lead entering the 4th quarter, but it didn’t score again. LSU came back and Cole Tracy kicked a 42-yard field goal as time expired to give the visitors a 22-21 victory.
Auburn was in control last season and let the game get away. Its season might have turned out a lot better if it had taken care of business in the 4th quarter against LSU.
Auburn will be motivated to put itself in a similar position this season and finish the deal.
If a similar situation arrives and it comes down to a field goal, Auburn’s Anders Carlson has more experience than LSU’s Cade York.
2. Bo Nix and Seth Williams
Auburn’s freshman quarterback is growing up.
And he’s having success with one of the SEC’s better receivers.
They have connected 6 times this season for gains of 30-plus yards. Nix threw 3 TD passes last week against Arkansas — including 2 to Williams. Williams has 7 TD catches this season. The SEC leaders have 9.
LSU’s pass rush has been inconsistent. Its coverage has been fine, but not great.
If the Tigers don’t pressure Nix and stick with Williams, then the Nix-Williams combination can be a problem.
3. Auburn’s pass rush
Auburn is 3rd in the SEC sacks with 20.
LSU has generally protected Joe Burrow pretty well. The Tigers have thrown the most passes of anyone in the SEC and allowed the 4th-fewest sacks (12).
But there has been pressure on Burrow from time to time, and Auburn has the pass rushers to disrupt the timing of the LSU passing game even if it doesn’t get a lot of sacks.
The best way to slow down the LSU passing game is to pressure – and ideally sack – Burrow.
Auburn can do it.
4. Fumble recoveries
Turnovers are the great equalizer.
LSU has done a good job of protecting the football, but Auburn has done a really good job of causing and recovering fumbles.
Auburn has recovered 10 fumbles, which ties it with Mississippi State for the most in the SEC.
Derrick Brown is a master of the strip sack, a lesson Florida’s Kyle Trask learned the hard way. Brown and Marlon Davidson each have forced 2 fumbles this season.
If the pass rush gets to Burrow, fumbles become a possibility. But Auburn has also dislodged the ball from running backs and pass catchers.
LSU can’t afford to give the ball away, and Auburn is very good at taking it away.
5 .Rushing offense … even without Boobie Whitlow
It’s Gus Malzahn’s offense, so Auburn is really good at running the football.
Last year was an outlier. The Tigers finished 10th in the SEC in rushing and failed to produce a 1,000-yard rusher. Boobie Whitlow was ahead of pace to change that in 2019, but then he got injured.
Auburn responded by rushing 51 times for 298 yards and 3 TDs against Arkansas. Kam Martin led the way with a season-high 84 yards.
Auburn has the best rushing team in the SEC, averaging 239.6 yards per game.
If Auburn runs the ball well, things get easier for Nix in the passing game.
If Auburn runs the ball well, it can limit the opportunities for Burrow and the LSU offense.
If Auburn runs the ball well, it can beat LSU.