Auburn is looking for anything positive on the gridiron after a 1-2 start, while undefeated LSU will look to continue dominating opponents when it travels to the Plains for a 7 p.m. ET kickoff Saturday night on ESPN. In this tale of two Tigers going in different directions, Les Miles’ crew will enter SEC play as an almost three-touchdown favorite over Auburn. However Gene Chizik’s bunch has a ton of talent and pride, and the Jordan-Hare crowd can be a difference maker.
1. Wild things happen in SEC night games.
LSU easily handled Auburn, 45-10, in Baton Rouge last season, but this one is on the road. While the Bengal Tigers have won 24 consecutive September games, the visitor in the LSU-Auburn series is 1-11 in the last 12 matchups. In fact, the last time Les Miles lost in the month of September was a 7-3 defeat at Auburn in 2006.
2. Zach Mettenberger makes his first SEC road start.
The new LSU starter has performed well this season, throwing for 609 yards and four touchdowns while completing 72.7 percent of his passes. Even though Auburn has struggled on defense, the Tigers talent should present more of a challenge for Mettenberger than North Texas, Washington and Idaho. A solid run game should help the junior quarterback, but the atmosphere at Jordan-Hare could be intimidating if Auburn can gain momentum early.
3. Auburn must tackle better to have a chance on defense.
New coordinator Brian VanGorder arrived on the Plains with much acclaim, but the results through three games have been ugly. The Auburn defense has allowed an alarming 651 rushing yards this season, and LSU’s power running attack is one of the best in the nation. AU has talented defenders, but VanGorder must find a way to make them work better as a unit. If Auburn can make open-field tackles and not break in the red zone, the home Tigers can keep it close and use the raucous crowd to their advantage.
4. LSU has had a rash of key injuries to its running backs and offensive line.
Tailback Alfred Blue (270 yards and two touchdowns in 2012) suffered a knee injury against Idaho and is out indefinitely, while Spencer Ware has already missed two games. Offensive linemen P.J. Lonergan and Josh Dworaczyk have missed time as well, although both should play at Auburn. Perhaps no team in the nation has as much depth as LSU, but the Tigers current attrition is a concern.
5. Quarterback Kiehl Frazier must be able to make a few plays on third down.
The young signal caller has struggled to adjust to new coordinator Scot Loeffler’s offense, and he has only two touchdown passes versus five interceptions in three games. The focus of the Auburn attack will be on runners Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb, who have totaled 435 yards on just 75 carries, but LSU tends to allow next to nothing on the ground. Frazier will need to use his athleticism to avoid a solid LSU pass rush and move the chains enough to give the AU offense some balance.
---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)