GAME DAY: Auburn @ LSU
The game will be televised by ESPN2. It'll be in HD, too.
I'm planning to head out around 3:30 p.m.
Here is my guide to Le Game:
AUBURN at LSU
When: 6:30 p.m. today
Where: Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, La.
Current Line: LSU by 7.5
Opening line: LSU by 8.
On the air: TV – ESPN2. Radio — WLWI-FM 92.3, WMSP-AM 740
FOUR DOWN TERRITORY
1. Auburn is a team in limbo right now. Wins in the first five games
provided confidence that coach Gene Chizik's ideas worked. The
offensive clicked. Defensive problems were a real issue, but gobs of
points soothed the pain. Now the offense is in the tank. Auburn scored
a single offensive touchdown against Kentucky last week. It seems that
opponents have learned how to defend Gus Malzahn's offense. Everything
this team aspires to accomplish this season rests on its ability to
score points. Fourteen is not enough. Fourteen won't be enough.
2. Chris Todd should be on a milk carton. Auburn fans have seen this
story before -- the hyped quarterback starts off strongly then fades
badly at in October. Is this 2008? The problem then was Todd's
shoulder, which finally because a season-ending nuisance. Will that
happen again? Todd says his shoulder is fine. Chizik says the shoulder
is fine. So does Malzahn. Still, facts are facts. Todd has missed at
least a dozen straightforward throws during the past two weeks. If
that trend continues, Auburn will struggle to win more than six games
3. Auburn's defensive struggles are overstated. When Chizik hired
Malzahn and promised to create the same frenzied offense seen at
Tulsa, defensive regression was all but assured. The Tigers no longer
are a ball-control team. The defense's job is tougher now. Touchdown
prevention was the theme prior to 2009. Now it's all about touchdown
management -- simply slowing the touchdown flow. It's unfair to say
the Tigers' defense choked against Kentucky. It allowed 21 points.
That's supposed to be enough.
4. Auburn has become a sociological experiment of sorts during the
past three weeks. A 5-0 start stoked expectations well beyond where
they should have been. This is a flawed team and has been a flawed
team all along. Then came the loss at Arkansas. The home loss to
Kentucky. Now message boards are loaded with discussions about
Chizik's worthiness, Malzahn's ability and Ted Roof's competence.
Those three guys are working with the same 77 scholarship players and
running the same schemes. If Auburn finishes 6-6, some will say it was
a disaster. I'll say that's one game ahead of what I predicted in
Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn vs. LSU defensive coordinator
Malzahn's offense is crippled. The substantive pass plays that
characterized the Tigers' first five games have all but disappeared.
The problem? Part is quarterback Chris Todd, who suddenly is
struggling to make routine throws. Another element of Auburn's problem
involves strategy. Arkansas and Kentucky used few blitzes and played
reactive defense, which suffocated Auburn's offense. Receivers who had
been open during the first month now have defenders in tow. It's up to
Malzahn to devise new twists that expose that defensive strategy.
Chavis, who managed several excellent defenses at Tennessee, surely
will follow the blueprint provided by Arkansas and Kentucky. Malzahn
now must evolve.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
TE, 6-5, 245, Sr.
Trott has been one of the most intriguing player-development stories
of the past 10 years. He arrived at Auburn as a ready-made receiver
who couldn't block. Over time, he has become a major blocking asset.
He is a major reason why the Tigers' rushing attack works so well.
Defenses have allocated more resources toward shutting down Gus
Malzahn's deep-pass emphasis, which means areas behind the linebackers
are open more often that before. That could create an ideal
opportunity for Trott to emerge as a passing-game threat. He has the
hands to make plays. He seems to understand the offense well. The only
obstacle seems to be Malzahn's infatuation with wideouts Darvin Adams
and Terrell Zachery.
BY THE NUMBERS
1 -- Number of players who signed with LSU out of an Alabama high
school. (Dothan native Josh Williford plays offensive line.)
2 -- Number of linebackers (Craig Stevens and Joshua Bynes) who
already have more tackles this season than in all of 2008.
5 -- Number of sacks allowed by Auburn this season, which is seventh
fewest among FBS teams.
7 -- Number of night games Auburn has played this season, which
already is second-most in school history. The record is eight.
9 -- Number of wins, out of its previous 14 games, that Auburn has earned
against teams ranked in the Associated Press' top 10.
92 -- Combined number of career starts for Auburn's first-team offensive line.
553 -- Yards needed for Ben Tate to catch Joe Cribbs (2,815) for
fourth place on Auburn's career rushing list.
I've been wrong during the past two weeks. Totally wrong. My track
record isn't the best, but I still believe Auburn is going to surprise
someone soon. LSU is not a great team this season. Its statistical
markers aren't indicative of a team ranked among the nation's 10 best,
so there will be a correction of sorts at some point. Why not today?
Auburn's defense played OK against Kentucky. LSU's attack is less
formidable. It's reasonable to believe the Tigers could hold LSU to 21
points or less this weekend. Can the offense get itself together long
enough to build four scoring drives? I think it can. Smooth
performances will be rare given Chris Todd's problems, but Auburn will
put everything together at some point. Conditions seem ripe for a
Auburn 24, LSU 21.
Photo credit: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University
Questions? Comments? Post directly to the blog below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.