The Auburn-LSU game seems to bring out the best, or the worst, in each team.
Auburn only has to go back to last year to remember a second-half collapse that has been a motivational tool for the Tigers this week in practice. LSU can look back on its last visit to Auburn, in 2016, when it couldn’t get off a play in the final seconds of a close loss to Auburn that finishing the LSU coaching career of Les Miles.
“This is always a game that will be a big factor in the SEC West,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “There’s been some close, crazy games and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s another one.”
Auburn tuned up for the game last week with an easy romp over Alabama State that allowed the Tigers to play all of their freshmen running backs and Malzahn liked what he saw.
“We know what we’re getting with Kam (Martin),” Malzahn said. “He’s Mr. Stability. ‘Boobee’ (JaTarvious Whitlow) is learning each week. Our other freshmen running backs, it was good to get them on the field last week and I think you’ll see that group grow, too.”
LSU is 2-0 as well and the emergence of tailback Nick Brossette has given the Tigers some hope as they travel to the Plains for a Saturday afternoon matchup on CBS.
“He looks like a very good running back,” Malzahn said. “Obviously, he played very well against Miami and had some big runs. He looks like their typical running back, their marquee back. He’s big, strong and fast.”
The ability of the two rushing attacks to sustain anything against the opposing defensive front will be a key factor in determining Saturday’s winner.
“They’re hard to tackle, they can make you miss in space,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said of Auburn’s tailbacks. “But I’ve got to give the credit to the offensive line. They create seams, their backs hit seams, they come off of the double teams well, they’re coached well, they know exactly where to do. I think it’s a tremendous set of backs we’re facing, the best set of backs we’ve faced this year by far.”
If both defensive fronts live up to their billing, the running game of both teams will need some help from the passing ability of the quarterback. That gives Auburn’s a huge advantage with Jarrett Stidham, while LSU is still learning about first-year starter Joe Burrow.
“It’ll be a good test for us, obviously, against a great defense and a hostile crowd,” Orgeron said. “I thought he did well against Miami. Obviously, this is going to be different. This is a very, very good defense with a dominant front. There’s going to be some pressure, but it seems like he’s handled the pressure pretty good. There’s going to be some challenging moments. We’re going to find out what we’re about. I think he’s going to pass the test.”