Sept. 21, 2013
BATON ROUGE, La. - On LSU football weekends, iconic former LSU linebacker Mike Anderson puts his prediction for on the sign outside his seafood restaurant. Friday night, here's how it read:
"Mike says LSU 42, Auburn 7."
While that probably wasn't the best way to get visiting Auburn fans inside for some Cajun seafood, it seemed to reflect the mood around here. No one seems to believe Auburn has a chance to even make it a game, much less win the game when the two sets of Tigers match 3-0 records tonight at LSU's Tiger Stadium.
Barring Auburn going on a turnover binge, I don't see it being a blowout, but my guess isn't any better than Anderson's. Nobody will know until it's decided on the field.
Breaking it down:
It could be really wet
The weather forecast calls for an 80 percent chance of heavy thunderstorms at gametime and at least 70 percent throughout the game. If there's lightning, we could see delays. Who would bad weather help? Neither team would like it, but the prevailing wisdom is that it usually helps the underdog because strange things can happen when the field and ball are wet. Bad weather also tends to dampen the enthusiasm of the home crowd.
Battle of the quarterbacks
Auburn's Nick Marshall and LSU's Zach Mettenberger, two guys who started their careers at Georgia and left under less than ideal circumstances, will be in the spotlight from the start.
Against TCU, UAB and Kent State, Mettenberger, in his second season as LSU's starter, has been one of the hotter quarterbacks in the country. He has thrown nine touchdown passes and no interceptions. Marshall, who arrived at Auburn over the summer, has improved dramatically in there games. He led Auburn on an 88-yard drive in the final 1:56 and threw an 11-yard pass to C.J. Uzomah to beat Mississippi State.
LSU can really run the ball
LSU is averaging 218.7 yards per game on the ground. Terrence Magee is averaging 8.1 yards per carry, and that's not even the best on the team. Jeremy Hill is averaging 9.8 yards per carry.
Auburn really needs to run the ball
Auburn's running game was in high gear in the first two games of the season. Not so much against Mississippi State last Saturday. Tiger tailbacks Tre Mason, Corey Grant and Cameron Artis-Payne need to run effectively against LSU to keep some of the heat off Marshall.
Who's who on defense?
Lots of people assume LSU must have a great defense because, well, it's LSU. But against three opponents who won't set any offensive records, the Bayou Bengals are giving up 19 points per game. They gave up 17 to UAB in the second quarter alone.
Auburn, on the other hand, has given up more than 400 yards in each of its three games. But the Tigers have given up just one second-half touchdown. They are giving up 17 points per game.
Auburn at Tiger Stadium
In the 1990's, Auburn won three out of four at Tiger Stadium. But since winning 31-28 in 1999, it has gone 0-6 in what many say is the loudest venue in the game. The 2005 game went to overtime and the 2007 games was decided with one second left. But in 2009 and 2011, the Tigers were outscored by a total score of 76-20.
Gus bus is picking up speed
First-year Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn hasn't been part of a loss since his Arkansas State team lost 26-13 to Western Kentucky on Sept. 29 of last year. He's won 10 straight.
Auburn in the fourth quarter
Auburn's mission tonight will be to get to the fourth quarter with a chance to win. The Tigers have good reason to feel confident if they get to that point. They have won the fourth quarter 20-0 so far this season.
The bottom line
Auburn players, buoyed by last Saturday's dramatic victory, will take the field tonight believing they can win. They vow they will leave nothing on the field, and based on the first three games, there's no reason to doubt their resolve.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: