No. 2 LSU, No. 9 Auburn renew high-drama, high-stakes rival
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Ed Orgeron doesn’t have to think long or hard to express what he expects when No. 2 LSU hosts No. 9 Auburn on Saturday.
After a youth spent in south Louisiana, rooting for his home state Tigers against a historical Southeastern Conference rival with the same mascot; after his experience as an LSU coach, competing with Auburn’s staff for prized prospects; and after experiencing three thrilling match-ups in the past three seasons, Orgeron has a handle on it.
“We know a lot about them. They know a lot about us. It’s going to be a war,” Orgeron said. “A lot of those guys (at Auburn), we recruited. A lot of our recruits, they recruited.”
LSU (7-0, 3-0 SEC) is favored by more than a touchdown, and that sounds about right to its quarterback, Joe Burrow, who has led an offense averaging 50.1 points per game this season.
“This is the third top-10 team we’ve played,” Burrow said, alluding to victories earlier this season against Texas and Florida . “Going back to last year, we have a lot of guys who have played in a lot of meaningful football games. They do too. Both teams are battle tested. It’s going to be a fun game.”
Burrow’s first big moment for LSU came at Auburn last season, when he led a comeback victory that was capped by Cole Tracy’s field goal as time expired.
In 2017, Orgeron enjoyed one of the top early highlights in his first season as LSU’s permanent head coach against Auburn. LSU trailed 20-0 before storming back to win 27-23 .
And LSU’s visit to Auburn in 2016 precipitated Orgeron’s elevation from defensive assistant to interim head coach — after a wild ending. LSU thought it had won on a touchdown pass from Danny Etling to D.J. Chark as time expired, and began celebrating wildly, initially unaware that officials had ruled the clock hit zero a moment before the snap. Auburn’s 18-13 victory was preserved and then-head coach Les Miles was fired a day later .
This season, Auburn (6-1, 3-1) generally has looked strong on both sides of the ball except for two weeks ago at Florida , where freshman quarterback Bo Nix was intercepted three times.
Still, Auburn has arguably the best defensive line —led by Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson — that LSU will have faced this season.
Auburn is allowing about an average of 17 points and has yet to give up more than 24 in a game this season.
Auburn also comes in with a sense of urgency, knowing that with one more loss, it loses control of its ability to win the SEC West without help.
When asked if Auburn had to win Saturday, Davidson responded, “Yes, of course.”
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has gushed about Burrow’s improvement this year.
“When they throw it down the field, they are pretty accurate. They aren’t throwing just to take shots. They usually make you pay,” Malzahn said. “Joe Burrow is very accurate and his timing with his receivers is really impressive.”
Burrow said he remembers being struck as a high school player by Malzahn’s offensive creativity and has enjoyed watching his teams ever since.
“He always has something up his sleeve,” Burrow said. “I’m excited to playing somebody like that.”
BATTLING THE NOISE
Nix sounded confident he could better handle the crowd noise at Tiger Stadium than at Florida, where communication issues plagued Auburn’s offense.
“I felt like it was more on me than it was anybody else,” Nix said. “I didn’t do a good enough job communicating with others, of being loud enough.
“Going forward, I think that the Florida game did help, obviously, a lot, just from experience and being there and doing that,” Nix added. “Now I can just really sit back and do my job and not really worry about the atmosphere.”
LSU defensive lineman Glen Logan said he and fellow pass rushers intend to make Nix’s visit to Death Valley “one he doesn’t want to remember.”
AUBURN LOSING STREAK
Auburn has lost nine straight games at Tiger Stadium, where LSU holds a commanding 18-5-1 advantage in the series. Auburn’s last win in Baton Rouge was a 41-7 victory in 1999.
Current LSU players, some of whom weren’t even born 20 years ago, are still told about Auburn players chomping on cigars on the eye-of-the-tiger logo on the 50-yard line after that last road victory against LSU.
“That won’t happen again,” Logan predicted. “There are going to be lot of things they’re not going to enjoy.”
As if LSU’s passing offense needed a lift, Orgeron said receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. is ready to return from a foot injury that sidelined him three games.
Marshall caught six touchdown passes before he went down, but LSU has kept rolling with fellow receivers Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase providing the bulk of production.
“The thing that Terrance gives us, I believe him a Joe have a special connection,” Orgeron said. “You can see that obviously with the success they had and it gives us three big-time receivers out there.”