By JAMES MORAN
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
LSU WILL WIN IF …
The offense produces for 60 minutes: Danny Etling is a perfect 2-for-2 getting the offense off to a hot start, whether it be coming off the bench to lead three straight scoring drives against Jacksonville State or racing the Tigers out to a 23-3 halftime lead over Mississippi State. LSU’s second halves, however, leave something to be desired. LSU didn’t score after halftime against Mississippi State, nearly surrendering that 20-point advantage. Leonard Fournette isn’t likely to lose two fumbles again, but LSU gained just six of its 22 first downs in the second half. This must be remedied.
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The front seven continues to stuff the run: LSU did an outstanding job corralling Nick Fitzgerald and Mississippi State’s ground game, holding the Bulldogs to 56 nets yards rushing on just 1.8 yards per attempt. LSU played the read option perfectly. Now, they’ll see if they can do it again against Gus Malzahn, who runs more variations of the play than any coach in the nation. The key for LSU will to be once again play fast but disciplined, as one blown assignment can mean yielding a big chunk of yardage. Especially when lightning-quick quarterback John Franklin is in the game.
AUBURN WILL WIN IF …
The home team gets off to a fast start: Historically, Jordan-Hare Stadium has been a house of horrors for many a LSU team. Lately, it’s been the Plainsmen who’ve looked downright frightful at home. Auburn is in the midst of a seven-game home losing streak to Power-5 teams, the second-longest such streak in the nation behind only Colorado (10). Malzahn’s Tigers are 2-10 in their last 12 SEC games. That breeds serious negativity around the program and the potential for doubt within the locker room. Falling behind LSU early would feel like one more hole dug too deep to climb out of.
Carl Lawson and the pass rush can get home on Danny Etling: The quickest way to unnerve any quarterback is to hit them, so in addition to corralling Leonard Fournette, a task Auburn failed miserably at last season, the defensive front needs to get to Etling when he drops back to throw. That won’t be easy. Four of LSU’s five offensive linemen went down at one point or another on Saturday, yet LSU didn’t yield a single sack. That’s a credit to both Jeff Grimes’ group and Etling’s elusiveness in the pocket. Auburn must overcome both to win.