Matchup: No. 18 Auburn Tigers at No. 13 LSU Tigers
Location: Tiger Stadium (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
Kickoff Time: 3:30 pm ET
Spread and Total: LSU (-7), 48.5
Both breeds of Tigers head into this pivotal SEC showdown coming off of victories in Week 2. However, it’s the purple and yellow-striped cats that have the clear-cut momentum advantage over their orange and blue-clad counterparts.
Last Saturday night, LSU rode its freight train of a running back Leonard Fournette to a 21-19 victory over Mississippi State in Starkville. It was a game that was largely one-sided for three quarters before the Bulldogs rallied from a 21-6 deficit to make things interesting.
The 230-pound sophomore Heisman contender kept the opposing crowd’s cowbells quiet, as he posted one of the best performances of his career, rushing for 159 yards and all three of his team’s touchdowns.
Auburn, on the other hand, narrowly avoided disaster in Week 2. It needed overtime to eke out a 27-20 win over Jacksonville State—an FCS program from the Ohio Valley Conference. The Tigers’ lackluster performance at home against an off-the-radar team caused them to drop 12 spots in the latest AP Top 25 poll and it diminished the perception that they are a viable national title contender.
Not only do the boys from Baton Rouge enter this showcase showdown with a clear momentum advantage, they’re also motivated by the thought of avenging last year’s embarrassing 41-7 defeat at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
LSU QB Brandon Harris—who had just eight completions in that blowout loss—looks to be much more confident and comfortable leading the offense this year. The same can’t be said, though, for Auburn QB Jeremy Johnson, who has plenty of potential and physical ability but little experience running Gus Malzahn’s spread attack.
It doen’t help that Johnson doesn’t have a true featured rusher in the backfield to take some of the pressure off him.
The efficiency of Harris, the powerful presence of Fournette, the overall experience edge on the offensive side of the ball and the hostile atmosphere of Death Valley will likely be the difference in this matchup.
It also wouldn’t be surprising if the dangerous receiving duo of Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural—who combined for 12 touchdowns in 2014—ends up stealing the show against an Auburn secondary that was routinely toasted against quality passing offenses last season. The only question is will Les Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron give Harris enough chances to air it out (LSU attempted just 14 passes last week) to his two stud wideouts?
Ultimately, both these teams have a great chance to materialize into contenders for a West division crown this season. But at this early juncture in the season, it’s LSU that looks to be the more well-rounded squad.
Prediction: LSU 31, Auburn 20