#6 LSU VS #4 AUBURN
The Southeastern Conference has produced the last four BCS national championship winners. The University of Florida won in 2006, and 2008, LSU won in 2007, and Alabama took home the trophy last season in 2009. The SEC is arguably the most competitive and talented conference in the country, so when two undefeated teams meet in late October, it’s a strong possibility that the winner will be playing in the BCS title game.
Both teams are coming into the game already having won big games within their conference. Auburn has defeated both Arkansas and South Carolina, while LSU has won two nail-biters against Tennessee and Florida.
Auburn offense vs LSU defense: Auburn’s strength on offense is their running game, more specifically Cam Newton. Newton has run for over 150 yards in four games this year and is incredibly quick when considering his overall size. He has a long stride, but can transfer his weight quickly from left to right without losing balance or much momentum, which is rarely seen from a person who is 6’6 and 250 pounds. It will be important for the LSU defense to limit Newton’s ability to take off and run. LSU has top level speed on defense from the front seven to the secondary and will be better equipped to deal with Newton’s speed than last week’s opponent, Arkansas. While Newton is improving as a passer, he isn’t nearly a finished product. If LSU can force him to throw, by keeping linebackers close to the line of scrimmage and limiting his running lanes, they will have a very good chance of forcing him to make bad decisions.
LSU ranks 3rd in the country in sacks, and their ability to be effective is based on pressuring the quarterback. The LSU defense is a 4-3 scheme that emphasizes speed over size. They play mostly one on one man coverage in the secondary, nothing exotic or confusing in their blitz alignments; they simply line up and ask you to beat them physically. They are effective with this scheme because of the talented players that execute it. Drake Nevis, Kelvin Sheppard, and Patrick Peterson are players that show the ability to play well at the NFL level, and will have to play strong on Saturday in order to get the win over Auburn.
LSU offense vs Auburn defense: LSU runs mostly a spread offense, with 3-4 wide receivers or bunch formations from the shotgun, but they also do a good job incorporating power looks from a two running back set or power I formation. The offense is most effective when it can get into a quick rhythm in the passing game to help set up the run. They have been interchanging their quarterbacks most of the year, with Jordan Jefferson starting and Jarrett Lee getting a good amount of game time. Jefferson is the more athletic of the two, and gives you more diversity in the running game, but he isn’t as sharp a passer as Lee, who will stand in the pocket and make decisions. LSU will have to get the ball in the hands of their playmakers regardless of the quarterback– wide receivers Russell Shepard and Terrence Tolliver. Shepard is the most dynamic player on the offense and will also line up as a running back; he has DeSean Jackson type athleticism in space, and will need to be a key part of this game in order to win. The Auburn defense gave up over 400 yards in the air against the Arkansas Razorbacks, so opportunities will be there in the passing game.
Auburn is very similar to LSU in that the success of their defense is highly dependent on the front four to generate pressure, they don’t blitz a lot. The one major difference is that Auburn plays a lot more zone coverage with their safeties and linebackers, playing a combination of press and off coverage with the corners. 6’5 315 pound defensive tackle Nick Fairley is very disruptive and can both rush the passer and hold the point of attack in the run game. Middle linebacker Josh Bynes is Auburn’s most athletic linebacker and makes a lot of tackles around the line of scrimmage. Auburn’s secondary will ultimately make or break this defense against LSU.
The edge: LSU has won the last three meetings and four of the last five between these teams, but the home team is 9-1 in the last ten games. If this game was in LSU I would be inclined to take them, the home field advantage there is tangible and I don’t believe there is a harder place to play for visitors than Death Valley. While I believe LSU is just as talented as Auburn, the Auburn offense is clicking right now, and Cam Newton is having a special year. The Auburn defense will do enough to limit big plays in the passing game, and win a close and entertaining contest at Jordan Hare Stadium.
Other notable games: #1 Oklahoma vs #11 Missouri, #13 Wisconsin vs #15 Iowa, #16 Nebraska vs #14 Oklahoma St.