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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Auburn-LSU Gameday!

Well, it's finally here. The game everyone's been waiting for. It's still over eight hours to kickoff, but here are a few thoughts about the game:

-- Auburn QB Chris Todd and the offense has to get off to a fast start. Easier said than done against an LSU defense that by all accounts is every bit as good as Auburn's. If he doesn't, he'll hear the boos (regardless of what the dean prefers) and so will offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, who was hired to modernize the offense, not take it back to the 1920s when the forward pass was revolutionizing the game and 3 points was a scoring outburst. Everybody's favorite player is the backup quarterback. That seems to apply in this case with Kodi Burns, but if Todd can get the offense moving in the first half, those cries for Kodi to enter the game won't be so loud.

-- That said, I think Burns plays today. Any sign of trouble out of Todd and I don't think coach Tommy Tuberville can't sit and wait for him to figure things out against a defense like LSU's.

-- The Goodyear Blimp is in town, so you know this is a big game.

-- I've written this many times this week but will do it again. Auburn cannot let Trindon Holliday get loose on a return. It seems like an easy fix on punts, where you can just kick it out of bounds or so high the returner can't do anything with it. But there's really no avoiding it on kickoffs. In a game I covered last year, Virginia played Wake Forest and a dynamic kick returner, Kevin Marion. The Cavaliers chose to squib kick the entire game and it worked. They gave up field position that was at or near the 40-yard line every time, but they didn't give up the backbreaking return for a touchdown. We'll see if Tuberville employs a similar concept today, because like he said, Holliday is one of the best he's ever seen.

-- I've seen LSU as anywhere from 1.5- to 3- point favorites. Seems about right since Auburn looked so awful on offense last week. Here's a curious thing, though. The over-under is listed around 37. That seems pretty high for two teams whose last two meetings in the Plains resulted in 10-9 and 7-3 scores.

-- Big key for Auburn is to pressure the quarterback. I know, I know, you can say that about any game at any time, but with Charles Scott as such a solid runner and the offensive line being pretty experienced, quarterback -- where LSU rotates a trio of Andrew Hatch, Jarrett Lee and now, even true freshman Jordan Jefferson -- is the weak link of the offense. I'm sure Antonio Coleman and Sen'Derrick Marks would like to introduce themselves to an LSU signal caller today.

-- Quick tangent: I really dislike it when both teams have the same mascot. I can't write "Tigers" at all without confusing myself and you, the reader.

-- This goes without saying, but Auburn cannot keep fumbling the ball. You can get away with that kind of stuff against the Mississippi States of the world -- and apparently just barely -- but LSU will make you pay. I'm sure running backs coach Eddie Gran hammered that point home pretty well this week.

-- I'll be curious to see if LSU's disjointed start to the season has any effect on the game. LSU has had its second game of the season against Troy pushed back because of Hurricane Gustav. Both of its other games were threatened by storms as well. On top of that, LSU hasn't really been tested, winning its game 41-13 and 41-3 against Appalachian State and North Texas, respectively. Now, Appy State is a good FCS team, but it was not going to sneak up on anyone this year. North Texas is 0-3 and went 2-10 last season. It will be interesting to see if the lack of competition LSU has faced has them unprepared for what everyone involved says is the most physical game of the year.

-- On that note, here's a good quote from C Ryan Pugh on this game: "It's got to be one of the bigger physical games. Besides the Iron Bowl, that's just pure hate, LSU-Auburn is a physical football game. You're going to see big hits. You're going to see people getting after each other. It's going to be entertaining."

-- How do you resolve this head-to-head? Tuberville is 9-3 in its last 12 games against top-10 teams. LSU's Les Miles is 7-3 against top-10 competition since heading to Baton Rogue. Something's got to give.

-- I'm watching ESPN's College GameDay right now. Looks like a pretty good turnout by the stadium. I can see why they like coming here.

-- Prediction time: It's hard for me to give a true opinion on this game because I've been covering the SEC for ... what time is it, again? ... 15 minutes or so. It's hard to go against the home team in a series in which the host school has won eight straight, but I just can't get the image of Auburn's offense from last week out of my mind. Too many mistakes, too many penalties, too few results. You can't do that against a team of LSU's caliber. I'll go LSU in a close one, 13-10.

-- I can't wait to experience a Jordan-Hare gameday. I'll try to post again once I get to the stadium and, hopefully, during the game (night games have brutal deadlines). Come back later for more updates.

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