LSU, Auburn Set to Begin SEC West Battle of Attrition
Call it a three-team round-robin. Call it a three-way dance of death. Call it whatever you may like, but Saturday’s showdown between No. 2 LSU and No. 9 Auburn in Baton Rouge marks the official start of the battle of attrition that will determine the West Division champion of the Southeastern Conference and possibly one of the four teams to comprise the College Football Playoff.
These two sets of Tigers, along with current No. 1 Alabama, all reside in the West and are clearly head and shoulders above the rest of the division. The Crimson Tide (7-0) lead the trio with a 4-0 conference record, with LSU 3-0 and Auburn 3-1. Alabama hosts LSU (7-0) on Nov. 9, and Auburn (6-1) – which could play itself back into CFP consideration with a victory in Death Valley this weekend – hosts the Crimson Tide in the Iron Bowl on Nov. 30.
LSU Odds See Them as Heavy Favorites Against Auburn
LSU, which is a 10.5-point favorite according to the FanDuel Sports Book, maintained its spot in the most recent Associated Press Top 25 poll with a convincing 36-13 road victory over Mississippi State last week. Joe Burrow further burnished his Heisman Trophy credentials, firing four touchdown passes in a 14:37 span over the second and third quarters. The only quarterback in college football history since 2000 to complete 75 percent of his passes with more than 25 touchdown passes, Burrow has thrown for 2,484 yards and 29 TDs while connecting at a 79.4 percent clip.
Burrow got good news this week as LSU’s wide receiving corps is expected to be at full strength with the return of Terrace Marshall after he missed three games with a foot injury. Marshall had a blistering start with 20 catches for 304 yards and six touchdowns in LSU’s first four wins and has combined with Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase for 24 touchdowns receiving and 1,689 yards.
LSU ranks second in the nation in passing yards at 385.7 per game and is one of only three FBS teams to convert 100 percent of its red zone scoring chances with 31 touchdowns and eight field goals. Ed Orgeron’s team, though, will get a stern challenge from the Auburn defense. Gus Malzahn’s team is 12th in the country in run defense and 23rd overall while recording 20 sacks.
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Is Auburn’s Offense the Key to the Tiger’s Over/Under Bet?
The challenge for Auburn will be matching LSU’s offense. Freshman quarterback Bo Nix has yet to play up to elite competition, entering this match having completed just 46.2 percent (36 for 78) of his passes for 422 yards and four touchdowns with five interceptions in three games against ranked opponents.
Three of the five INTs came in Auburn’s 24-13 loss at then-No. 10 Florida on Oct. 5, but Nix did show some resiliency throwing for 176 yards and three TDs in last Saturday’s 51-10 thumping of Arkansas. Auburn also will be without top rusher JaTarvious “Boobee” Whitlow, who is out with a knee injury, and is expected to use multiple players along with Nix to try and compensate in that area.
Home-field advantage has factored significantly in this series, with LSU winning seven straight home games against Auburn since a 41-7 loss in 1999. Nix’s father Jared also was on the losing end of a game in Baton Rouge for Auburn, absorbing a 12-6 defeat in 1995.
The over/under for this game is 58.5 points but the teams have surpassed 50 points just twice in the last seven meetings. LSU rallied for a 22-21 win at Auburn last year, with Burrow throwing a 71-yard touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter before engineering a game-winning drive capped by Cole Tracy’s 42-yard field goal as time expired.
–By Chris Altruda