LSU Tigers: Auburn Tigers

LSU savors open to SEC season

September, 18, 2013
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BATON ROUGE, La. – Odell Beckham Jr. leapt high in the end zone during the first quarter Saturday at Tiger Stadium. He looked set to snag a touchdown reception from Zach Mettenberger, before Kent State defender Darius Polk interfered on the play, drawing a flag as he popped a Beckham finger loose from its socket.

It required two attempts for a trainer on the LSU sideline to set the finger back in place.

The scenario, Beckham said, turned his stomach a bit.

[+] EnlargeLes Miles
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesLes Miles and LSU are out for a third-straight win over Auburn.
But on the next LSU possession, there he was, lined up wide. He caught a 12-yard pass on the second play.

“I’m not going to leave the field,” he said.

With such enthusiasm over a game against Kent State, imagine Beckham’s energy level this week as the sixth-ranked Tigers prepare to open SEC play against Auburn on Saturday (7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN).

“That’s why I came here, to play in the SEC,” said Beckham, who leads the nation through three games in all-purpose yardage. “Honestly, I can’t wait. I feel like a kid in a candy shop -- just excited about Auburn and the teams we’re going to face. I’m looking forward to the competition.”

Beckham’s feelings appear representative of the Tigers after comfortable wins over TCU, UAB and the Golden Flashes. LSU hasn’t trailed in 180 minutes despite a defense forced to replace eight starters from a year ago and youth across the board.

The Tigers have played 14 true freshman, third-most nationally behind Texas A&M and UCLA.

Still, LSU looks ready for the SEC.

“We’ve got a lot of confidence right now,” junior receiver Jarvis Landry, second nationally with five touchdowns on his 17 receptions. “We believe in the system. We’re going to continue to buy into the system.”

Beckham and Landry have teamed with Mettenberger to form a lethal passing combination that ranks as the Tigers’ most notable improvement over last year.

The senior Mettenberger ranks eighth in Total QBR. He’s thrown nine touchdowns, an LSU record through three games, without an interception and reached the end zone on 13 percent of passes, second nationally behind Florida State phenom Jameis Winston.

All this after Mettenberger ranked 96th a year ago in Total QBR, averaging 7.4 yards per pass attempt. This year, it’s 11.6 under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

“I think we’re in a good spot right now,” Mettenberger said. “We’ve done so many good things, but we’ve yet to play our best football.”

With the re-emergence of running back Jeremy Hill, the Tigers are stacked in the backfield, too. Each of their top running backs -- Kill, Alfred Blue, Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee -- have led the Tigers in rushing in at least one career game.

“We have a really good problem,” Mettenberger said. “Who to get the ball to?”

Hill rushed for 117 yards and two scores last week in his second game back from suspension. He’s far from a finished product, coach Les Miles said.

Defensively, the Tigers were supposed to struggle. After all, this team lost 10 underclassmen to the NFL after last season, including five defensive starters with new starters needed at every position on the line.

But as LSU enters SEC play, that front four might rank as the strength of the defense.

“I like it, how we’re playing,” defensive tackle Ego Ferguson said. “But I feel like we can still improve every play.”

They’ve allowed 267 yards per game, No. 10 nationally. It’s 62 yards – and nearly a yard per play – down from a year ago through three games. Impressive, though.

“I can’t wait for SEC play,” Ferguson said.

After the win over Kent State, a reporter asked Miles what he likes about waiting until this fourth week to jump into league play as many SEC teams have already opened their conference schedules.

“Did I say I like that?” Miles said.

The coach said he likes his team but that he needs a measuring stick to accurately gauge its progress.

He’s about to get it. The SEC is here.
LSU coach Les Miles doesn't have a problem playing eight SEC opponents every season.

Miles also realizes the Tigers could play nine SEC games in the very near future.

Miles just doesn't think it's fair that LSU has to play Florida every season, while other teams in the SEC West don't.

[+] EnlargeLes Miles
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireUnder the current SEC scheduling format, Les Miles and LSU play Florida every season.
As SEC presidents, athletics directors and coaches convene this week for the league's annual spring meetings in Destin, Fla., long-term scheduling has become the hot-button issue.

The league is expected to vote whether to change its current 6-1-1 format, in which teams play each opponent from their respective division, along with one rotating foe and one permanent opponent from the opposite division. SEC officials could vote this week to add a ninth conference game or at least eliminate permanent crossover opponents.

The SEC adopted its current scheduling format to ensure that longstanding rivalries like Alabama-Tennessee and Georgia-Auburn would survive expansion.

By drawing the Gators as a permanent crossover opponent, Miles believes the Tigers drew the short end of the stick.

Miles won't complain about the scheduling format publicly, but he knows LSU is at a disadvantage.

And Miles is probably right.

"When they give us our schedule, I'm looking forward to having a great competition," Miles said.

Since 2000, LSU has played Florida and Georgia -- two of the SEC East's best programs -- a total of 17 times. Auburn is the only SEC West team which has faced those teams more often, playing them 19 times. Arkansas, Mississippi State and Ole Miss have faced them a total of 10 times each, while Alabama has played them only eight times.

While it's not fair that LSU has faced the Bulldogs and Gators nearly twice as often as Alabama has played them since 2000, Miles' argument might fall on deaf ears. Auburn and Georgia aren't going to surrender the longtime series -- the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry has been played 116 times since 1892. Likewise, Alabama and Tennessee have played 95 times since 1901, a game so revered it's named for its traditional place on the calendar, the Third Saturday in October.

And Ole Miss would probably rather play Vanderbilt every season instead of Florida, Georgia or South Carolina, and Mississippi State isn't going pass up a chance to play Kentucky every year.

"There's never going to be a fair way," said Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, whose Aggies drew Missouri as a permanent crossover opponent. "If you look back seven or eight years ago, you would have said the SEC East was the strongest division. You can't say what's fair, because things change in this league. You can't look at tradition. Ten years ago, you might have wanted to play South Carolina. Now you don't want anything to do with them. You don't know what Tennessee is going to do with a new coach. I know Butch Jones is going to do a great job."

Florida-LSU has become one of the league's most anticipated games every season. They've been two of the league's most dominant teams over the past decade. They've combined to appear in seven SEC championship games since 2003, and they've combined to play in nine BCS bowl games, including five BCS national championship games. In their past 10 meetings, LSU and Florida were both ranked in the top 25 of the coaches' poll nine times. Conversely, Alabama and Tennessee were both ranked only once in their past 10 meetings.

The loser of the Florida-LSU regular-season game has paid dearly over the past 10 seasons. LSU's 23-10 loss at Florida in 2006 knocked the Tigers out of the SEC championship game (the Gators defeated Arkansas 38-28 and then blasted Ohio State 41-14 to win the BCS title). Last year, LSU's 14-6 loss at Florida probably cost it a spot in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, if not another trip to a BCS bowl game.

Florida's losses to LSU in 2002, '05 and '07 kept them out of the SEC championship game and potentially BCS bowl games.

Jordan-Hare has been unkind to LSU 

September, 19, 2012
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Cam NewtonPaul Abell/US PresswireCam Newton is one of many Auburn players who has recently had success at LSU's expense at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Jordan-Hare Stadium at Auburn should look familiar to LSU fans.

Like many stadiums around the SEC and around the country, it's a puzzle that's added pieces over time. It began as a modest 7,500-seat venue in 1939 and has skyrocketed over time to the 87,451-seat monstrosity it is now, the result of nine expansions since the original concrete and steel was put down around the same time World War II was beginning.

It's the same story that can be told about numerous SEC venues, including LSU's own Tiger Stadium. Unlike NFL stadiums, which tend to get built from scratch after teams win staredowns with municipalities who have to build them, college stadiums tend to be like old trees -- each layer of the stadium going out (and up) tells a more recent chapter of the arena's history.

Countdown to kickoff: Hello, Auburn 

August, 28, 2012
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GeauxTigerNation writers Gary Laney and David Helman get you ready for the season with a daily breakdown throughout August of what LSU is facing in the fall, from its opponents, to its road trips to who it's recruiting. Today, David Helman previews the Tigers' September game against Auburn with Ryan Wood of the Auburn-Opelika News.

Q: Kiehl Frazier recently won the starting quarterback job from Clint Moseley. Was this the expected outcome of that competition, and what does Frazier bring to the Auburn offense?

Frazier was the expected conclusion to the race and really has been because of the momentum he carried out of the spring. The biggest reason for that is that Moseley has been battling a shoulder injury that has hampered his ability to throw up until 10 days before the game. If you have a two-man race and only one can guy make all the throws, he's probably the one that is going to get the job. Also, Frazier can make more plays running the football -- something Moseley does not possess.

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DeMarcus Walker: 'It's not over' 

August, 24, 2012
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Four-star DeMarcus Walker (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) announced his commitment to Alabama Friday afternoon on ESPNU, but the nation's No. 3-ranked defensive end said later in the day that his recruitment is far from over.

DeMarcus Walker
Derek Tyson/ESPN.comTide commit DeMarcus Walker shows off his Alabama gear on the night of his big announcement.
Walker said in an interview with TideNation's Greg Ostendorf despite his commitment to the Tide, he plans to take all five official visits to LSU, Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee and USC. Noticeably absent was Florida, a school that had been considered one of his leaders for the last several months.

Walker said on Friday after Sandalwood's preseason 29-27 victory over Orlando Evans that he still plans to unnofficially visit Florida this fall.

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LSU baseball hits road to Auburn 

March, 23, 2012
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Remember the crazy "Gorilla Ball" days when it wasn't unusual for a team to hit nine home runs in a conference series?

If you weren't already aware that those days are long gone, consider this weekend's series between No. 13 LSU (17-4, 2-1) and Auburn (13-8, 2-1) at Auburn. The series begins with a 6 p.m. opener today and continues at 3 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.

Both teams have nine home runs for the season, the obvious result of repeated NCAA attempts to restrict bat performance. Both teams have staff earned run averages below 4.00, which would have been great a few years ago, but these days it makes LSU (3.17 ERA) and Auburn (3.42 ERA) eighth and ninth in the SEC, respectively, in pitching.

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