LSU Tigers: Kiehl Frazier
- Texas A&M's defense has been a mess all season, and the Aggies continue to search for stability there.
- Georgia coach Mark Richt called the Bulldogs' injury news -- tailback Keith Marshall and receiver Justin Scott-Wesley are out for the season and receiver Michael Bennett is out indefinitely, all with knee injuries -- following Saturday's Tennessee game “heartbreaking.”
- South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said the timetable on Jadeveon Clowney's return to the lineup remains unclear.
- Kentucky's Nate Northington and Greg Page: The friendship that changed the face of SEC football.
- Tweaks to Missouri's offense have the Tigers performing back at the level that preceded their dismal 2012.
- LSU's offense is trending toward history.
- Ole Miss theater student: “Laramie Project” incident not just about the athletes.
- Florida cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy's patience paid off with a pick-six in Saturday's win against Arkansas.
- Talking Blake Sims, redshirts, Alabama's offensive line and more.
- Arkansas cornerback Will Hines said he is out for the season with a broken arm.
- Cassanova McKinzy returned for Auburn's Sunday practice, while Kiehl Frazier shifted back to offense.
- Tennessee lost two defensive ends over the course of the preseason and spent much of the past week or so looking for their replacements. In 6-foot-5, 260-pound Jordan Williams, the Vols may have found their man to start.
- Damiere Byrd is already the fastest player on the South Carolina roster. Now the speedy wide receiver wants to make the biggest plays in the biggest situations.
- Matt Elam was a playmaker and an All-American at safety for the Gators last year. Marcus Maye, his replacement, worked with Elam this offseason and has impressed coaches with his work ethic so far. With the season nearly underway, Maye hopes to be the same type of presence on defense as his predecessor.
- Vanderbilt's seniors Kenny Ladler and Javon Marshall have so much familiarity with one another that they rarely need to speak. The Commodores are hoping that experience and comfort level pays off as the two form what could be a stellar safety net for the secondary.
- It won't be easy, but Missouri's defensive linemen must replace Sheldon Richardson's disruptive presence on the Tigers' defense.
- Arkansas struggled to defend the pass last year, finishing dead last in the SEC in passing yards allowed. Eric Bennett and Rohan Gaines are hoping to change that. The two safeties expect big years.
- Keihl Frazier surprised many when he dropped out of the quarterback race to start over in the Auburn secondary at safety. That move happened less than two weeks ago. And ready or not, he'll need to be ready to play just over a week from now when the Tigers host Washington State in their season opener.
- Arie Kouandjio was starting at guard for all spring and most of preseason camp before an abrupt move to tackle last week. Austin Shepherd experienced the same thing, switched from tackle to guard in a position experiment by the Alabama coaching staff. Now, it appears that those experiments are over and the Tide can get to the job of establishing chemistry.
- The Egg Bowl is months away, but Mississippi State went ahead and released its new snazzy uniform combination for the rivalry game against Ole Miss.
- D.J. Welter and Lamar Louis are expected to start, but how do the rest of LSU's inside linebackers stack up?
- Texas A&M University System chancellor John Sharp defended Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel and attacked NCAA regulations that prevent athletes from selling their signatures.
- It wasn’t exactly a surprise, but Missouri coach Gary Pinkel announced Thursday that James Franklin will be his starting quarterback for the Aug. 31 opener against Murray State.
- South Carolina’s coaching staff feels good about its situation at quarterback with Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson as the season nears.
- After a couple of notable games in which it blew late leads last season, LSU will work more on closing out wins with its four-minute offense during preseason practice.
- Converted quarterback Kiehl Frazier is already showing off impressive physicality in Auburn’s secondary.
- Florida coach Will Muschamp emphasized that his staff is seeking bigger players on the recruiting trail.
- Tennessee’s players are buying into new coach Butch Jones’ many quirks.
- Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown is rotating Zach Myers and Zach West at center to determine which player will start at center and be the “quarterback of the O-line” for the Wildcats.
- Freshman Alvin Kamara is out of Alabama’s running back competition for at least the next couple of weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.
- Safety Nick Glass on Thursday became Georgia’s fourth 2014 prospect to back off of his commitment to the Bulldogs.
- Listen to The Paul Finebaum Show live weekdays Monday-Friday from 2-6 p.m. ET.
- With Kiehl Frazier stepping aside to play safety, newcomers Jeremy Johnson and Nick Marshall are now the frontrunners to win Auburn’s starting quarterback job.
- Meanwhile, Alabama senior AJ McCarron is helping train the young quarterbacks who will succeed him once his career is complete.
- LSU offensive lineman Vadal Alexander is making an unusual position flip after a career-threatening injury suffered by starting left guard Josh Williford.
- Catch video of South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier discussing injuries to defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and receivers Bruce Ellington and Damiere Byrd -- ailments that he claimed might keep them out of the opener against North Carolina.
- Georgia’s Jordan Jenkins and Alabama’s Chris Black are among the 25 SEC breakout candidates listed today by Athlon Sports.
- Florida’s Will Muschamp fills in a group of reporters about the status of the team as the Gators push toward their opener against Toledo.
- Speaking of the Gators, Muschamp’s program picked up three big commitments on Monday.
- Two of Missouri’s top players, running back Henry Josey and cornerback E.J. Gaines, sat out Tuesday morning’s practice with injuries.
- Deciphering Saban speak: How good is Alabama really going to be this year?
- Georgia’s Kolton Houston was only recently reinstated by the NCAA. Now he’s competing for a starting job along the Bulldogs’ offensive line.
Where: Hoover, Ala.
Big names in attendance: QB AJ McCarron, Alabama; QB Jeff Driskel, Florida; QB Aaron Murray, Georgia; QB Zach Mettenberger, LSU; WR Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss; QB Tyler Russell, Mississippi State; QB James Franklin, Missouri; DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina; QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Five biggest topics:
1. What's to be done about Johnny Football? There's no question that Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has all of the talent to own the college football landscape in what likely will be his final season in College Station, but his off-field social media persona has drawn too much attention. Manziel is allowed to have as much fun as he wants. He's in college and he's young. But he's also one of the best college athletes around, and his team can't repeat what it did last season if he's not 100 percent focused. He, coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive lineman Jake Matthews will get bombarded with questions about controlling Johnny Football away from the field. What will Manziel's take be, and how will he handle the media circus?
2. This hasn't been the best summer for the SEC. Outside all of the Manziel social media drama, the SEC faced some embarrassing arrests during the offseason. The biggest scandal revolves around Vanderbilt's football program, which suspended and then dismissed four players during an investigation by the Nashville Metro Police sex crimes unit. The police and coach James Franklin have been quiet about the situation, but Franklin will have to address it. The earlier he does, the better. He might not have to give too many details, but meeting the incident head-on will save him from further scrutiny and questions. Sumlin also will be asked about the recent arrests of defensive backs Deshazor Everett and Floyd Raven and the status of suspended defensive tackle Kirby Ennis. LSU coach Les Miles has been very quiet about running back Jeremy Hill's recent arrest and is letting it play out in the legal system, but chances are Miles will field plenty of questions about Hill and the effect on the team.
3. Four coaches are making their first trips to SEC media days: Arkansas' Bret Bielema, Auburn's Gus Malzahn (first as head coach), Kentucky's Mark Stoops and Tennessee's Butch Jones. All have made early splashes in their own ways, but it's time to deal with the circus that is SEC media days. We'll ask them all about their quarterbacks, offenses and early recruiting success, especially of Jones and Stoops. Bielema likely will field questions about comparing the Big Ten to the SEC ... and his Twitter account. Malzahn will be asked about getting Auburn's offense back to where it was when he was the offensive coordinator. These guys should have "fun" answering every single one of these, too.
4. Will Alabama make it three in a row? And which teams from the SEC can stop the Tide? We know that it's Alabama's world and we are all just trying to figure out the "process." Coach Nick Saban has all of the parts in place to win his third straight national championship and fourth at Alabama in five years. Saban & Co. will continue to talk about avoiding complacency and "fixing" whatever they deem isn't working at 100 percent. But what the country wants to know is who is ready to end the Bama dynasty? Can A&M tackle the Tide for a second straight year? Is LSU tough enough? Can Georgia's defense grow up fast enough? Can Florida's offense figure it out? Does Steve Spurrier have something up his sleeve? The people want to know!
5. There are a lot of unsettled quarterback spots. Auburn had a two-man battle this spring between veteran Kiehl Frazier and rising sophomore Jonathan Wallace. Both left the spring pretty even. Kentucky had three vying for the No. 1 spot in Jalen Whitlow, Patrick Towles and Maxwell Smith. Whitlow has the slight edge. Missouri had James Franklin, Maty Mauk and Corbin Berkstresser fight it out. It looks like it's down to Franklin and Mauk, but coach Gary Pinkel has been quiet about it. Tennessee has Justin Worley and Nathan Peterman competing. Worley has the edge but little experience. And Vanderbilt watched Austyn Carta-Samuels and Patton Robinette compete. Carta-Samuels has the lead, but Robinette isn't out of it.
1. Alabama (5-0; LW: 1): The Tide was off last week, so it didn't have a chance to widen its lead on the SEC and the rest of the country. The last thing Alabama's upcoming opponents want is a rested Tide team. I can only imagine the extra work Nick Saban put his team through in order to clean up all those little things.
2. South Carolina (6-0; LW: 4): The Gamecocks completely dominated Georgia over the weekend. South Carolina's offense is extremely balanced and looks like it can just jump on Marcus Lattimore's shoulders at this point. He's just getting stronger and stronger. The defense is smothering up front and stopping that defensive line has been a nightmare for teams. But road games at LSU and Florida will be tough.
3. Florida (5-0; LW: 5): The Gators might not have the most exciting offense, but that defense is tremendous. Florida put a load of pressure on LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger over the weekend and clobbered the Tigers' running game. Behind Mike Gillislee, the Gators pounded LSU with their running game, but the passing game is still a concern. If Florida can get more through the air, this offense could start to really give defenses fits.
4. LSU (5-1; LW: 2): It's obvious that the Tigers can't put everything on their defense. Even with how talented LSU is on the defensive side of the ball, the offense needs major work, especially in the passing game. Mettenberger hasn't come close to living up to the hype and just doesn't look comfortable standing in LSU's pocket. The running game was one of the SEC's best, but was quieted against Florida because there just wasn't the threat to pass. No offensive balance could doom this team.
5. Georgia (5-1; LW: 3): The concern about the defense continues to grow after the Bulldogs' 28-point loss to the Gamecocks. USC was intent on running and Georgia couldn't do anything to stop it, allowing 232 rushing yards. Jarvis Jones has been a non-factor for the past two weeks and Aaron Murray's big-game struggles came right back in Columbia, S.C. The good news is the Bulldogs have the SEC East's easiest schedule from here on out.
6. Mississippi State (5-0; LW: 6): These Bulldogs weren't flashy, but they were very efficient against Kentucky. Tyler Russell is one of seven FBS quarterbacks with 10-plus passing touchdowns and fewer than two interceptions this season, while LaDarius Perkins is the only player in the SEC to be in the top two in rushing yards per game (99.8) and all-purpose yards per game (130.0). That defense has been pretty stout as well, as the Bulldogs have trailed for just 10:19 this season.
7. Texas A&M (4-1; LW: 7): Johnny Manziel grabbed hero status in Oxford, Miss., over the weekend. The redshirt freshman quarterback led the Aggies to 13 straight points in the fourth quarter, after trailing Ole Miss by 10. He had a nifty 29-yard touchdown run to trim the Rebels' lead to four and then found Ryan Swope for the game-winning 20-yard touchdown pass with 1:46 remaining. What's more impressive is the Aggies got the win despite committing six turnovers.
8. Tennessee (3-2; LW: 8): The Vols were off, but have a very important matchup with Mississippi State this weekend. We finally saw good balance out of the Vols against an SEC opponent in their shootout loss to Georgia two weeks ago, but most of the extra time Tennessee had better have been devoted to doing something about that defense. The Vols are 13th in the SEC in total defense (425.8 yards per game), and that just won't cut it if Tennessee is going to make any sort of second-half run.
9. Vanderbilt (2-3; LW: 12): The Commodores got a big win on the road at Missouri. Like prior games, Vandy wasn't great when it had the ball, but it played tough for four quarters and outlasted a banged-up Mizzou team. The defense really has been impressive for most of the season, but the Commodores have to get more out of the offense.
10. Ole Miss (3-3; LW: 10): After a heartbreaking loss to the Aggies, Ole Miss now has lost 16 straight SEC games. Blowing that 10-point lead in the fourth quarter probably will haunt this team all week. There's no doubt the Rebels can move the ball, but costly turnovers have doomed this offense. The defense has made strides since last season, but there's still too much break in this unit.
11. Arkansas (2-4; LW: 13): Just when you think the Hogs are done, they find some strength and walk out of Auburn with a huge win over the struggling Tigers. Auburn has had a plethora of issues this season, but from a mental aspect, this was a big win for Arkansas' team. The Razorbacks aren't totally out of the bowl hunt now, but there's still a lot of ground for this team to make up. Finally holding an offense in check, forcing five turnovers and getting eight sacks is a good start.
12. Missouri (3-3; LW: 9): This has not been the SEC welcome the Tigers expected. Mizzou has been banged up all year and pushed around by its SEC counterparts. James Franklin is out for a few weeks with a knee sprain. Corbin Berkstresser is now the starting quarterback, and he'd better get over his rough performance against Vandy, where he hit only 9 of his 30 passes. Things just get harder, as the Tigers host No. 1 Alabama Saturday.
13. Auburn (1-4; LW: 11): Things just aren't working on the Plains. With an extra week to prepare for the SEC's worst defense, the Tigers mustered only 321 yards of offense against Arkansas and found the end zone once. Kiehl Frazier was benched for Clint Moseley at quarterback, but two fourth-quarter interceptions doomed Auburn. The offense just has too many issues right now, and the Tigers might have lost their chance at a postseason berth with Saturday's no-show.
14. Kentucky (1-5; LW: 14): Injuries have crippled this team and things just aren't getting any better for the Wildcats. Kentucky was forced to play two freshmen at quarterback, and lost one (Patrick Towles) to an ankle injury, against Mississippi State. The Wildcats already were working without their starting running back. Things continue to heat up around Joker Phillips, whose team is hovering around the bottom of the SEC in most offensive and defensive categories.
"I'm not overly optimistic," Miles said when asked about Blue's injury. "I think he's going to come back, but I don't know the length of time."
Pressed on whether Blue might miss the entire season, Miles said he might.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
"More people recruited me as a safety than as a linebacker," said Muncie, who knew which position would be best for his future. "I knew receivers were going to be faster [in college] and I'm not going to lie, I didn't feel like I had the best coverage skills in the world."
Now a starter for LSU at strongside linebacker, listed at a linebacker-looking 6-foot-2, 220 pounds (he has recently lost weight because of an illness), Muncie showed during the Tigers' 12-10 win Saturday over Auburn that he actually has some coverage skills.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
He set an NCAA FCS freshman record with 29 rushing touchdowns last season for the Tigers and has continued that torrid pace with five more in the first three games for Towson (2-1), ranked No. 12 in the FCS's Sports Network poll.
"He's a talented player," Miles said. "He's elusive, has good ball skills."
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
And the special teams? Last season was near perfection for a unit that routinely flipped the field. This year, the Tigers are missing field goals, getting penalties on returns and at times are just plain sloppy.
The defense, however, is vintage.
In Saturday's 12-10 win over Auburn, No. 2 LSU allowed the Plainsmen's offense a season-low 183 yards. It was another dominant performance from a unit that entered the night leading the SEC in total defense at 205 yards a game.
"We were tested," said defensive end Sam Montgomery, who was at his disruptive best with 3.5 tackles for loss, including his second sack of the season. "I loved this. I loved the challenge."
The LSU defense kept answering challenges, even when other parts of the team struggled. The offense shot itself in the foot with a fumble in the red zone and another fumble that set Auburn up for a short field on its only touchdown. LSU has now failed to score in red zone possessions more times in four games this season (5) than it did in 14 games last season (4).
The special teams had destructive moments, including one punt return where the return team was flagged for not only a hold on the return, but a dead ball personal foul. There was also a missed field goal late in the game.
"Sloppy," head coach Les Miles called the performance.
Maybe he should leave the defense out of that critique. The defense was even turning the failures of the other phases of the game into positives. When quarterback Zach Mettenberger fumbled a snap on a third-and-goal in the first quarter, giving Auburn the ball at its own 3, Montgomery dumped Auburn running back Tre Mason in the end zone on the very next play for a safety, giving LSU a 2-0 lead and what was eventually the final margin of the game.
LSU's offense took the ensuing free kick and marched down for its only touchdown of the night. Montgomery's play had turned the negative of the first turnover into nine points for LSU.
It was one of those nights where the defense had to carry the load and make it hard for the opposing offense to carry its load
Auburn had to earn all nine first downs (none by penalty). Quarterback Kiehl Frazier ran for his life most of the night and often didn't get away. Safety Micah Eugene, who has found a niche as a blitzing dime back in long-yardage packages, had two of LSU's four sacks of Frazier. Montgomery was in his face all night and Barkevious Mingo had three of LSU's five quarterback hurries.
How disruptive was LSU? Of Auburn's 52 plays, 14 resulted in negative yards and two in interceptions.
"We played a great team," said Frazier, who threw for just 97 yards, completing 13 of 22 passes. "We have to give them all their credit. There's a reason why they're No. 2 in the country."
LSU was at its best in the second half.
After halftime, LSU got both of its interceptions of Frazier, including an interception of his last-play desperation heave by Tharold Simon, his first of the season. Linebacker Luke Muncie picked him off and often blanketed Frazier's favorite and most reliable target, tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen.
Most importantly, LSU shut out Auburn in the second half after a late AU field goal on its only sustained drive of the night -- 9 plays, 42 yards -- gave the home team a 10-9 lead shortly before halftime.
It started with an impassioned plea by Montgomery at halftime -- "He told them to 'play like me,' Miles said," -- and continued with inspired play. With the offense, which got off to a strong start, sputtering after halftime, the defense stayed under pressure, but kept playing sound football.
Auburn tried to beat LSU with misdirection, but often those plays would result by a disciplined LSU lineman staying home and dumping the Auburn ball-carrier for a loss. Auburn coach Gene Chizik said that running inside on LSU was "extremely difficult" and thought the best bet was to use misdirection to get to the perimeter.
With the Tigers usually not biting on the misdirection, a third of Auburn's 30 run plays resulted in lost yardage. And six of 26 pass plays ended in interceptions and sacks. Almost a third of Auburn's plays were disasters for the offense.
LSU had its disasters too, just not by a defense that was too busy carrying a Tigers team that, otherwise, looked vulnerable in its first real test of the season.
LSU had four sacks of Kiehl Frazier in Saturday's 12-10 win over Auburn, including two by dime back Micah Eugene, who leads LSU with three sacks on the season.
For the season, LSU has eight, all against its two opponents from BCS automatic-qualifier conferences. The first four came in the Tigers' 41-3 win over Washington. In wins over Idaho and North Texas, LSU was held without a sack.
Defensive end Sam Montgomery had his second sack to go with 3.5 tackles for loss. Anthony Johnson also got his first sack of the season.
No. 2 LSU entered Jordan-Hare Stadium as a 20-point favorite Saturday night against Auburn. Instead, the Tigers escaped by the skin of their teeth with a 12-10 victory.
Here's how it transpired in a classic, defensive SEC nail-biter on the Plains.
It was over when: LSU cornerback Tharold Simon intercepted Auburn quarterback Kiehl Frazier on a fourth down desperation heave to end Auburn's bid at a last-second miracle win.
Game ball goes to: LSU running back Spencer Ware announced his return to college football with a hard-nosed night in place of injured starter Alfred Blue. Ware beat up on Auburn for 90 hard-earned yards on 16 carries. He also caught two passes for 44 yards, one of which was a 33-yard gain on a crucial third and four late in the fourth quarter.
Game ball part II: You probably won't see a better performance from punters this season. LSU punter Brad Wing booted eight balls on the night for 338 yards -- a 42.3-yard average -- with three of those falling inside the Auburn 20. Auburn punter Steven Clark knocked seven punts of his own for 287 yards -- a 41-yard average -- with two of his punts downed inside the LSU 20.
Key stat: LSU committed nine penalties for 80 yards, several of them coming in dead-ball situations. The Bayou Bengals committed two costly turnovers in the first half, but they bounced back to force three Auburn turnovers in the second half.
Key stat part II: LSU scored its only touchdown of the night with 4:18 to play in the first quarter -- a one-yard run from running back Michael Ford. Auburn held the Tigers out of the end zone for the next 49 minutes of play after that.
What it means: This was LSU's first big test of the season -- the Tigers' first SEC game and their first trip outside the friendly confines of Tiger Stadium. To say they didn't live up to the No. 2 ranking is an understatement. The Tigers played ugly, and their offense at times displayed the same problems that limited LSU in 2011. That said, the LSU defense did its part by holding Auburn to a mere 183 yards of offense, and the Tigers got the all-important win.
Auburn showed resiliency in fighting to the end after a disappointing 1-2 start to the season. But moral victories don't count for much in the SEC, and Auburn is now an ugly 0-2 in SEC play. Frazier looked better than he did against Mississippi State, but he still only threw for 97 yards and threw two costly picks.
It's a hot one out here, even though it's technically fall. But that's the South ...
Props to Auburn's student section for coming out early and coming out fired up. While I was walking around this town and eating at Momma Goldberg's, I didn't get much of a positive vibe from Auburn fans. People who I talked to seemed to be hoping for more of a good effort from their Tigers than a win over No. 2 LSU.
But the students flooded the student section as soon as they were let loose inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. Good for them.
Hey, crazy things always happen in this game.
On paper, things certainly aren't in Auburn's favor. LSU pounds the ball with its running game and pounds opponents up front with its defensive line. LSU entered the day with the SEC's best rushing game and defense. The Bayou Bengals like to pressure the quarterback, and that isn't good for Auburn quarterback Kiehl Frazier, who has struggled mightily through the first three games of the season. He has to play with more confidence, but he'll have his hands full with the likes of Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery and Bennie Logan up front.
If Auburn is going to pull the upset, its offense has to generate some sort of running game in order to open things up for Frazier. The problem, however, is that LSU doesn't like to give up rushing yards. Through three games, LSU has surrendered just 141 rushing yards.
To put that in perspective, LSU has scored 145 points on the season.
If Auburn wants to have a chance in this game, it has to toughen up on both offense and defense. Coach Gene Chizik has stressed just how physical this team has to be week in and week out in the SEC, and through three weeks, these Tigers just haven't been tough enough.
That has to change this evening.
BATON ROUGE, La. -- It's a series that has brought us earthquakes (during LSU's 1988 win in Baton Rouge), fires (in 1996, when the old Auburn Sports Arena burned down outside Jordan-Hare Stadium) and hurricanes (in 2004, when Hurricane Ivan brushed by Auburn).
There have been plenty of strange happenings around the Auburn-LSU series, which will be renewed Saturday when No. 2 LSU (3-0) visits Jordan-Hare to face AU (1-2), but perhaps none more strange for LSU than the story of Cecil "The Diesel" Collins.
To those who follow LSU closely, Collins is one of the great talents ever to play running back at LSU, but he played a mere four games for the Tigers. In his only season, he was suspended for the 1997 opener for violating team rules, then piled up 596 yards in four games before being lost for the season to a broken leg.
His highlight game was 15 years ago Thursday, when he piled up 232 rushing yards against an Auburn team that eventually won the SEC West, in no small part because it escaped Baton Rouge with a 31-28 win on Collins' big night. But so good was Collins, there was talk that he would become a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy the next season.
Instead, in June 1998, he was arrested for unauthorized entry into an inhabited dwelling and assault (reduced from sexual assault) in a Baton Rouge apartment, an incident he blamed on sleepwalking. He was kicked off LSU's team, resurfaced at McNeese State, and washed up after two unspectacular games for failing a drug test.
He briefly went to jail (the failed drug test was a violation of his bond for the original charges), got a shot with the Miami Dolphins in 1999, had a decent rookie season, then broke into another apartment in 1999 in Miami, for which he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. The incident, he said, occurred because he wanted to watch a woman sleep.
A strange story, indeed. Perhaps every bit as strange as arenas burning down outside a stadium or touchdown celebrations that register as earthquakes (that was on Eddie Fuller's game-winning touchdown catch in LSU's 7-6 win in 1988).
Will another strange chapter be written Saturday?
Three Things to Watch:
1. Running like a Diesel?: Every week, AU's defense must feel like the 1997 defense trying to stop Collins. Auburn is last in the SEC in rush defense, allowing 217 yards a game. LSU leads the SEC in rushing (269.3 ypg). Even with LSU missing injured starting RB Alfred Blue, Auburn has its hands full.
2. Youth is served: LSU first-year starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger will get his first road start and first SEC start Saturday. His counterpart, Kiehl Frazier, is also a first-year starter who has struggled (two touchdowns, five interceptions).
3. Still Badgering: Even without Tyrann Mathieu, LSU leads the SEC in total defense (205 yards per game), bettering even the impressive numbers of Alabama (210 ypg). Can Frazier and Auburn make a dent?
LSU Tigers to Watch
1. RB Kenny Hilliard: The most likely choice to replace Blue as the starter, he leads LSU and is third in the SEC with 303 rushing yards, and he leads the SEC with six touchdowns.
2. DT Anthony Johnson: Off to a strong start (11 tackles, 2.5 for loss), the sophomore will be a key figure against an Auburn team that will present LSU's defense with the most physical rushing game it has faced so far.
3. Mettenberger: In his first true road and SEC test, will the LSU quarterback continue to blossom or be overwhelmed by a road environment?
Auburn Tigers to watch
1. RB Onterio McCalebb: McCalebb is second on the team in rushing (214 yards on 31 carries), but has game-changing, big-play ability. He has a 100-yard kick return for a TD this season, and in 2010 his 70-yard TD run against LSU was a game-winner in a 24-17 AU win.
2. DE Corey Lemonier: With three sacks and a blocked kick, Lemonier's the kind of disruptive force who can change the course of a game for an underdog.
3. Frazier: The sophomore will probably have to play the best game of his young career for Auburn to have a chance.
AU special teams vs. LSU special teams: LSU prides itself on special teams and has an all-American punter (Brad Wing), the SEC's most accurate field goal kicker in 2011 (Drew Alleman) and return threats (Odell Beckham, Jr., already has a punt return for a TD). Auburn is also good with McCalebb's TD return, a 6-for-6 season so far for kicker Cody Parkey, and three blocked kicks.
By the numbers
5-1: Auburn's record in the last five home games against LSU.
1980: The last year Auburn started SEC play 0-2, a record it's hoping to avoid Saturday.
8: SEC West championships claimed by the winner of the LSU-Auburn game in the last 12 years.
1. An opportunity, a stumbling block?
For 1-2 Auburn, a win Saturday would erase the memories of early struggles, including losses to Clemson and Mississippi State and a near-loss, in overtime, against Louisiana-Monroe while cooling down the seat of coach Gene Chizik. For 3-0 LSU, Auburn represents the first team with the physicality and SEC speed to challenge LSU at its strengths.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider