It’s been a long time since Auburn celebrated a home win against an SEC opponent; 701 days to be exact. That night, Auburn defeated South Carolina 42-35 in an offensive shootout, something totally foreign to Auburn fans today. To defeat LSU, they’ll need to find that same offensive firepower.
LSU opened the 2016 season with sky high expectations. They held a top five ranking and were playing the Wisconsin Badgers at Lambeau Field. Many experts predicted them to be a college football playoff contender with the return of Heisman hopeful Leonard Fournette. But after a shocking loss to Wisconsin, LSU head coach Les Miles knew adjustments had to be made.
Problem number one was the signal caller. Quarterback Brandon Harris entered the season with a great deal of hype, but proved to be plagued by the same issues that hindered him a year ago. His bad mechanics, combined with his poor decision making, forced Les Miles to put his starting quarterback on the bench just a week into the season. His replacement, Danny Etling, looks to be the answer LSU fans have been looking for.
The Purdue transfer showed out in week two against Jacksonville State and looked even better on Saturday against the Bulldogs. Etling completed 19 of 30 passes for 215 yards and a touchdown while adding 23 rushing yards. Etling has been doing exactly what a quarterback should in an offense with a rusher as talented as Fournette is, complete short passes and don’t turn the ball over.
Speaking of Fournette, the junior running back will undoubtedly be Auburn’s main focus on defense. Last year, after some choice words from Auburn DB Rudy Ford, Fournette went absolutely crazy on the Tigers. The All-American had 224 yards on 19 carries with three rushing touchdowns. For Auburn to have any chance at beating them this year, they’ll have to slow him down. Fortunately, this season’s defense looks up to the task.
When Kevin Steele arrived on campus, many fans didn’t know what to expect. Steele came from LSU, where he was their defensive coordinator for the 2015 season. Three games in, it looks like he has Auburn’s defense headed in the right direction. Against Clemson, Arkansas State, and Texas A&M, the defense has performed well enough to win all three contests. That hasn’t been the case in Malzahn’s past seasons. The defensive line has played stout and the linebackers have been one of the SEC’s standout units. Sophomore linebacker Deshaun Davis has stepped up into the starting lineup and could be the key player when it comes to stopping Fournette and the vaunted LSU rushing attack.
It’s been a long time since Auburn got a home win against a conference foe. For Auburn to have a shot at one this weekend, Gus Malzahn needs to get his offensive woes fixed in a hurry.