No. 10 Auburn heads to Death Valley on Saturday searching for their first win in Baton Rogue since 1999. Below are Plainsman sports writer Zach Tantillo's players to watch and keys to victory for the Tiger teams.
Players to Watch
LB Arden Key (LSU)
An AP Preseason All-American selection, Arden Key has not had the 2017 that most people were expecting. The 2016 LSU sack leader missed the first two games of the season due to offseason shoulder surgery. Key made his first start against Mississippi State and has since only recorded 10 total tackles and 0.5 sacks in four games. Even though Key has not made an impact in the box score, a home game against the favored Auburn Tigers will be a perfect coming out party for the junior. Key might make a bigger impact rushing the passer than most expect, especially if OL Mike Horton is out with an ankle sprain suffered against Ole Miss.
DB Andraez “Greedy” Williams (LSU)
The redshirt freshman has earned his nickname “Greedy” while making his first starts at LSU. Williams has a team-high three interceptions and five pass deflections in his first actual season. The Louisiana native has a great nose for the ball and plays with something to prove, which could spell trouble for an Auburn team that relies on big plays in the passing game.
RB Derrius Guice (LSU)
Guice gained 1387 yards in a backup role in 2016 and was poised to take over this year in the backfield after Leonard Fournette left for the NFL. Guice has had a mediocre season thus far, only gaining 364 yards and five touchdowns, but that is mostly due to a left leg injury he suffered earlier this season. Guice only rushed for three attempts and gained 62 yards against Auburn last year, but this year, if he plays, he will get majority of the carries and will test the stout Auburn defense.
QB Jarrett Stidham (Auburn)
Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham has found his footing and some after a few shaky starts to start the season. Since entering SEC play, Stidham is 40-54 with 717 yards and five touchdowns. A big part of the success is the QB’s ability to throw the deep ball. For a LSU team who lost Safety Jamal Adams and Cornerback Tre’Davious White in the first round in the NFL draft, a QB like Stidham will test this young corps of defensive backs.
DB Tray Matthews (Auburn)
Senior safety Tray Matthews has been on the wrong side of highlight film for most of his college career, but in 2017, he is flying around the field like no other. For a safety, Tray Matthews plays a key part in coming up stopping the run. The Georgia transfer will need to play one of his best games this season against LSU to deal with the eye candy offensive coordinator Matt Canada likes to run.
Keys to Victory
LSU will need establish the run with Guice and Williams to take some of the pressure off of struggling Danny Etling.
The LSU defense has all the talent it needs to be one of the best in the country, but an offseason injury to Arden Key and losses of leaders to the NFL has made it hard for the Tigers to put it all together. The LSU defense will need to be clicking on all cylinders to stop an Auburn offense and keep the game in reach for the struggling LSU offense.
LSU needs to win the special teams battle. LSU's D.J. Chark needs to make plays happen in the returning, whether it be returning a punt for a touchdown or consistently getting LSU in good field position.
For No. 10 Auburn to go into a hostile Death Valley and avoid an upset, the Tigers will need to jump on LSU early. Auburn has been successful all season about coming out strong against opponents and nothing needs to change against LSU. Silencing that crowd early needs to be a priority.
The Auburn defense needs to make Danny Etling make the plays to try and beat them. If Auburn stops the run and forces Etling to make plays he is bound to press and make mistakes against a ball hungry Auburn defense.
Auburn has been better than 2016 in terms of scoring touchdowns and not settling for field goals, and that trend needs to continue against LSU. Auburn could have run away with the game last year if they would’ve scored touchdowns on at least one or two of the times that they settled for a field goal. The case remains the same in 2017, with LSU’s offense struggling they will not be able to go touchdown-for-touchdown with Auburn’s offense.