As many around the country judge LSU off its homecoming loss to Troy, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn views the Bengal Tigers in a different way.
“We have a big road game this week at LSU, a place that we have not won at since 1999,” Malzahn said. “They had a big win last week vs. Florida on the road, a close game that they found a way to win, so I know that they are going to have a lot of momentum.
“It’s a big challenge for our team. Our message has been each week to get better, and the last three weeks I feel like we’ve done that. We are going to have to continue to do that on the road at LSU.”
It has been 18 years since Auburn departed Baton Rouge with a victory, a stretch that has left Auburn 0-8 in the Bayou, while being outscored 264-124 in the eight games.
“Everybody is fully aware of that,” Auburn senior safety Tray Matthews said. “It’s a tough place to play. They’re a great team, been a good team for a long time. We’ll be ready for them.”
Although Auburn’s recent history at LSU does not inspire hope, Malzahn said he is confident in this year’s team.
“If you talk to our players, this is a new year,” Auburn’s fifth-year head coach said. “They are their own team. Even though some of our players were there two years ago, this is a different dynamic. This is a new staff. They have a new team. They have a new head coach. Everything is different.
“We do need to understand that it has been a long time since we have beaten them there. I think we all need to know that, but this is a new year and that is the way we are looking at it. It is a big challenge to go there and win.”
Auburn will look to quarterback Jarrett Stidham and running back Kerryon Johnson to continue to lead the offense on its recent torrid pace. Auburn’s 44 points in its victory over Ole Miss was its lowest scoring output in SEC play. The Tigers are averaging 35.8 points per game and 48 per game in conference play.
“His confidence is at an all-time high,” Matthews said about Stidham. “I see smiles on his face all the time. Especially when the offense is playing how they’re playing right now, they all should be smiling.”
Auburn’s defense will have the task of slowing down preseason First Team All-American Derrius Guice, who has been limited due to injury this season.
Auburn ranks sixth in the country, allowing just 13.6 points per game. The Tigers have allowed 111.2 rushing yards per game this season, which is good for fourth in the SEC and 22nd in the nation.
“We pretty much go into this game with the same mindset – high intensity, flying to the ball and a lot of effort,” Matthews said. “We’ll come out and practice today and the next couple of days and get ready for those guys. They’re a pretty good bunch, but we are ready for the task at hand.”