This weekend, No. 12 LSU travels to Jordan-Hare Stadium to take on No. 7 Auburn at home. The matchup is looking to be one of the most talked about of Week 3.
Both teams’ defenses are tough to beat, with LSU and Auburn both averaging 4.5 sacks per game, which is tied for third-best in college football.
Where LSU is struggling is its offensive line. Although the team has started 2-0 with a shutout win over Southeastern Louisiana and an upset of what was a No. 8-ranked Miami, those wins were plagued with concerns about the protection of quarterback Joe Burrow and a lack of scoring in the second half.
LSU has only scored 13 points combined in the second half of their first two games. It also allowed 10 tackles for loss of yards.
Burrow has been sacked twice in each of the first two games for LSU and had to do a lot of scrambling to avoid pressure. Burrow has said he does not like to slide, and the lack of protection from the line has often forced him to run to save the play. Auburn’s defense may be able to take advantage of this to force some offensive miscues.
Auburn has nine sacks in its first two games, a feat that is not going overlooked by LSU head coach Ed Orgeron.
“There will be a lot of things we have to face this week,” Orgeron said when asked during his weekly press conference about what his offensive line can expect. “First of all, we have to fix ourselves. There’s some things that we can fix. There are some technical errors that we can fix.”
Sign up for our newsletter
Get The Plainsman straight to your inbox.
The season started off on a low note for the offensive line when right guard Ed Ingram was arrested for two alleged counts of aggravated sexual assault, possibly involving a minor, and suspended indefinitely for violating team rules.
Ingram played in all 13 games last season for the Tigers and started in 12 of those at right guard. He and Saahdiq Charles, a left tackle, combined to be two of the most productive players for LSU’s offensive line and played key roles in blocking for 1,000-yard rusher Derrius Guice.
The offensive line took another hit when right tackle Adrian Magee went down with a leg injury in the team’s upset of Miami in Week 1. He is expected to miss 2-3 weeks.
One positive for LSU coming onto The Plains is they will have Charles back. Charles was suspended for last week’s game for undisclosed reasons.
Left guard Garrett Brumfield has stepped up to be a leader for a young offensive line that is experiencing a lot of change and movement.
“His leadership has been critical.” Orgeron said of Brumfield. “In fact, he talked to the team after the game on Saturday night. His leadership, his communication, his smartness, his awareness and his ability to make adjustments on the sideline during the game, he’s like a coach on the field.”
Also stepping up has been junior college transfer Badara Traore. Traore got the starting spot against Southeastern Louisiana after Magee was ruled out for the game.
However, Orgeron announced Thursday evening that sophomore Austin Deculus has earned the start over Traore at right tackle for the Auburn game.
Auburn is anticipating the type of game that is expected of LSU and Auburn: an extremely physical one.
“There's no doubt,” Auburn’s head coach Gus Malzahn said. “You know this goes way back in history. When LSU and Auburn get together, it's going to be a physical game. They know that. We know that. It's always a good one. The intensity will be very high.”
Auburn’s defense is not just second in the nation when it comes to sacks -- it also has 18 tackles for loss. The Tigers have forced six turnovers in their first two games, intercepting four passes and recovering two fumbles. They are tied for seventh in the nation for most takeaways.
Auburn has not lost at home in 13 games, a streak that started with a win over LSU in 2016, and the road team in this matchup has not won since 2012.
On top of that, Auburn had a heartbreaking loss in this matchup last year, one they have not forgotten.
“That was an extremely tough loss,” Malzahn said. “It was the toughest loss of the year last year, and one of the toughest since I've been here. Our players, the majority of them, are back and went through it, so they understand it. They don't need a whole lot of motivation and rah-rah stuff as far as last year. This is a new year. We're playing at home. Our guys are extremely motivated right now.”
Orgeron is hopeful that last week’s game was a wake-up call for his offensive linemen, and making some changes to protect Burrow will combine to fix the problems they have faced.
“We can go empty,” Orgeron said. “We can go four-wide. It’s less protection. We are taking a chance of being one-on-one.
“We’ll be ready to go. I believe our offensive line is going to have its best game Saturday. I totally believe in what we’re doing.”
Auburn is currently a 10-point favorite to win the game.
“One of the more balanced teams in our conference right now,” Malzahn said of LSU. “Obviously a big game. Any time Auburn and LSU get together, it's going to be big.”
Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.Support The Plainsman