Tonight, Auburn hosts LSU in a critical SEC West matchup at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn tends to be known for strange plays and unusual occurrences, and no series has been weirder than this one.
From “earthquakes”, to fires, to firings of coaches directly after the game, both schools in the spate Auburn vs. LSU games have contributed to one of the most memorable annual games on the schedule.
Considering the craziness that Auburn fans witnessed last week against Missouri, fans may be on high alert for more confounding happenings this evening.
Regardless of whether or not the contest is marked by hijinks, Auburn has a tall task to overcome LSU at home.
The Bayou Bengals have been far from perfect thus far in the 2022 season, but they are likely to give Auburn all they can handle, if not more, in Jordan-Hare Stadium tonight.
Take a look at a few things that will be critical to the outcome of Auburn vs. LSU.
Auburn’s offensive line
This is very straight forward. Auburn’s offensive line must produce better results and consistency against LSU than they have in the other games against Power 5 teams or this game could be ugly.
Two weeks ago Auburn attempted 45 passes against Penn State. Penn State pressured the Auburn quarterbacks on 40 of those throws.
On about 89% of pass plays in that matchup, the Auburn quarterback was pressured. That is an unthinkable number and makes it impossible for any regular production through the air.
Last weekend against Missouri, Auburn ran the ball for only 82 yards on 45 total carries.
That is a very bad average per carry. Unfortunately, the numbers look even worse on the ground for Auburn if quarterback Robby Ashford’s scrambles on called pass plays are taken out of those 82 yards.
Whether Auburn needs to change personnel, scheme, a combination of the two, or something else entirely, the Tigers must find a way for this offensive line to produce at least average results in order to have an opportunity to win tonight against LSU.
Defending a mobile quarterback
Assuming that Robby Ashford is the starting quarterback for Auburn tonight, then both teams’ signal callers are major threats to run the ball.
Ashford is known as a running quarterback at this point, but LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels has more rushing attempts, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns than Ashford on the season so far.
That means that both defenses must deal with the headache of a quarterback who can break a big play at anytime with their legs.
The major difference between the two quarterbacks this year to date is that Daniels is completing 73% of his passes and has yet to throw an interception. Ashford on the other hand completes 57% of his throws right now.
Auburn must contend with a true dual threat and must be very disciplined in their assignments to do so.
If one defense can successfully negate at least one aspect of the opposing quarterback’s game, then that team will have a great chance to score a victory by the end of the game.
Second half adjustments
Auburn’s abysmal second half performances have been a problem for nearly a full calendar year.
Assuming that the home team can at least keep it close during the first thirty minutes of action, Auburn coach Bryan Harsin and his staff must find a way to make adjustments that can provide the necessary spark to his team.
The average score of the second half of Auburn matchups against Power 5 teams since last October is something like 17-3 in favor of the opponent.
Clearly, that is not sustainable if Auburn hopes to win any games the remainder of the year.
Auburn has an opportunity tonight, at home, to get another win and begin the SEC slate 2-0. It seems unlikely that Auburn is going to trounce anyone right now, so their ability to make adjustments and find answers throughout the course of the game is paramount.
Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers.