This week, Auburn takes on the defending national champion LSU Tigers (2-2). However, this year’s version of the Bayou Bengals looks much different than last year’s juggernaut. Coming into the season, LSU knew that it had to replace its offensive and defensive coordinator along with over 15 starters that left for the NFL or graduated. That number doesn’t count All-American wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase who eventually opted out of the season before it began.
With the major roster changes, is not a surprise that this year’s LSU team has struggled to replicate the magic from last season. So far, the Tigers’ offense has been explosive every week, but the defense has struggled mightily, leading to early-season losses to Mississippi State and Missouri. As the season has progressed, LSU finds itself having to replace even more starters due to injury, transfer and disciplinary action.
Take a look at three areas that will be critical in Auburn’s game versus LSU today:
LSU’s new face at quarterback
Whoever had to follow last season’s masterpiece of a season from LSU’s Heisman trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow was going to have a huge task in front of them. LSU head coach Ed Orgeron picked junior quarterback Myles Brennan as the man for the job. Brennan’s numbers were not quite up to Joe Burrow’s legacy, but they were incredibly impressive nonetheless. In Myles Brennan’s first three games, he managed to pass for 1,112 yards and 11 touchdowns. However, in the game against Mississippi State, Brennan tore a muscle in his abdomen that has made him unavailable for action since last week.
In his absence, Orgeron turned to freshman quarterback TJ Finley as the starter last week against South Carolina. Finley played really well, passing for over 260 yards and two touchdowns, leading LSU to a 52-24 victory over the Gamecocks. According to LSU’s head coach, Finley will once again get the nod at quarterback this week as Brennan recovers. The Auburn defense must find a way to make life difficult for Finley and slow down the LSU offense to win this game.
Derek Stingley, Jr. vs. Seth Williams
Wide receiver Seth Williams has been Auburn’s most explosive playmaker this year. It is no secret to opposing defensive players and coaches that Williams has been the key to Auburn generating production from the passing attack the last two seasons. This week, Seth Williams is likely to frequently draw a matchup with the most talented defensive back in the SEC, LSU’s Derek Stingley, Jr.
Stingley burst onto the scene for LSU as a true freshman last year, intercepting six passes and locking down receivers en route to a national championship. In 2020, Stingley missed the season opener due to illness, but has since returned and will be ready to go today in Jordan-Hare Stadium. It remains to be seen if Stingley will follow Williams regardless of where he aligns or not, but whichever athlete can get the better of the other when they go head to head will be key to today’s outcome.
Offensive line shakeups
Auburn and LSU both had a lot of personnel turnover on the offensive line from last year to the current campaign. However, both sets of Tigers seemed to have settled into a preferred starting group by last week. However, now Auburn and LSU both must replace one of their offensive line starters for different reasons.
Auburn’s starting right guard Brandon Council had a major knee injury versus Ole Miss that will cause him to miss the rest of the season. It appears that Auburn will call on redshirt freshman guard Keiondre Jones to step in and take over the spot vacated by Council this week.
On the other sideline, LSU’s starting left tackle at the beginning of the season was Dare Rosenthal. But, last week LSU head coach Ed Orgeron announced that Rosenthal had been suspended indefinitely from the team. So, LSU sophomore offensive tackle Cam Wire has since stepped in as the starter at that position.
It will be critical for both offensive lines this week to protect their quarterback and give room for tailbacks to operate in the rushing attack. If one offensive line is able to do this significantly better than the other, then that will likely be the determining factor in who wins today’s game.
Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @z_m_shaw