No. 6 LSU Tigers (7-0, 3-3 ATS) at No. 5 Auburn Tigers (7-0, 4-3 ATS), Week 8 NCAA Football, Saturday October 23rd 3:30PM Eastern Jordan-Hare Stadium Auburn. A.L.
By Jay Horne, Professional Sports Handicapper of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: Louisiana State +6.5/Aub -6.5
Over/Under Total: OFF
College Gameday may have chosen to travel to Columbia, Missouri this week, but I promise you there will be no bigger game than the battle brewing in Auburn, Alabama. The no. 5 ranked Auburn Tigers host the no. 6 LSU Tigers in a battle of unbeaten teams. The winner will be the only remaining undefeated team in the SEC and more importantly will place themselves right in the dead middle of the National Championship race. LSU has received a ton of scrutiny in route to their 7-0 mark. The Bayou Bengals have won 4 games by less than one score and of course Head Coach Les Miles received a ton of criticism for his clock management in some of those close wins as well. However, magic has been on the side of LSU as they face their biggest challenge to date on the road in Auburn this Saturday.
For the Auburn Tigers, they have experienced similar magic on their sidelines this season. Auburn was expected to have a shot at challenging in the SEC West this season, but few would have expected the Tigers to be still undefeated this late in the season. Similar to LSU, Auburn has escaped 4 victories by one score or less this season including two thrilling come from behind victories against Clemson and South Carolina. The Tigers were carrying the reputation that they may be more lucky than good in their first few weeks of the season. However, all those critics were silenced last week when Auburn dismantled the Arkansas Razorbacks who were ranked 12th in the nation by a score of 65-43. It was the most points in history in a meeting between SEC schools that did not go into overtime. Auburn now looks to build of that momentum when they return home to host LSU this Saturday.
Auburn QB Cam Newton proved yet again last week that he deserves to be in the Heisman Trophy consideration. Newton ran the ball 10 times for 188 yards while throwing for 144 yards which resulted in 4 total touchdowns. Newton leads the SEC in rushing with 860 yards through 7 games while passing for additional 1,278 yards. The Auburn quarterback has tremendous speed and quickness which has proven to be so difficult to defend. Auburn is definitely a rushing oriented team with two solid tailbacks behind Newton in the backfield in Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb. Dyer and McCalebb have combined for 800 yards on the ground with 6 touchdowns.
While that is not up to par with Newton’s numbers, they still have to be respected by opposing defenses. However, Newton again truly makes the offense dynamic because he also has an arm to go along with his dangerous running ability. What makes Newton so difficult to defense is when he is on the move, he can still make throws down field. WR Darvin Adams is a special wide receiver that has caught 23 passes for 419 yards and is the most likely recipient of big plays in the passing game when Newton keeps the play alive with his feet. Therefore, the LSU defense will definitely have their hands full as they attempt to be the first team to lock down Newton this Saturday.
LSU on the other hand just may have the defense to accomplish such a feat. The Bayou Bengals have the 3rd best defense in America on paper allowing only 242 yards per game. Throw out the numbers on paper and the LSU defense may just be the best unit in America. They have held opponents to just 14 points per game and may I also mention that they have played some very talented offenses this season as well. If not for the defense, LSU could be a very average team which is a large statement for a team undefeated and ranked 6th in the country.
However, if you follow SEC football you may understand what I’m saying. LSU QB Jordan Jefferson has simply failed to live up to expectations this season throwing just 2 touchdown passes and 7 picks. Jefferson gives the offense the ability to run the ball with a dual threat behind center, but his inconsistency has caused Coach Miles to turn to junior Jarrett Lee over the last two weeks. Lee saw his first big role in the offense against Florida when he completed 9 of 11 passing with 2 scores and also got the bulk of the snaps in last week’s 32-10 victory over McNeese State. Lee definitely gives the offense their best chance to move the ball through the air even though he has had his own consistency issues in the past.
However, do not expect Coach Miles to come out with a big passing game plan. Coach Miles loves to run the football to establish ball control because he has so much faith in his defense if they do not move the chains every possession. Running back Steven Ridley is having a great season with 686 yards rushing and averaging 4.9 yards per carry. Ridley has been the work horse on offense and I expect him to be a big player again this Saturday. If LSU can get the run game going it will really help them keep the Auburn offense off the field and that has to be a focus for the LSU offense. Look for the LSU offense to come out running the football and try to set the tone early on the ground. If that falls through or LSU falls behind, QB Jarrett Lee will have to lead the offense down field by throwing the football. WR Terrence Toliver and Reuban Randle both match-up well against the Auburn corners, but it will be up to Lee to make the throws to put some points on the board if the running game falters.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: LSU had their best performance of the season against Florida at home which was backed up by a rather poor performance last week against McNeese State. I believe the road team has a big disadvantage here and LSU does not have the firepower to hang with the Auburn offense. Auburn will not score 65 in this one, but they will score enough to keep this one in control. Take Auburn -6.5.