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Auburn vs LSU: Q&A with And The Valley Shook

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I spoke with the always great Billy Gomila of "And The Valley Shook" about the LSU game this weekend.

Stacy Revere

You can read my answers to his questions over at their place!

LSU struggled with the run against Wisconsin in the first half and also somewhat against Mississippi State. How do you see that playing into Saturday night's game, given that Auburn has seemed to hit a lull in being able to run the football?

Honestly, that's my biggest concern here. It's one thing to struggle to struggle a little bit. This is probably Dan Mullen's best Mississippi State team, they had a fantastic gameplan, and I'm sure they're going to at least scare another upper-echelon team in the conference, if not beat another team in that tier. But 302 yards. Three with two zeros behind it. And the scarier thing is that it's not the only big game this defense has allowed (268 to Wisconsin).

More than anything, this unit has been susceptible to big plays, which can be the cure-all for any running game, even if Auburn is struggling. LSU hasn't been able to find a steady four-man tackle rotation, and while there's some speed at linebacker they have a tendency to get overwhelmed or caught out of position. The idea of Auburn rolling up and down the field Saturday night has definitely occurred to me.

LSU stormed back to defeat Wisconsin in the season opener. What changed in that game? Or was it just another example of a crazy game with Les Miles as the coach?

LSU's defense found a way to tight up a bit and force some third-and-long situations, and Wisconsin really couldn't pass the ball. On offense, they spread the field a bit and found a way to create some room with the run, and Anthony Jennings seemed to settle in and start completing his passes after a really erratic first half. At the time, I really thought that was a glimpse of him coming around into the starting job.

What is the general feeling around LSU after the MSU loss? Any particular issues that loss exposed?

Devastation. I mean LSU hadn't lost to Mississippi State this century, and at home since 1991. In the back of my mind, I knew that streak would end one day, but never like that. I mean close final score aside, State kicked our ass. It's one thing for a team this young to have its ups and downs, its another to just get blown off of the field before a furious late-game rally.

The biggest concerns are probably up front. An offensive line that we expected to be really good couldn't get any push, and State just kept making big plays on offense. LSU held them to 5-of-14 on third-down conversions, but three of those five successes resulted in touchdowns. That's just insane.

I feel pretty confident LSU's level is somewhere in between that performance and what we've seen in other games, I just don't know where that level is yet.

Brandon Harris has been pretty danged good, so far. What do you expect from the freshmen starting his first SEC road game?

Honestly, I'm more worried about how LSU tries to use him. That played a role in Anthony Jennings' struggles, particularly against Mississippi State. LSU tried to play a really buttoned-up style, but with State's defensive line they couldn't run the ball. That led to a lot of third-and-long situations, Jennings couldn't convert and the offense stagnated. Cam Cameron has to keep Harris on schedule and play to his strengths. They've done a solid job of that so far, but that State gameplan has me jittery on the topic.

Overall, he's a confident kid, so if he can control his nerves and the rest of his teammates do their jobs, he'll be fine. He did have some issues coming in for his first couple snaps versus Wisconsin. Struggled to get a play out in the huddle and things just got worse from there. We haven't seen that again to date though.

I saw from Les Miles' presser yesterday that there may be a few defensive players out or slowed up a bit for LSU, same as Auburn. How are the back-ups looking and how might that affect LSU's game plan defensively?

The main loss is Dwayne Thomas, who has manned the nickel/dime/safety/linebacker position in the "Mustang" package LSU has run under John Chavis. It was the spot that made Tyrann Mathieu famous, and while there's only one Mathieu, Thomas had done an admirable job in the role.

It's an important job in this scheme because that versatile 3-2-6 defense has been a huge part of LSU's success versus spread offenses. The top two names to replace Thomas will be Jamal Adams and Ed Paris. Both guys were five- and four-star prospects...but this time last year both were also playing high school football.

This game has produced some strange results in the past. Thoughts on the insanity that could come out of Saturday night?

Lets see...earthquakes, fires, Penn Wagers...I think the only disaster we've missed on is a plague of locusts right? So there will probably be locusts.

Honestly, I think the loser of this game will probably be wind up really pissed off. Either y'all because a freshman QB came in and won in Jordan-Hare at night, or us because LSU's defense got run through again by another offense. The only thing I'm sure of is that, one way or another, this game will be memorable.