While everyone else seems to be nervous about the production of Auburn's running game or our inability to destroy opponents, I am excited because it is LSU week.
I am 25 years old. I would imagine most who are near my age have a similar connection to this fairly new rivalry. Auburn and LSU only began playing every season in 1992 when I was three years old. I've never recalled a football season without a showdown against the Bengal Tigers.
Some of Auburn's most cherished memories are against LSU. The interception game in 1994. The blowout in Baton Rouge in 1999. Cambell to Taylor in 2004. The defensive slugfest of 2006. Cam Newton's Heisman Run in 2010.
Of course, it wouldn't be a rivalry if there were only good memories. Some of Auburn's most crushing and strange defeats have also come at the hands of LSU. The 1988 "Earthquake" game. The 1996 Barn Burner. Missing five field goals in 2005. Les Miles defying all logic in 2007, as Demetrius Byrd caught a perfect pass against perfect coverage.
Before Alabama's return to relevance under Nick Saban, it was often these two SEC West schools battling it out for supremacy. Both programs and care too much about football to let their schools fall too far behind the back. While they're wildly different fan bases, Auburn and LSU both have relied on physical defense and a powerful running game over the years to compete for championships.
Last year, LSU was the only team to defeat Auburn on their run to an SEC Championship. John Chavis is the only defensive coordinator to consistently challenge and frustrate Gus Malzahn. LSU is one of the few teams that has just as many if not more elite athletes than Auburn does.
While Auburn can seek revenge for last year's loss, LSU perhaps has more riding on this game. A loss at Jordan-Hare would leave them at 0-2 in the SEC and all but out of the race for Atlanta. There are a ton of fascinating story lines heading into this weekend.
Auburn hasn't put together four impressive quarters in a row yet this season. Of course, they hadn't last season at this point either. This is Auburn's biggest test of the season, though hopefully there will be bigger ones later on. Is Auburn's offense ready to successfully attack an athletic SEC defense? Is Auburn's defense as good as they have looked?
LSU will start a true freshman Brandon Harris. It will be his first college start. Auburn finished second in Harris's recruitment. LSU has a stable of impressive running backs (as always) but seems to be lacking that swagger that has come to define LSU football. They haven't looked impressive in their two meaningful games thus far against Wisconsin and Mississippi State.
The gauntlet of difficult games has arrived. This is a very important game for Auburn, considering all the teams they still have to face. It's important to protect home field, keep gaining positive momentum, and get a leg up on one of the more talented teams in the SEC West.
I always expect the unexpected when it comes to this matchup. Even in 2008 and 2012 when Auburn seasons were beginning to fall apart, home night games against LSU nearly righted the ship.
This year, some think LSU may be near the bottom of the division. They're discounting the Tigers based on one home loss. That seems like a mistake to me. I'll have to see it to believe that LSU is truly "down." Here's what I'm looking for this weekend:
- Incredible Atmosphere: First major night game at home this season against LSU, it doesn't get better than that. I hope for Jordan Hare to house one of those nights where it's one of the most difficult places to play in college football.
- Linebacker Play: I really hope Frost and McKinzy can play, because this is the kind of game linebackers should live for. LSU has exploited our lack of linebacker play in the last three seasons, but I think we are much better this season than we have been. Tre Williams and Anthony Swain will be called upon too. Can the linebackers hold up against the run and force Harris into third and long situations?
- Tempo: We haven't seen the offense go at warp speed yet. I expect Gus to get a couple of those drives going on Saturday. It may very well take passing on early downs and exploiting those one on one matchups outside to achieve that.