Auburn is in an interesting situation.
We could’ve seen our beloved Tigers coming into this game today with an interim coach had Missouri done literally any of the basic things you have to do to win football games last week. Bryan Harsin likely would’ve been end zoned like poor Herm Edwards, and someone like Zac Etheridge would’ve been named interim coach to take us through the rest of the season. It could’ve been like our own Varsity Blues Lance Harbor situation!
Not an adult in sight, just kids enjoying the moment. Or, as a friend of mine once put it when we were at Auburn — “COLLEGE, NO PARENTS”. This could have been Auburn!
Alas, Missouri found the dumbest ways to lose a football game, which stuck Auburn at 3-1 (believe me, I won’t begrudge any win... we fired Gus after a good win!) and we retained Harsin for another week. We here at College and Magnolia are decidedly on the side of moving on from our Boise Boys (a lesser-talented version of the BBQ Buddies) and seeking greener pastures.
Will it take a loss to move on from him either tonight or tomorrow morning? Likely, yes. It might take a lopsided loss to do that this week, but if we get a slim loss where the team looks competent on offense, or even a victory, then he’ll get to eat the blowout in Athens next week.
Look, I’m not explicitly pulling for a loss. A three-game winning streak over LSU could happen tonight! That hasn’t happened since the 1992-1994 streak at the beginning of the new SEC. As Auburn creeps toward 800 total program wins (currently at 791), I’ll take any win we can get, I just also want us to move along as a program. We know this is coming, and it’s just a piece of the puzzle that needs to be placed — along with the new AD — before Auburn can start to grow and get back to where they need to be.
WHEN LSU HAS THE BALL: This LSU attack all begins with Jayden Daniels, the transfer from Arizona State. He’s slippery, quick, and he’ll be able to provide a good chunk of LSU’s rushing yardage with Armoni Goodwin (former Auburn commit) out for tonight’s game. Over the course of the season, he’s rushed 44 times for 262 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but his biggest rushing totals have come in the games against better competition in FSU and MSU (32 carries, 207 yards, 1 TD).
While he might be primarily labeled as a runner, his passing has been sneaky efficient. He’s completing 73% of his passes, and he’s got 6 touchdowns with no picks through four games. As the team’s leading rusher as well, he’ll need help from Noah Cain and John Emery, Jr. who should be picking up the slack left in Goodwin’s absence.
What about Kayshon Boutte? Maybe the best receiver in college football when he’s on the field, he had a rocky start to 2022. There were highly-visible outbursts and bouts of bad attitude in the opener against FSU, where he caught just 2 passes for 20 yards. Overall on the year he’s got just 10 catches for 93 yards, and he became a father on Saturday, so if Auburn wants to win we need to hope that the lack of sleep is taking its toll. Instead of Boutte, LSU will turn to Malik Nabers (volume catches — 20 grabs for 264 yards, 1 TD) and Jaray Jenkins (red zone threat with 13 grabs and 3 touchdowns).
Something to watch, LSU is starting two true freshmen on the offensive line, so Auburn’s crowd can have an effect tonight with noise and bringing the atmosphere. Let’s not pretend that LSU is great on offense, but they’re improving and figuring things out.
WHEN AUBURN HAS THE BALL: Man, this section gets shorter and shorter each week. You’d think that we could come up with something positive to say here, but it’s difficult.
Auburn should be defined by the running style of Tank Bigsby, and the punishing ground attack overall, but even that isn’t working. Last week against Missouri, Tate Johnson got injured and Jalil Irvin stepped into his spot at center. It didn’t do anything, and now Brandon Council is going to get the start in the middle. Maybe that pays off a bit, but the rest of the line has been porous as well. Bigsby had 62 rushing yards after contact, and 44 rushing yards total. That means he was getting hit in the backfield nearly every single time he got the ball.
Our passing game may have found some sort of weapon in the increased use of Koy Moore last week (4 catches for 74 yards), and the offense put some different guys in action with Omari Kelly and Camden Brown each getting catches on a touchdown drive. Still, after the first two drives of the game that resulted in touchdowns, Auburn went punt, punt, missed FG, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, turnover on downs. The word “punt” starts looking weird when you have to type it out that many times.
Now, that was against Missouri, who has a decidedly poor defense. They gave us 40 to Kansas State, and struggled for the most part throughout the season. LSU has dudes. Actual dudes on defense, and they’re going to make things difficult for Auburn. They love to overload blitz, and I look forward to seeing our quarterbacks figure out where the rush is coming from and how to adjust accordingly (I actually don’t look forward to that).
SERIES HISTORY: LSU leads the all-time series 31-24-1, but Auburn has won two straight in the series, and is looking for its first three-game winning streak since the expansion of the SEC in 1992.
LAST MEETING: Auburn broke the Baton Rouge curse last year with Bo Nix leading two fourth-quarter scoring drives to give Auburn a 24-19 victory. It was the first win in Louisiana since 1999, breaking the Cigar Curse that Tommy Tuberville put in place accidentally.
LAST WEEK: Auburn didn’t lose to Missouri 17-14, and LSU had an easy time with New Mexico in a 38-0 shutout. Both teams enter today at 3-1.
TUCKER GREGG AWARD CANDIDATE: I think there’s really only one guy that can claim this, and that’ll be the one who takes off and gets away from our linebackers on every other play, and it’s the quarterback Jayden Daniels. We’re going to see him loop around a dude a time or two and escape a sack and cuss him out.
RANDOM PREDICTION WITH NO BASIS IN REALITY: I’ve said it a couple times before, and tonight might be the time it actually happens. Keionte Scott will return a punt for a touchdown, but the announcers will confuse him with Ja’Varrius Johnson (both wearing #6). It’s Joe Tessitore tonight, so he’ll go “Ja-VARRIUS JOHN-son wwwith a BURST and he’s GAWWWN! Wait, wait, that’s KEIONTE SCOTT! They wear the same number, Greg!”
KEYS FOR AUBURN:
- Go all out. If Bryan Harsin thinks that this is the end, why not have a little fun with it. Call the kitchen sink play. Run the oopty-oop, the dipsy-doodle, the annexation of Puerto Rico. What in the world do you have to lose? If you’re actually trying to save your job, seeing your staff have fun and the players having a good time while scoring points and being exciting would go a long way. I used to work on the radio broadcast for the Akron Zips when they went 1-11 in 2011, and in one game late in the season they threw a 5-yard slant on 3rd-and-11 before punting. In the ensuing commercial break, the play-by-play guy said to me “If you’re gonna be sh*tty, at least be sh*tty and exciting”. It’s kind of how I feel about our offense at this point in the season.
- Prioritize special teams play. If you’re unsure about making waves on offense, this might be the game where you can find some momentum in other areas, particularly special teams. LSU has been decidedly poor there, giving up multiple long returns over the course of the season. Keionte Scott has been good at punt returner thus far, but last week he said that the sun messed him up a bit. At night that obviously won’t be a problem, and LSU is a team he can probably break one against (see my random prediction above). Auburn will need the help in either field position or points. Also, you can’t have Anders missing field goals from the 40 yard range. He’s got to be on tonight, because Auburn can’t leave any points on the field.
- Spy Jayden Daniels. It’s easier said than done, but this guy will make plenty of plays with his feet, and many of them will come on third downs when he scrambles. They’re not going to call a ton of designed runs for him, but he’ll get his yardage. We had some issues with linebackers getting turned around at times last week, so this needs to be cleaned up in time for tonight. Stop Daniels, and the LSU offense will sputter. It all runs through him.