It could be the game that decides the SEC West championship when No. 5 LSU visits No. 14 Auburn on Saturday only three weeks into the season. After all, they are the two teams expected to battle for supremacy in the division.
Auburn has rolled over a pair of foes, Louisiana Monroe 31-0 and Mississippi State 43-14. LSU struggled to a 22-21 overtime victory over Oregon State and hammered outmanned Arkansas State 55-3 last week.
“I was pleased with the way that we created a little identity as a team in terms of the physical nature of the way we played the game, especially offensively,” LSU coach Nick Saban said of the Arkansas State game.
LSU had success with Marcus Randall and JaMarcus Russell at quarterback, and will look for the same at Auburn.
“My view of the quarterback situation now is that both quarterbacks can be weapons for our team and I think the best advantage for our team is to use both quarterbacks in that regard, and that’s really all I really have to say about that,” Saban said.
“Both guys have ability to do certain things, and we’re going to try to plan it so both guys have an opportunity to do that,” he added. “Rather than creating a controversy with them, I think we should use them both as such until one of them clearly starts to do extremely well, and we feel is ready to kind of be that guy on our team.”
Saban doesn’t believe using two quarterbacks will be a disruption for the players.
“I’ve talked to a lot of guys on the team about it. It doesn’t seem to have a big effect on them which guy’s playing quarterback,” he said.
Defensively, LSU will be facing two of the SEC’s top tailbacks—Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown.
Williams ran for 122 yards and two touchdowns while Brown had 147 yards, his first 100-yard effort since the Capital One Bowl two seasons ago, against the Bulldogs.
“The Ronnie Brown of 2002 came out (Saturday), when he was pounding people, especially when he ran over a guy on the sideline and picked up an extra 20 after that,” said quarterback Jason Campbell, who has thrown five touchdown passes and been sacked only once.
Coach Tommy Tuberville said the two tailbacks make things easier on offensive coordinator Al Borges because he doesn’t have to change his play-calling depending on which one is in the game.
“That’s the beauty of two running backs like these guys,” Tuberville said. “They both can get the job done on pass protection or run-blocking or carrying. There’s not a dropoff either way.”
Borges said he’ll keep “adding little bits and pieces” to the offense, but the focal point won’t change too much.
“We’re going to keep trying to maintain that surge up front with our offensive line,” Borges said. “I thought they just handled the line of scrimmage like nobody’s business” against the Bulldogs.
With back-to-back 100-yard games, Williams has been one of the biggest beneficiaries. He was named the SEC’s offensive player of the week for a record eighth time, topping former Alabama tailback Shaun Alexander and ex-Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel.
Auburn’s defense faces a pretty fair tailback, too—LSU’s Justin Vincent.
Auburn’s starting defense has yet to give up any points, but that will definitely change on Saturday. Auburn is a 1 1/2 -point favorite.
“Against the two teams that we’ve played, we’d like to play a little more dominating,” Tuberville said. “We’re playing probably one of the better teams in the country this week. I’m not saying we’ve played bad, we’re just going to have to play better.”
Auburn will be looking for a better result than the 31-7 loss in last year’s meeting.
“I just thought it was a good old-fashioned whipping,” said Auburn offensive line coach Hugh Nall, who doubled as the coordinator last season.