No. 2 LSU outlasts No. 9 Auburn, setting up dream matchup with Alabama

LSU quarterback <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/ncaaf/players/254913/" data-ylk="slk:Joe Burrow">Joe Burrow</a> (9) passes under pressure from Auburn defensive end <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/ncaaf/players/263259/" data-ylk="slk:Marlon Davidson">Marlon Davidson</a> (3) in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (9) passes under pressure from Auburn defensive end Marlon Davidson (3) in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

No. 2 LSU got No. 9 Auburn’s best shot on Saturday, but LSU was just a little bit better in a classic SEC slugfest.

For the first time all year, quarterback Joe Burrow and LSU’s high-powered offense was met with significant resistance. Auburn got after Burrow all afternoon, picked him off near the goal line and added a goal line stand, but it just wasn’t enough in a 23-20 LSU win.

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The game was tied 10-10 at half and Auburn ended up taking a 13-10 lead early in the third. But LSU’s offense — even without scoring — began to wear the Auburn defense down. In the third quarter alone, Auburn stuffed LSU at the 1 and intercepted Burrow at the 2, but it wasn’t enough to pull off the upset.

Following the interception, Auburn’s scuffling offense promptly went three-and-out, giving LSU another short field. This time, LSU would not be denied. Clyde Edwards-Helaire scored from six yards out to give LSU a lead it would not relinquish. A rushing score from Burrow early in the fourth would put the game out of reach.

LSU’s defense overwhelmed Auburn freshman quarterback Bo Nix for much of the day. Nix completed only 15 of his 35 attempts for 157 yards, and a big chunk of that yardage came in the final minutes to help his team cut LSU’s lead to just three. Auburn’s worn-out defense, however, couldn’t get the stop it needed to put the ball back in Nix’s hands, allowing LSU to hang on.

The win keeps LSU perfect at 8-0 heading into a bye week with the undisputed game of the year — a trip to Tuscaloosa to face No. 1 Alabama — around the corner.

A third top 10 win

The win not only sets up a matchup with Alabama for the top of the SEC West standings, it gives LSU a third top 10 win on the season. Though the Longhorns have disappointed a bit in the weeks since, they were No. 9 when LSU knocked them off 45-38 in Austin in Week 2. LSU also has a 42-28 win over then-No. 7 Florida on its résumé so far this season.

That’s important should LSU fall to Alabama in two weeks. With a team like Oklahoma losing and falling from the ranks of the unbeaten, there may be room for a one-loss SEC team to sneak in the College Football Playoff field along with the conference champion.

But LSU isn’t thinking about that. The Tigers believe they are every bit as good as the mighty Crimson Tide. LSU has lost eight straight to Alabama — a streak that dates back to 2011. On that day in Tuscaloosa, No. 1 LSU held off No. 2 Alabama 9-6. The makeup of both teams is much different now. Back then it was all about defense and ball control offense. Now both teams will pick you apart through the air — LSU with Burrow and Alabama with Tua Tagovailoa.

Of course, Tagovailoa’s health will be an enormous storyline in the coming weeks. Tagovailoa suffered a high-ankle sprain last week in Alabama’s win over Tennessee. He is missing Saturday night’s game against Arkansas and will have next week’s bye for additional time to recover. Tagovailoa’s ankle injury is significant and it’s considered unlikely he will be 100 percent healthy just three weeks removed from the injury. Whether his health ultimately plays a role against LSU remains to be seen.

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