AUBURN | Auburn’s 2017 football schedule includes two tough road games in September, three more in October and two big November rivalry games at home.
Today, we continue an early look at each opponent with a huge road game against an SEC West rival.
WHO: LSU (8-4 last season, 5-3 SEC West)
WHEN: Oct. 14
WHERE: Tiger Stadium (102,321)
WHAT’S NEW: Ed Oregon was named LSU’s 33rd head coach on Nov. 29. He hired four new coaches in offensive coordinator Matt Canada from Pittsburgh, defensive line coach Pete Jenkins from retirement, wide receivers coach Mickey Joseph from Louisiana Tech and running backs coach Tommie Robinson from Southern Cal
WHO TO WATCH, OFFENSE: Junior Derrius Guice is probably the best running back in the SEC. Sharing time with No. 4 overall draft pick Leonard Fournette last season, Guice rushed for 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns on 183 carries. He is also a weapon catching the ball and returning kickoffs. He had 1,716 all-purpose yards last fall.
WHO TO WATCH, DEFENSE: Arden Key, a potential high draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, is the SEC’s top returning pass rusher with 21.0 tackles-for-loss and 17.0 sacks over the past two seasons. He plays the Buck linebacker position in LSU’s 3-4 defense. Key is still recovering from shoulder surgery and won’t be ready for the start of camp, which is something to watch for early in the season.
OUTLOOK: LSU is one of the few teams in the SEC without a hot young quarterback but Danny Etling or whoever winds up the starter will have a great running back to hand the ball off to behind one of the SEC’s best offensive lines. The wide receiver position is a little questionable, especially for an LSU team that has put a number of wideouts in the league over the past several years. Junior D.J. Chark returns to lead an inexperienced group.
Getting Christian LaCouture back at defensive end is a big boost for a d-line that will again rank among the nation’s best. Key is the leader of a young linebacker corps, which must replace three seniors. LSU lost some key secondary players including safety Jamal Adams, who was the No. 6 overall pick by the N.Y. Jets in the 2017 NFL Draft. LSU will return one of the best cornerback duos in the country with Donte Jackson and Kevin Toliver.
Auburn hasn’t won a game at LSU since 1999, which is now eight consecutive losses in Tiger Stadium. Also, the game against LSU will be Auburn's seventh of the season — with no off weeks to break up the grind. The winner of this game will be in the driver’s seat to challenge Alabama in the West although the 2013 Auburn team proved a loss in Baton Rouge doesn’t end the chances for a championship season.
AUBURN CONNECTION: LSU tight ends coach Steve Ensminger and offensive line coach Jeff Grimes both coached at Auburn before joining the LSU staff. Jenkins was Auburn’s defensive line coach from 1996-98.