Week 4 - Auburn at LSU
Auburn QB Nick Marshall
Auburn QB Nick Marshall
Posted Sep 18, 2013

Week 4 Fearless Predictions & Preview - Auburn at LSU

Auburn (3-0) at LSU (3-0) Sept. 14, 7:45, ESPN

Why You Should Give A Hoot: With one win and one big game, Auburn could rebound from a disastrous 2012, a coaching change, and all the expectations after the 2010 national championship season and become a massive player in both the SEC and national title chases.

No one thinks the Tigers, the Auburn version, are ready for primetime, with a team still rebuilding under new head coach Gus Malzahn, but the pieces are there from the recruiting classes put together by Gene Chizik to be good again, fast.

So far the 3-0 start matches the win total of all of last season, and those wins game against ULM, New Mexico State and Alabama A&M – hardly powerhouses even in their respective low-level conferences. So far this season, beating Washington State looks better now than it did a few weeks ago, thanks to the Cougars' win over USC, while wins over an Arkansas State team that could win the Sun Belt, and a not-that-bad Mississippi State team, have already made the season a success in some ways. Even though it took a late hold to get by Wazzu, and a late score to beat Miss State, 3-0, is 3-0. 4-0, though, would take things to a whole other level.

Auburn has given LSU a hard time over the years, even last season, but it's only 1-4 in its last five games in the series, with the lone win coming in the magical 2010 campaign, and with the last win in Death Valley coming in 1999. This year's Tiger team, the LSU version, though, is beginning to have the make-up and the look of something truly special.

Now that we're all done with the Alabama-Texas A&M hype, the focus will shift to LSU's really, really big games, and this is just the beginning with a trip to Georgia up next and with dates against Florida, Ole Miss, Alabama, Texas A&M and Arkansas still to deal with. However, all the pieces are in place to be deep in the hunt for the national title, with a defense that's improving by the week, and a balanced offense that could be the most complete in the Les Miles era.

Why Auburn Might Win: It's time to test the LSU secondary. TCU's passing game is fine, but UAB and Kent State weren't going to give LSU any issues. Auburn might not have a high-powered air show, at least not yet, and it might not be quite doing all the things Malzahn wants, but it showed against Mississippi State that it could come through late, overcome some big mistakes, and be explosive. Nick Marshall kept on pressing against the Bulldogs and kept on pushing the ball down the field, and despite throwing two picks, he was relatively sharp. His receivers helped him out with several nice plays, and he managed to keep his poise. Against LSU and in the hostile environment, he can't get rattled.

Why LSU Might Win: The offense is clicking. The return of RB Jeremy Hill has added yet another element to an attack that seemed to be working just fine before, but the key so far has been an ultra-efficient passing game under coordinator Cam Cameron, helped by the improvement of QB Zach Mettenberger. The Auburn defensive front that did a terrific job last week against the Mississippi State running backs, but couldn't handle the mobility of quarterback Dak Prescott, doesn't have to worry about Mettenberger taking off, but it has to be ready to be pounded on. Washington State doesn't run the ball, and while Arkansas State does, it doesn't line up and blast away. LSU is about to line up and blast away.

Who To Watch Out For: This is the kind of game that can turn Nick Marshall into an SEC household name. After winning the tight quarterback battle, he started off fine, but he didn't set the world on fire against Wazzu. Last week, though, he took a huge step forward, spreading the ball around to nine different receivers – including a 36-yard pass play to himself on a funky, deflected throw – on the way to 339 passing yards with two scores. The key will be to get the ball out of his hands in a hurry and not let the LSU defensive front get to him. The longer the play develops, the more the Tiger defense will swarm.

- One 58-yard touchdown run later, and all is right with the Jeremy Hill world. He ripped off his dash in the first few minutes of the win over Kent State, and wasn't needed much the rest of the way finishing with 117 yards and two scores on just 11 carries. He wasn't alone, though. Backup Terrence Magee got into the act late averaging 12 yards per carry, and as a team, the ground game rolled for 8.3 yards per pop. Having Mettenberger is nice, but LSU will keep things on the ground as much as possible.
- The key stat to this game, and most games, will be third down conversions. LSU's defense has clamped down in a huge way over the first three games on the key down, while Auburn has struggled to keep the chains moving. Auburn HAS to hold on to the ball for long periods of time to keep the defensive front fresh. The LSU offensive front is too good and too strong.
- Auburn still has Western Carolina and Florida Atlantic on the slate to get to five wins, but it could be a wee bit of a fight to get the sixth win. Going to Tennessee isn't going to be easy, and the Tigers will likely be underdogs against everyone else.

What Will Happen: It's the 15th annual ooh-my-sides groaner prediction that's a 100% guaranteed lock of the century. The Tigers will win.
Prediction: LSU 38 … Auburn 13
Line: LSU -17.5 o/u: 56
Must See Rating: (5 The Presidents' Gatekeepers – 1 Million Second Quiz) … 3