Auburn at LSU

Sports Xchange

October 11, 2017 at 1:27 pm.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
SITE: Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, La.
TV: CBS
SERIES: Auburn leads 28-22-4. Auburn won 18-13 in 2016.
RANKINGS: Auburn No. 10

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Auburn

–RB Kerryon Johnson has recovered in a big way since returning following a two-game absence with a hamstring issue. He leads the Tigers in rushing with 504 yards in four games and has rushed for 11 touchdowns over the last three games.

–WR Ryan Davis has touchdown catches in each of the last two games, turning a short pass into a 75-yard scoring play in the win over Ole Miss. He has a team-best 31 receptions for the season, good for 251 yards, second on the team to WR Will Hastings (370 on 13 catches).

–DE/LB Jeff Holland has been in on at least a half-sack in every game but one this season. He has team-high four for the year in addition to another two tackles for loss among his 16 stops.

LSU

–RB Derrius Guice leads the Tigers in rushing with 365 yards despite missing one game to what has only been described as a “nagging” injury. He is still limited and has carried only 25 times for just 64 yards his last two appearances and sat out the loss to Troy.

–DE Frank Herron hasn’t played all season for an unconfirmed reason, presumably a suspension, but he will make his debut against Auburn. Even though Herron’s snaps likely will be limited, his presence provides another playmaker and lessens the strain on the depth that has been tested by the ankle injury that has hobbled DE Rashard Lawrence.

–LB Arden Key has been back for four games after missing the first two because of offseason shoulder surgery, but has yet to play up to expectations. Key, who set a school record with 12 sacks last season, has lost about 15 pounds since his return and needs to upgrade the pass rush if LSU is going to be able to slow down Auburn’s high-scoring offense. He has half-a-sack among his 10 tackles.

KEYS
TO THE GAME

Things are about to get serious for Auburn. They pretty much already were for LSU.

After losing to No. 2 Clemson and handling an otherwise relatively soft schedule, No. 10 Auburn (5-1, 3-0 SEC) aims to prove that it should be taken seriously as a conference contender as well as a challenger for a spot in the College Football Playoff when it begins a stretch of three consecutive Southeastern Conference road games with a visit to LSU Saturday.

LSU, routed by Mississippi State in its SEC opener and stunned by Troy at home, is looking for a second consecutive victory over a ranked team to back up last week’s win over then-No. 21 Florida on the road. A second consecutive victory against a ranked team would show that LSU (4-2, 1-1 SEC) is an SEC contender despite the slow start.

Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. ET in Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge with CBS there to air the contest.

Auburn has won four in a row since the 14-6 loss at Clemson the second week of the season. The last three have come against SEC opponents Missouri, Mississippi State and Ole Miss, who have a combined conference record of 1-7 with the only victory being Mississippi State’s 37-7 victory against LSU.

“Our message has been each week to get better, and the last three weeks I feel like we’ve done that,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “I told our team we have not arrived and that I will let them know when we arrive.”

After visiting LSU, where Auburn has lost eight consecutive games, Auburn travels to Arkansas, then has an open date before visiting Texas A&M. The next home game is Nov. 11 against No. 4 Georgia and two weeks later, Auburn hosts No. 1 Alabama.

“The meat of our schedule is coming up,” Malzahn said in an understatement.

A win over LSU could serve as a springboard just as it did last year when Auburn kicked six field goals in an 18-13 victory..

“After we beat LSU last year, we got that confidence that we can play with anybody if we can play with LSU,” Auburn fullback Chandler Cox said. “I think the same thing this year.

“We’ve had some good games, but this week we have to go play hard and we’ve got to play the best football game that we’ve played all year.”

Auburn has scored at least 44 points in each of the SEC wins. Kerryon Johnson has scored 11 of his nation-leading 12 touchdowns in those games, and quarrterback Jarrett Stidham has completed 79.1 percent of his passes in the last four games.

Johnson is looking forward to playing at Tiger Stadium.

“I love playing there,” he said. “I love their stadium. I love the crowd. I love the atmosphere there. This is going to be a big game for us, but coming off these recent weeks, we have all of the confidence in the world.

“We know we can do it.”

LSU hopes it started to hit its stride in the victory against Florida. After the loss to Mississippi State, LSU had trouble shaking off Syracuse before prevailing 35-26, and then lost to Troy.

That three-game stretch had many supporters questioning whether LSU made a mistake when it hired Ed Orgeron as its full-time head coach after last season. Orgeron had been promoted from defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator to interim head coach after the loss at Auburn dropped LSU to 2-2 last season. The team won six of its last eight games under Orgeron.

“We gave it all we had all week,” Orgeron said of the bounce-back win at Florida. “It was every ounce of energy, every person in the building gave it. And that’s what it takes, and our mindset was of that.

“And we finally galvanized as a team. I don’t think before we were playing as a team. I think we galvanized as a staff. I think that was important. We had better practices.”

LSU running backs Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams have been hobbled by leg injuries, but both should be ready to go this week. Guice, who led the SEC in rushing last season, has not had a 100-yard game since Sept. 9.

“Is he hurting? Yes,” Orgeron said. “Is he limited right now? Yes. But he is getting better.”

So, too, is defensive end Rashard Lawrence, who has been nagged by ankle injuries, and fellow end Frank Herron will make his season debut after being sidelined for an undisclosed reason.