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How Auburn's Defense Can Rattle Joe Burrow, LSU

Christian Tutt (6) sacks Florida qb Trask Kyle and forces a fumble in the first ahlf.
Auburn football at Florida on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019 in Gainesville, FL
Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics
Christian Tutt (6) sacks Florida qb Trask Kyle and forces a fumble in the first ahlf. Auburn football at Florida on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019 in Gainesville, FL Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics

Auburn has not defeated LSU in Death Valley since 1999 and this year will not be an easy task against the second-ranked team in the country. This LSU team is led by Joe Burrow who is at the top of many Heisman watch lists and so far, he has not been slowed down.

“You look at LSU offensively and it looks like a video game when you watch it on the film,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said in his weekly press conference.

Statistically, LSU ranks second in the nation in points per game with 50.1 only trailing Oklahoma at 50.4 points per game. They are also one of three teams in the country to score on 100 percent of their trips to the red zone. They have scored touchdowns in 31 out of their 39 attempts in the red zone.

Joe Burrow contributes a lot to the offense’s success as he leads the nation in completion percentage at 79.4 percent and passing touchdowns with 29. He only trails Washington State quarterback Anthony Gordon in yards per game with 354.9 yards per game.

Burrow’s favorite targets include Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase who rank seventh and ninth in the nation for yards per game. They also have nine touchdowns each which is good for fifth in the country.

LSU will be getting another weapon back for Burrow to use in Terrace Marshall Jr. who has not played since week 4 against Vanderbilt when he injured his right foot. He led the nation in touchdown receptions with six through week 4.

Because of the nature of LSU’s air raid offense this season, the rushing numbers are not as impressive. Clyde Edwards-Helaire has averaged 78.14 yards per game and a respectable 6.15 yards per carry. He has also rushed for seven touchdowns.

To put it simply, this LSU offense is a juggernaut and no team has figured out how to slow them down. Mississippi State came the closest last week by only giving up 36 points and forced three field goals inside the 10-yard line during the first half.

Auburn’s defense allows 224.7 yards per game through the air. That ranks ninth in the SEC. This is partly due to the defense defending the run so well and forcing teams to pass the ball. They have only given up 94.29 yards per game on the ground and four rushing touchdowns this season.

Auburn is successful when getting after the quarterback, though. They rank third in the SEC in sacks with 20. Marlon Davidson leads the charge with 5½ sacks. Derrick Brown and Tyrone Truesdale are right behind Davidson with 3 sacks.

Something else to keep an eye on is the weather for Saturday. There is a chance of rain and wind in Baton Rouge. Depending on how much rain falls and how windy it is, a team can be forced to change its’ game plan. 

The Auburn defense cannot rely on Mother Nature to slow down Burrow and the Tigers, though. No matter the circumstances, they will need to play their best game to date.

The best way to rattle Burrow will be to not let him get rid of the ball quickly. This will be a tall task for Auburn’s defensive backs going against the best wide receivers they have faced so far this season.

Burrow is so good under pressure that rushing him is not good enough. Auburn will have to sack him or make him hold the ball longer than he wants to. 

One area where Auburn looks to improve in the latter portion of the season is interceptions. Auburn only has 3 interceptions this season. They grabbed two against Arkansas which was the first by Auburn since week 2 against Tulane.

“I think they have done a good job. We have had some opportunities, and Jeremiah Dinson almost had another interception the other day. We have been working on seizing the moment, catching extra balls in practice, and everything that goes along with that. As I said last week, that number will grow each week and we need to continue that each week,” Malzahn said when asked about how the secondary has improved.

To expect the DB’s to ballhawk this weekend would be unfair. Joe Burrow has only thrown 3 interceptions this season with his last being against Utah State in week 6. 

The best thing the defense can do to be successful against the best offense in the SEC is to continue to do what they have done and that is stop the run and force teams to be one-dimensional.

Auburn has allowed over 100 yards rushing only three times this season. They held Oregon to 90 rushing yards, Kent State to 92, Texas A&M to 56 and Arkansas to 52. In Auburn’s road win at Texas A&M, the Aggies abandoned the running game by only attempting 21 rushes.

Last week, Mississippi State held LSU to 86 rushing yards on 25 attempts. Eliminating the Tiger’s running threat gives Auburn its best chance to slow down Burrow and the prolific passing attack LSU presents.

Auburn travels to Baton Rouge to face LSU on October 26. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. CT on CBS.

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