Auburn concludes its month-long road trip this Saturday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, when it faces 2nd-ranked LSU.
Death Valley is arguably one of the toughest places to play in college football, especially for an Auburn team who hasn’t won there since 1999. It doesn’t help that LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is among the favorites to win the Heisman and likely playing on Sundays next year.
What must Auburn do to beat Joe Burrow and LSU? There are five things that I believe will make all the difference in the Tiger Bowl.
1. Put Pressure on Joe Burrow
Auburn’s defensive line is arguably one of the best in the country. Marlon Davidson and Derrick Brown have won SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week a combined five times, and we’ve only played eight weeks of football. One of which, Auburn had a bye week. If Auburn wants to win this game, their defensive line must win up front and pressure Burrow all afternoon. If Auburn can consistently keep Burrow uncomfortable in the pocket, they may be able to force some bad decisions by the senior quarterback.
2. Win the Turnover Battle
Limiting the possessions of the opposing team often leads to good things. One way Auburn can do this is by not having costly turnovers on offense. Protecting the football will be a key to staying in the game because the LSU offense is excellent on capitalizing off of turnovers.
If the Auburn defense can come up with a few turnovers, that wouldn’t hurt either. Auburn forced three fumbles in the first quarter alone against Florida, which played a huge role in keeping Auburn in the game the first half. The problem is, the Auburn offense had four turnovers that day, giving Florida more chances to score, which they did.
3. Limit the Big Plays
In LSU’s game against Mississippi State this past Saturday, Mississippi State was controlling the LSU offense, and trailed 9-7 with 5:24 to go in the second quarter. One play later LSU broke for a 60-yard touchdown pass, interrupting any momentum the Bulldogs had. LSU never looked back. The Tigers from Baton Rouge thrive on big plays, and if they get a few of them Saturday, Auburn’s odds of winning go down tremendously.
4. Bo Nix has to Have Himself a Game
It’s no secret that the true freshman quarterback played his worst game against Florida, and for Auburn to be successful, he has to handle a tough road environment better. Against Florida, Nix completed 11 passes for 145 yards, throwing for one touchdown and three interceptions. That cannot happen again. He has to play his best game on Saturday, one similar to the way he performed against Mississippi State. Granted, Mississippi State is not LSU, but the difference in that game was Nix running the ball against the Bulldogs. In fact, he led Auburn rushing that game with 56 yards on the ground. His mobility opens up all kinds of play calling for Gus Malzahn to utilize, which will prove crucial to the Auburn offense.
5. The Run Game Must be Present
With Boobee Whitlow out until mid-November at the earliest, Auburn’s run game was thought to decrease in efficiency. It did not. Against Arkansas, the run game was ever present, totaling nearly 300 yards on the ground. A trio of Auburn backs consisting of Kam Martin, Harold Joiner and DJ Williams erupted in that game. If Auburn can constantly rotate backs in and out of the game and stay consistent in the ground game, the more off balance the LSU defense will be, opening up more plays.