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Saturday Showdown: Auburn Tigers at LSU Tigers

The two teams chasing No. 1 Alabama in the Southeastern Conference’s West Division square off on Saturday when the No. 2 LSU Tigers host the No. 9 Auburn Tigers. LSU comes into the game with a 7-0 mark, including a 3-0 record in league play, sitting a half-game behind the Crimson Tide, who are 4-0 in SEC games.

Auburn is 3-1 in conference games and 6-1 overall, but with games against LSU and Alabama still on the schedule, Gus Malzahn’s squad has its path to the SEC Championship Game in its hands. Auburn’s only loss came two weeks ago at Florida but wins over the Tigers and Crimson Tide, as well as a win in the SEC title game, could put it in the College Football Playoff.

The moneyline for this contest has the Auburn Tigers +320 and the LSU Tigers -420. LSU is favored by 11.5 points at home, and the over/under for the game has been set at 58.5.

Ground Attack

Auburn will look to keep the ball on the ground in this one, both to keep LSU’s potent offense off the field and because these Tigers are so good at running the ball. Auburn is tied for ninth nationally with 20 rushing touchdowns this season, compared to its total of 25 for the entire 2018 campaign. Auburn is 11th in the nation in rushing with 239.6 yards per game, led by JaTarvious Whitlow’s 544 yards and seven touchdowns. Whitlow is sidelined after knee surgery, but Kam Martin, Harold Joiner and D.J. Williams combined for 191 yards last weekend against Arkansas.

The Tigers’ defense has kept opponents out of the end zone for the most part this season, allowing just 17.1 points per game and being one of 10 teams in the country not to allow more than 24 points in a game this season. Auburn will be tested through the air, which means it must get some pressure on LSU quarterback Joe Burrow so he can’t sit in the pocket and pick the Tigers apart. Defensive end Marlon Davidson leads Auburn with 5.5 sacks this season, while defensive tackles Derrick Brown and Tyrone Truesdell each have three.

Quick And Efficient

The LSU offense has been lethal all season long, with the Tigers leading the SEC and ranking second in the nation in scoring offense (50.1 points per game) and passing offense (385.7 yards per game). LSU’s 44 touchdown drives this season are averaging six plays and 2:15 of game time. Burrow is the orchestrator of the Tigers’ passing attack, leading the nation in passing touchdowns with 29 while ranking second in the country with 2,484 yards.

Wide receivers Justin Jefferson (48 catches, 759 yards, nine touchdowns) and Ja’Marr Chase (35 catches, 626 yards, nine TDs) have been great, and they get another threat back this week with the return of Terrace Marshall Jr. (20 catches, 304 yards, six TDs), who has missed three games with a foot injury.

The Tigers have been susceptible to offensive explosions by the opposition, with Texas (38 points), Vanderbilt (38) and Florida (28) all giving LSU a tough time in losses. LSU has 17 sacks this season, but no player has more than two, so there isn’t one man for an offense to focus on blocking.

LSU Wins Shootout

Both of these teams can put points on the board in bunches, but LSU has a more explosive offense with its quick-strike capability. Auburn freshman quarterback Bo Nix may need to take to the air more, especially if the Tigers fall behind early, and that’s not his forte just yet. LSU has won the last nine matchups between these teams played in Baton Rouge, and I see them making it 10 straight. I’m taking LSU -11.5 points to stay unbeaten.

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