BATON ROUGE - One of the two biggest games in college football on Saturday takes place at Jordan-Hare Stadium as sixth-ranked LSU travels to face fifth-ranked Auburn in a contest that will match the top offense in the Southeastern Conference against the league's best defense.
Kickoff between LSU and Auburn is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. CT and the game will be televised nationally on CBS. LSU brings a 7-0 overall mark and a 4-0 league record into the game. LSU is coming off a 32-10 non-conference win over McNeese State last week. Auburn is also 7-0 overall and has an identical 4-0 conference mark. Auburn ran past Arkansas, 65-43, last week.
LSU has won three straight and four of the past five games against Auburn, which includes a 31-10 victory in Tiger Stadium a year ago. The last time the teams met at Auburn, Jarrett Lee guided LSU to a last-minute comeback victory. The last three times the teams have met in Jordan-Hare Stadium, the games have been decided a total of 10 points.
This year's game figures to be no different as LSU brings a defense into the contest that is rated first in the SEC in total yards (242.1) rushing yards (83.6) and passing yards (158.6). Auburn, on the other hand, has the SEC's most potent offensive attack led by Heisman Trophy frontrunner in quarterback Cam Newton. Behind the play of Newton, Auburn is averaging 40.7 points, 283.7 rushing yards and 481.1 total yards per game - all first in the SEC.
LSU GameDay Info
LSU at Auburn
LSU will wear white jerseys and will occupy the east (opposite the press box) sideline.
Kickoff: 6:36 p.m. CT
Driving Directions (Baton Rouge to Auburn, Ala. -- 420 mi.; 6h, 53m)
"We've had a good week of preparation," LSU coach Les Miles said. "Auburn has an outstanding team and one that will obviously present some tremendous challenges for us, both offensively and defensively."
The key for LSU's defense will be containing Newton, who leads the SEC in rushing (122.9 yards per game) and total offense (307.3 yards per game). Newton doesn't just make plays with his feet; he's also an accurate passer as he's rated second in the nation in pass efficiency with a 180.5 rating. In seven games, Newton has thrown for 1,278 yards, 13 TDs and just five interceptions. In all, Newton has accounted for 25 touchdowns - 12 rushing, 13 passing.
"Cam Newton is an outstanding player who can do so many things with the football," Miles said. "It is very difficult to take pieces of their offense away because (Newton) has his hand in everything that they do. It's generally a wide run, an inside run or a pass. You have to pick your poison with this offense because if you take away two of the three, then the third option because an issue.
"It's very difficult to take pieces (of this offense) away. What you do is play the percentages, play zone and man and see how it fits."
Defensively, LSU will look to defensive tackle Drake Nevis and linebacker Kelvin Sheppard as being two of the keys to slowing down the Newton ground game. Nevis ranks second in the SEC in tackles for losses (11.5) and sacks (5.0) and he's been named the league's defensive lineman of the week three times. Sheppard leads the Tigers in tackles with 66, which ranks second in the SEC.
When Newton passes, he will do so against an LSU defense that has allowed only one team (North Carolina) to go over 200 yards in the air this year. Since allowing 412 passing yards to North Carolina in the season-opener, LSU has held its next six opponents to a combined 698 passing yards (116.3 yards per game) and three touchdowns.
LSU's defense is going to need help on Saturday if the Tigers are to have success against Auburn. LSU will continue with its two quarterback system with Jordan Jefferson getting the starting nod and Jarrett Lee coming off the bench. This will mark the fourth straight game that LSU has rotated quarterbacks.
Jefferson, who is 16-5 as LSU's starter, has thrown for 577 yards and two TDs this year. Jefferson has also rushed 207 yards and four scores. Lee has connected on 72 percent of his passes for 405 yards and two scores and directed the Tigers to game-winning drives against both Tennessee and Florida.
"I still believe that we need both skill sets and we need both quarterbacks," Miles said. "Whether we change the order or if we don't change the order I truly do not think is of any importance. Both of them have played and both have played well against this opponent. The last two games we have played Auburn both quarterbacks have had good experiences.
"I think both guys are benefitting right now from the fact that they understand their role, and I think we'll continue to go that way."
Last year against Auburn, Jefferson had his best day in an LSU uniform, completing 21 of 31 passes for 242 yards and a pair of TDs in the 31-10 LSU victory. Jefferson also added a 15-yard TD run as he accounted for three of LSU's four touchdowns that day.
Lee has also had success against Auburn as he engineered LSU's game-winning fourth quarter comeback against the Tigers in 2008. Lee finished 11 of 22 with 182 yards and two scores, including the game-winner to Brandon LaFell with just over a minute left, in LSU's 26-21 win over Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium two years ago.
"We are going to have to throw the football," Miles said. "We are going to be balanced. We are going to come to the line of scrimmage with the ability to throw it. We are also going to have to depend on the running game at certain times, but that's it. There is no difference. That's the same offense that we are trying to coach, and we are going to get coached, and we'll see on Saturday."
In addition to good quarterback play, another key for LSU's success against Auburn is that of running back Stevan Ridley, who ranks second in the SEC with 686 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Ridley leads the league in carries with 140 so far this year, an average 20 per game.
LSU will have to run the ball against an Auburn defense that ranks third in the SEC in yards allowed at just 101.7 per game. Auburn's top defender is that of Nick Fairley, who leads the SEC in tackles for losses with 13.5 and is second in sacks with 5.0.
"Games like this are the reason players choose to play at LSU or in the SEC," Miles said. "Everybody understands this is a big game. Everyone understands that this is two undefeated teams playing for position in the SEC West. I am looking forward to it. It's been a great week so far."