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SEC Football: Auburn vs LSU Preview

LSU Football, SEC Football

John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

When the Auburn Tigers and LSU Tigers tangled in the regular season during 2000-05, it usually meant the winner would represent the West division in the SEC Championship game. Approaching Saturday’s 2013 matchup, nobody expects a redecorated staff of Auburn on the heels of their first season to essentially win the toughest division in college football. A win for Auburn would just put a band-aid on the LSU bleeding that has came their way lately.

Auburn will travel to Baton Rouge after not winning there since 1999, which gives LSU a six-game win streak at Baton Rouge. LSU, though, has won five out of the last six games with Auburn, and both teams are correctly sitting at a 3-0 record.

The Auburn offense will need to find balance at some point like they done all season, just to survive the first half against LSU. The Tigers have had good balance with 239 yards rushing and 201 yards passing in each game so far in 2013. Auburn with the right breaks could be in for a treat early on. Will that happen? That’s probably a big no, unless the LSU defense shows off their youth. LSU came into this season, with only three returning starters, one being strong safety Craig Loston. Loston was injured last week, so freshman Micah Eugene took his spot, with cornerback Tre’Davious White, who also started against Kent State.

LSU offense will wear Auburn down defensively, whether it’s playing long toss or with physical runs. There’s a strong chance that LSU will score on the Auburn defense, though that defense hasn’t yielded a fourth quarter touchdown yet. LSU has outscored their opponents in the first three games 138-57. Cam Cameron, the LSU offensive mastermind, might dial up pitch-outs more often, making Auburn play sound football going after his running backs Jeremy Hill or Alfred Blue on the outside.

LSU running backs Hill, Blue, Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard have combined for nine 100-yard rushing games in their careers. Auburn slashers Corey GrantTre Mason and Cameron Artis-Payne have scored all five of Auburn’s total touchdowns carrying the ball. We should see LSU saw off the middle, and not lose leverage when Auburn chooses to go straight up the gut. LSU defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson‘s ranges will be looked upon in close, Auburn is 1st in the country in red zone offense.

Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall is making his first road start, after a 339 yard passing day against Mississippi State, setting the school record for the most ever in an SEC debut. 151 of those 339 yards were covered in the first quarter. Like Marshall, Gus Malzahn will see his first true league road test, but as an SEC head coach. Malzahn comes in 12-3 in his second season assuming the duties of a head coach, winning his last 11 games at Auburn and Arkansas State. LSU head coach Les Miles hasn’t loss to an unranked team since 2009, and has never loss to Auburn at Tiger Stadium, 4-0.

LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger has the right mixture of confidence you want as a coach at his position. Mettenberger has already thrown for more than 250 yards in his first three games, and has became the LSU school leader in passing touchdowns thrown the first three games of a season, his nine touchdowns have gone to only receivers Odell Beckham, Jr. and Jarvis Landry. We should see designed rollouts for Mettenberger getting it into the hands of his two leading receivers in touchdowns in the SEC.

Seven of the last nine games between these two teams have been decided by eight points or less, including LSU’s 12-10 victory last year, two in 2009 and 2011 were the only blowouts, which were won by LSU.

The last time the teams met in Tiger Stadium in 2011, LSU posted the largest margin of victory ever in the series, 45-10. Last season, the 12-10 win by LSU, produced the smallest margin of a win since 2004, when Auburn won a game 10-9 at home. 2012 brought a game in which Auburn was completely shut out at halftime.

LSU looks to continue on their success early again under Les Miles’ whistle, a win here would give LSU seven straight seasons starting 4-0.

In the end it will be: Bengal Tigers 35, Auburn 20.

Zach Virnig is a SEC Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ZacharyVirnig, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.