“The Tiger Bowl” returns on Saturday.
The rivalry series between Auburn and LSU, which dates back to 1901, has produced some of the more entertaining games for either program. From the famed “Earthquake Game” in 1988 to Auburn kicker John Vaughn missing five field goals in a windy Tiger Stadium in 2005 — the series is filled with quirky moments and finishes.
There was one particular noteworthy oddity brought up earlier this week — the fact that Auburn has not defeated LSU in Tiger Stadium since 1999 in the famed 41-7 blowout win in which Auburn coaches and players infamously smoked cigars on the field afterwards.
Despite winning nine straight at home in the series, LSU head coach Ed Orgeron firmly believes that recent history doesn’t mean a whole lot.
“Although they haven’t won here, thank you for telling me that, but I don’t think it means a hill of beans come Saturday,” Orgeron said. “I know they are not listening to it. My team better not listen to it. This is a good football team. It will be a big matchup.”
No. 9 Auburn (6-1, 3-1 SEC) travels to Death Valley on Saturday to take on No. 2 LSU (7-0, 3-0 SEC). Kickoff is set at 2:35 p.m.
Under head coach Gus Malzahn, Auburn has become known for high-powered offenses but the Tigers from Alabama may be led by their defense this season. Auburn is giving up only 17.14 points and 319.0 yards per game and its 20 sacks is the third most in the SEC.
Auburn’s defensive line features 6-foot-5, 318-pound defensive tackle Derrick Brown (5 tackles for a loss, 3 sacks) and 6-foot-3, 278-pound defensive end Marlon Davidson (8.5 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks).
“You look at a guy like Derrick Brown, who is that big and physical,” Orgeron said. “Nobody that we’ve faced so far has been that big and physical. He’s very, very disruptive. They put him in a four technique, they put him in a three technique. He’s hard to match one-on-one. You have to double-team him.”
Auburn will look to lean on its pass rush to disrupt LSU’s high-powered offense.
LSU is averaging 50.14 points and 539.9 yards per game and is led by record-setting quarterback and Heisman candidate Joe Burrow (79.36 completion percentage, 2,484 yards, 29 touchdowns). Burrow also has three dominant wide receivers in Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall Jr. who all have at least 20 receptions and 6 touchdowns each.
“LSU does a good job with getting the ball out quick, they’ve done a good job. (Joe Burrow) can extend plays,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said. “You are talking about a complete guy. He throws the ball vertically down the field. He is very accurate, very accurate with his intermediate and his quick game. He is a complete quarterback.”
LSU’s defense, which is giving up an average of 20 points and 319.4 yards per game, must slow down an offense that is averaging a healthy 36.29 points and 433.1 yards per game.
“We’re going to be ready for it,” Orgeron said. “We’re going to be ready for all types of tempos. When he makes the first down, it’s very fast, about as fast as we’ve seen.”
Auburn’s offense is led by freshman quarterback Bo Nix (56.21 completion percentage, 1,301 yards, 11 touchdowns, 5 interceptions) and a power running game. The Tigers averaged an SEC-best 239.6 yards per game and have scored 20 rushing touchdowns.
Auburn though will be without leading rusher JaTarvious “Boobee” Whitlow (544 yards, 7 TD) who is out with a knee injury. The Tigers will turn to Kam Martin (258 yards, 2 TD) and Shawn Shivers (172 yards, 1 TD) to carry the load out of the backfield.
“There is no doubt, without having Boobee again obviously is a tough one, but the big thing is that these young guys got some experience last week on the road and we do know it’s going to be louder and everything that goes with it,” Malzahn said. “They got that experience and we got a lot of trust in them. This is why they came to Auburn. They just have to seize the moment.’