LSU vs Auburn, 2009 Prediction Pick 2009
By McD from Rumors and Rants
Two weeks ago, I was excited to preview Auburn because I was going to get to make fun of the haters who said Gene Chizik’s tenure there would be a disaster. I would also get to sing the praises of Gus Malzahn. This was going to be a good week.
Malzahn totally changed the offensive culture at Auburn and he did it in a brilliant way. Auburn runs a hurry-up, spread offense which is a major departure from its previous attacks, but that doesn’t mean the Tigers don’t run the ball and try to control the clock. Doing both of those things will keep the know-it-all alumni happy and Chizik in the head coach’s chair for a while longer. Malzahn’s offense is the main reason Auburn, a team with very little talent, is 5-2.
Well, that and a Downey-soft schedule to this point are the reasons Auburn is 5-2. Somewhere, Tommy Tuberville’s eyebrows raised slightly, indicating a volcano of rage within.
Now the Tiger Bowl is upon us and Auburn has dropped its last two games. The first, a 44-23 blowout loss to Arkansas and last week a 21-14 gag-job at home against Kentucky.
I WAS excited to preview Auburn/LSU, but all that success up on The Plains might have been an outlier instead of a hopeful new direction for the Tigers.
Now Auburn is a team on the road that has lost its last two games and are playing a night game in Baton Rouge. A situation in which No. 9 LSU does not lose (except to Florida two weeks ago…ahem). Worse, Auburn quarterback Chris Todd has lost any semblance of the efficiency that made Auburn’s offense so fantastic for the first five games. He’s now completing just 55 percent of his passes, putting the burden ever more on Ben Tate and the running backs to carry the offense. Todd has only thrown two interceptions all year, but if I was going to bet my life savings on whether he’d hit a barn from 30 yards or not, I’d take the not.
To beat LSU, Todd must complete at least 63 percent of his passes, no small feat since you know defensive coordinator John Chavis and head coach Les Miles have a diabolical series of blitzes ready for the vulnerable Auburn quarterback. In the loss to Arkansas, Auburn managed 242 rushing yards, and another 220 in the loss to Kentucky. What changed for them was Todd’s production. He threw for 80 yards on 10-for-24 passing against the Wildcats. He had a slightly less horrendous 14-for-28, 133-yard performance against Arkansas, but failed to throw a touchdown and Auburn still got blown out. Undoubtedly, LSU is going to load the box, blitz and make Todd throw to win the game.
Coming off a bye week, expect to see some new things from the LSU offense. There is no way Les Miles is happy with Gary Crowton’s unit, especially with how they’ve run the ball so far. The Tigers had a great shot at Florida because they exposed a weakness in the Gators’ front seven that many didn’t know was there when running through the middle of the line. So what did they do after that? They started running sideways instead of North/South. Say what you want about Florida, but their defense is fast as hell, and running Charles Scott and Keiland Williams East/West isn’t going to create a whole lot of production for against a defense like that.
No matter what, LSU cannot let Auburn win the time of possession battle. Florida sat on the ball for 36 minutes two weeks ago, effectively eliminating Scott and Williams from the game and putting it in quarterback Jordan Jefferson’s hands. You all know how that turned out.
My disdain for Gary Crowton’s play-calling is growing with each game, but I expect LSU to come out and run the ball at Auburn’s defense instead of using the wussy finesse runs they’ve been trying. Crowton’s problem is that he has no idea how to call those plays. Everything has been shotgun, three wide receivers and a read-handoff to Scott or Williams or an option run around the end. When Crowton does decide they need to use a power run, suddenly two tight ends appear and Scott is in the “I” behind a fullback. Everyone in the stadium knows what’s coming from the LSU offense. So I expect that to change as well because what LSU has been doing in terms of play-calling, personnel packages and strategy simply hasn’t been working at all and everyone knows it.
I haven’t mentioned Auburn’s defense yet because, while Chizik is a good strategist, there just isn’t a whole lot of talent there. A well-run LSU offense should not have trouble scoring enough to win on the OTHER Tigers of the SEC. Of course, with Crowton calling plays, that means a close game is in order Saturday night.
LSU is an eight point favorite, and given the history of tight games between these two teams along with LSU’s issues moving the ball, I think LSU is going to win but not cover the eight points Saturday night.