LSU and Auburn will square off in a pivotal SEC West contest Saturday at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge Death Valley. LSU will try to avenge a 41-7 loss to Auburn last season. Auburn will try to prove its national title aspirations are legitimate after nearly losing to Jacksonville State.
How does Brandon Harris perform on the big stage?
There has been plenty of discussion this week about Harris’ performance against Mississippi State. This start against Auburn is the biggest of the sophomore quarterback’s young career.
Harris struggled in his final start of a tumultuous freshman season against Auburn a year ago. Harris went 3-of-14 for 58 yards in LSU’s loss at Jordan-Hare Stadium. He threw only one pass the rest of the season after that game.
Despite a pedestrian performance against Mississippi State last week, Harris has the opportunity to make a statement in what will be a vital game in the SEC.
Does LSU open up the playbook for Harris?
Some thought LSU’s game plan was conservative last weekend. Head coach Les Miles disagreed when asked about it in his press conference Monday.
“I think if we had 200 more yards on our offense and a position of 17 more points, nobody would be arguing about the offense at all,” Miles said, according to The Advocate’s Ross Dellenger. “So the key to it is not change the offense; let’s make sure we execute what we call and not hold or have an infraction.”
Harris has the skill set of a dual-threat quarterback. He ran five times for 48 yards against the Bulldogs. Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron may opt to let Harris run a bit more by design and breakout of the pro-style offense that could be limiting Harris. Miles hinted on his radio show Wednesday that Harris could throw more against Auburn. LSU’s offensive play calling will be one of the biggest storylines to watch Saturday.
Can LSU force Jeremy Johnson into more turnovers?
LSU defensive back Dwayne Thomas expressed confidence that his defense will force Auburn QB Jeremy Johnson into a mistake or two.
“We know that this guy, if we play our technique right, if we do the fundamentals and have our eyes in the right place, he should be able to throw us one — if not, hand it to us,” Thomas told ESPN’s David Ching.
Johnson has been erratic in Auburn’s first two games. He’s completed only 60 percent of his passes and has thrown five interceptions. A few of those picks have been ugly. Johnson is also starting in his first true road game on Saturday. LSU could attack him early with blitz schemes to force him into an early turnover and rattle his confidence.
Can Auburn limit Leonard Fournette?
Auburn defensive back Rudy Ford certainly thinks his defense can shut down the LSU tailback.
Ford may be underestimating last week’s SEC Offensive Player of the Week. Fournette ran for 159 yards and three touchdowns against Mississippi State. Auburn has not been particularly stout against the run, either. Auburn has surrendered 399 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns through the first two games and gave up a whopping 238 rushing yards on 48 carries to Louisville, which is 0-3 after losing Thursday night to Clemson.
LSU could gash Auburn’s front seven early and often Saturday afternoon. Ford may think Auburn can stymie Fournette, but his defense hasn’t fared well against less-talented runners this season.
Who starts at the guard positions?
One storyline that has gone under the radar this week is LSU’s rotation at guard. Last week, Miles swapped redshirt freshman Will Clapp, true freshman Maea Teuhema and junior Josh Boutte throughout the game.
Miles said either Teuhema or Clapp will start at left guard, which leaves Boutte as the odd-man out to play right guard. Continuity on the offensive line will be crucial for LSU. The guard play could be an underrated factor in this one.
Ford on Fournette: "It shouldn't be that difficult of a challenge." Oooook, then.
— Tom Green (@AUBlog) September 15, 2015
Miles, asked if Harris will throw more: "I would not be surprised if he didn't throw more times." #LSU
— Ross Dellenger (@DellengerAdv) September 17, 2015