The No. 15 LSU Tigers are hoping to climb back into the College Football Playoff hunt, but must take down an impressive and undefeated No. 5 Auburn Tigers Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Les Miles’s team was tripped up by a stunning 34-29 home loss to Mississippi State two weeks ago, causing them to slide from No. 8 to No. 17 in the national rankings, before righting the ship with a 63-7 thumping of New Mexico State for their current ranking.
But LSU still needs their first SEC victory of the season, and another conference loss would likely dispense of any chance at the inaugural playoff. In contrast, Auburn needs to build up some momentum in October before the heart of their SEC schedule in November, which includes trips to No. 11 Ole Miss and No. 13 Georgia, and host duties for No. 6 Texas A&M.
Auburn and head coach Gus Malzahn has largely answered every early test thus far. They outlasted then-No. 20 Kansas State 20-14 two weeks ago on the road behind quarterback Nick Marshall’s two touchdown passes and senior defensive back Trovon Reed’s fourth quarter interception to silence the Wildcats’ upset hopes.
The Tigers followed that up with a 45-17 blowout victory over Louisiana Tech with Marshall and senior running back Cameron Artis-Payne combining for 221 rushing yards. Marshall also tossed three touchdowns, two to Quan Bray and another to D’haquille Williams.
Coupled with that explosive offense, Auburn also boasts the No. 15 defense in the country, allowing 16.3 points per game. However Miles evidently isn’t afraid to throw freshman quarterback Brandon Harris into the mix.
Harris has battled sophomore Anthony Jennings for the starting nod throughout the early portion of the season, and more-or-less cemented his position after nearly guiding the Tigers to a comeback against Mississippi State with two touchdown passes. Harris then accounted for five touchdowns, three passing and two rushing, against New Mexico State and earned the respect of his teammates.
"I love his personality, it's the kind you want a quarterback to have," LSU wide receiver Travin Dural said to The Times-Picayune. "He's talkative and friendly. The vibe I get is he's a very positive person. He doesn't say anything negative about any one."
Having Dural’s trust is critical to Harris’s success. The sophomore’s second in the SEC with 21 receptions for 534 yards and five touchdowns.
Harris isn’t the only freshman face in LSU’s backfield, with top high school recruit and running back Leonard Fournette totaling 420 yards and four touchdowns in tandem with senior Kenny Hilliard’s 298 yards and four scores.
While Harris might have his hands full with an Auburn defense that’s totaled seven interceptions and nine sacks, its Fournette and Hilliard who might have the most trouble. Auburn’s third in the SEC against the run, giving up 2.6 yards per carry and 34.4 rushing yards per game.
Start Time: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST
TV Channel: ESPN
Betting Odds: Auburn -8
Over/Under: 56 points
Prediction: Auburn 37, LSU 24