LSU was embarrassed by Mississippi State in its SEC opener and further embarrassed by Troy in its non-conference finale.
But two losses do not a season make.
After a 17-16 victory at then-No. 21 Florida last Saturday, the Tigers are 4-2 and 1-1 in the SEC and all of the sudden this season is showing some promise.
Now comes the biggest test of the season as No. 10 Auburn visits Tiger Stadium on Saturday.
A win would vastly increase the potential for the rest of the LSU season and if these eight things happen, so too might the upset:
1. The runners have to run and the catchers have to catch: Sure, Matt Canada’s offense is unconventional in the frequency with which it uses wide receivers in the run game, and he also likes to throw to the running backs. Both were significant last week.
Wide receiver Russell Gage had a team-high 52 rushing yards and he and fellow receivers Derrick Dillon and D.J. Chark combined for 105 of the Tigers’ 216 rushing yards. Meanwhile the wide receivers had just three of the nine catches and the lone touchdown went to freshman fullback Tory Carter. Maintaining some of that unpredictability would be helpful, but it’s hard to imagine LSU pulling off this win without Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams being the primary rushers and Chark and Gage being the primary pass catchers.
2. The run defense must have better fits or Auburn will give it fits: Coach Ed Orgeron has said a couple of times recently that the Tigers have had bad “fits” in the run defense that have cost them. Gus Malzahn’s offense is built to exploit the slightest imperfections in defensive schemes, so LSU must have better fits.
3. The special teams don’t have to be special, but they can’t be bad: Of course, a big play or two from the special teams would be a bonus, but the bar has been set kind of low for this kicking game. The Tigers did get a boost from their kicker and punter against Florida after both spots had been shaky.
Connor Culp made the only field-goal attempt (from 38 yards) and Zach Von Rosenberg, who has emerged to grab a share of the punting position with Josh Growden, hit a 48-yard punt that put Florida at its 4 to start its last possession. Cameron Gamble knocked a kickoff out of bounds. Make the kicks you should make and win the field-position battle and that might be special enough
4. The defenders have to be greedy: Cornerback Greedy Williams has lived up to his nickname by making three interceptions in the first six games, and he’s the most likely candidate to take the ball away from Auburn. But it doesn’t matter which player or players come up with the football as long as LSU has a couple of takeaways.
5. Danny Etling has to be a manager and a playmaker: He doesn’t have to pass for 300 yards, but he has to do more than hand off, scramble and dink and dunk. In other words, surpass the nine completions and 125 yards he had against Florida. Canada has shown a willingness to take shots down the field with Etling, and the Tigers have had occasional success doing so. Canada will give Etling chances to make big plays and it’ll be up to Etling to consistently make them.
6. The offensive line has to play its best game of the season: There’s no telling exactly who’s going to start. Multiple injuries contributed to three freshmen playing together for much of last week’s game. Whether the Tigers are at full strength or not, Guice and Williams have to have some room to run and Etling has to have adequate time. Neither has happened with much consistency so far..
7. The defensive line has to look revitalized because it should be: Christian LaCouture has had two outstanding games in a row, Rashard Lawrence appears to be getting healthier and Frank Herron is making his season debut, so the line will be the healthiest and deepest it has been all season. This unit was expected to be a strength going into the season and while it has been at times, it has an opportunity to reach new heights this week.
8. Tiger Stadium has to be Death Valley: OK, so we understand why so many of you didn’t want to bother showing up for Chattanooga, Syracuse or Troy, but this Auburn. Yeah, we know the 2:30 kickoff is much earlier than your preferred starting time, but this is Auburn and it’s ranked No. 10. By the way the festivities will include honoring the 2007 LSU national championship team.
Oh, and did we mention, you’re playing Auburn?
Source: Saturday Down South