Auburn-LSU tilt always hard fought, important to West race

Published 7:34 pm Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Louisiana State coach Les Miles said a rivalry is formed when two teams play close games that have postseason implications.

Auburn-LSU fits that description, and Saturday’s game at Jordan-Hare Stadium between the two sets of Tigers, which will be televised at 6:45 p.m. by ESPN, will likely feature more of the same.

No. 6 LSU at No. 10 Auburn – 6:45 p.m. on Sept. 20, ESPN

The winner of this game has gone on to claim the Southeastern Conference West Division six out of the last eight years. Both teams come in with a top-10 ranking, LSU at No. 6 and Auburn at No. 10. And, to add to the excitement, ESPN’s popular College GameDay program will be on hand.

“This is an exciting week for us,” Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said Wednesday during the SEC coaches teleconference. “There has not been a better football game, year in and year out, than the Auburn-LSU game.”

Auburn showcased its defense last week in a 3-2 win at Mississippi State. The Tigers (3-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) have allowed only 15 points in three games, have held opponents to a 1.8-yard average per rush and have yielded only three third down conversions in 46 attempts. That defense will make life difficult for LSU quarterbacks Andrew Hatch, a junior, and Jarrett Lee, a redshirt freshman. The duo will lead the other Tigers (2-0) into hostile SEC territory for the first time in their careers.

“I think that both will play significant time this week at Auburn,” LSU coach Les Miles said during the teleconference. “Both have had really good weeks to this point.”

Saturday’s contest will also be LSU’s first this season away from Baton Rouge.

“I always think that in big games you find out a little bit about your football team,” Miles said. “Our guys always look forward to playing Auburn.”

LSU’s defense, meanwhile, will look to further complicate matters for an Auburn offense that has not lived up to expectations so far. Auburn brought in offensive coordinator Tony Franklin to make the team more explosive after years of relying on the defense to win close games. So far, not so good. The yardage output (367 yards per game) has been encouraging, but the Tigers could only manage a field goal in their first meeting with an SEC defense.

“It takes a little while to grasp what you’re doing,” Tuberville said. “I think there’s a fine line in there of criticizing players too much. As long as we get the effort we’ve got from our guys last week and in practice this week, we’re going to be OK.”