Updated: Oct 20
Photo by Jamie Holt/Auburn Tigers
For 32 consecutive years, these two Tigers have provided the South with an annual fall showdown. There have been earthquakes, barnburners, cigars, interceptions, Heisman moments, and many more memories that the people of the plains and down in the Bayou will remember for a lifetime. While Auburn and LSU will meet again in this new-look SEC, Saturday's contest offers an opportunity to look back and remember all the fun this recent rivalry has brought to the sport.
It's only fitting that Auburn's last trip to Baton Rouge for a while will be a Saturday night showdown between Brian Kelly's defending SEC West champion squad.
"And so it's going to be a great challenge for our kids in a great college environment, and I'm excited as heck about it, and I know our kids will be," Auburn head coach Hugh Freeze said.
The Bayou Bengals were on the road for four of their first six games of the season, three of which were ranked. While the Tigers fell in two games before the end of the first month, LSU's offense has shined bright all across the South. Ranking third nationally, the Tigers average 558.3 yards per game—210.7 rushing, 337.7 passing—and lead the league in scoring with 44.8 points per game.
"I think their offense is the most explosive that I've seen in a long, long time," Freeze said. "This quarterback, if he's not in the Heisman discussion, there's a problem. He’s playing at an incredibly high level with dynamic receivers, and there's not a weakness on that offense, and it's impressive to watch."
Photo by Zach Bland/Auburn Tigers
Jayden Daniels has put up quite the stat line through the first half of his second season in Baton Rouge. Daniels has accounted for at least 4 touchdowns in 5 consecutive games, the only player in LSU history to do so. He has also topped the 400-yard mark for total offense three times in 2023, joining Joe Burrow in 2019 as the only players in school history to do it at least three times in the same season.
Daniels has already been named the SEC’s Offensive Player of the Week three times this season following his performances against Mississippi State, Arkansas, and Missouri.
"I don't think you stop him. There are too many weapons around him, and he's too good," Freeze said. "The key to this game is can we hold him to field goals? He plays so effortlessly. Literally, he runs 40-yard touchdowns and looks like he's jogging, and yet no one's catching him. And his balls are so accurate."
It will be a tall task for Auburn’s banged-up defensive unit to try to slow down what Daniels and LSU have rolling. With injuries across the defensive, Auburn will have to call on some of their new true freshman talents from Freeze’s first class to lead early on in their career.
Following Mosiah Nasili-Kite’s season-ending injury, Keldric Faulk, a five-star signee for Freeze just this past December, has been named a starter at the defensive end position. Faulk has made an appearance in every game so far for Auburn, but now with an expanded role will look to expand upon his six solo tackles and singular pass deflection in this second half of the season.
"It’s next man up, and we gotta get to some of these younger kids to play more consistently," Freeze said. "We worked on that hard last week in the open week, and they got a ton of reps. And because we're going to need them before the season's over with the remaining seven games we have."
Photo by Zach Bland/Auburn Tigers
On a positive note for the orange and blue Tigers, star defensive back Jaylin Simpson seems like he will be able to go after making an early 4th quarter exit against Georgia.
With four interceptions, Jaylin Simpson is one of two FBS players tied for the national lead in pickoffs, 0.80 per game, this season. He was the first Tiger with interceptions in three straight games—UMass, Cal, Samford—since Jerraud Powers in 2007.
And as Freeze and the rest of Auburn’s offensive staff continue to try to get their signature RPO passing attack going on the offensive side of the ball following the off week, Ron Roberts’ defense will just have to keep trying to keep the other side of the ball in striking distance.
With 13 of the last 19 meetings in the series decided by seven points or less, it’s only fair to think that Auburn and LSU will come down to the wire one final time as western foes. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. in Tiger Stadium, and the game will be televised on ESPN. Coverage can also be heard on the Auburn Sports Network across the state of Alabama.
“I love hearing 'Calling Baton Rouge' from Garth Brooks before the game. I think that's a neat experience, and I try to stay out there to hear that, and I like hearing the announcer say ‘in 15 minutes the sun will set in the western sky and it will be Saturday night in Death Valley’ and we get to go represent Auburn in that environment,” Freeze said.