For the first time in two years, LSU players, coaches and fans will be able to enjoy the full experience of a packed Death Valley. Saturday night promises to be the atmosphere many have waited on and for LSU and Auburn, this game is a fork in the road for their 2021 seasons.
If LSU pulls out a win, the purple and gold can continue riding a wave of momentum since that season opening dud against UCLA. Here's how we think this game plays out.
Score Prediction: LSU 27, Auburn 21
This game will come down to which defensive line can hold up and stop the opposing offense's strengths. For Auburn, that means getting after quarterback Max Johnson and trying to force the sophomore into some bad throws.
Johnson has really found a groove over the last two weeks, throwing for 652 yards and nine touchdowns in wins over Central Michigan and Mississippi State. This LSU offense has been prone to sluggish starts and being able to pick it up in the second half but it'll be imperative to try and set the tone early in this one.
The purple and gold will move forward with Tyrion Davis-Price, Corey Kiner and Armoni Goodwin as the primary ball carriers after it was reported by Sports Illustrated that veteran John Emery was denied his ineligibility appeal by the NCAA on Wednesday. It'll be up to this offensive line to find some consistency up front and the return of Cam Wire and Charles Turner should help with the depth this weekend.
Auburn has one of the more hectic defensive lines in the country through four weeks with 42 tackles for a loss over that span. Expect LSU to have an extra blocker, whether it be a tight end or a running back in the back field helping give Johnson as much time as possible.
LSU has also done a very good job in upping the pace on offense the last two weeks and will want to keep this Auburn defense on its toes. But this will all come down to how this offensive line holds up and according to guard Ed Ingram, this group feels like it's starting to come together.
"The offensive line has played our best game in terms of all being together," Ingram said Tuesday. "I feel like it's only up from here. We are starting to mesh with his [Coach Brad Davis] style of coaching. I feel like we're all building that chemistry and starting to have each other's back."
As for the defense, slowing down Tank Bigsby and the running attack will be the goal of the front seven. This group has come a long way since that UCLA opening game, allowing 108 yards on the ground per contest over the first month. Auburn on the other hand averages 257 yards per game on the ground so one of the two position groups is going to struggle.
For the purple and gold to make sure it's not them, this defensive line will need to stay gap sound with its four man rush and the secondary will have to hold their ground as well. The defensive backs will be without a huge piece in Derek Stingley Jr. for the forseeable future and there won't be as many players dropping back in coverage.
Getting solid play out of Dwight McGlothern, Cordale Flott, Jay Ward and Major Burns will be a necessity opposite Elias Ricks. It's still an unknown of which quarterback, Bo Nix or TJ Finley, will draw the start. But either way, LSU needs to pay attention to the passing game as both have big arms and Nix absolutely torched the LSU defense a year ago.
"They're very talented, they're hard runners, well coached. They stay tight on their cuts and their pad level is very low, they break tackles, they know exactly where to go with the ball," Orgeron said Wednesday. "They're tough to tackle. They have a very good run game, run very hard, this is going to be a challenge."