By Dylan Larck
Auburn begins their SEC schedule against LSU in Tiger Stadium, a stadium Auburn has not won in since 1999. If there was ever a season for Auburn to win in Death Valley, it would be this one.
A year after winning a national championship, LSU finished the 2020 season with a 5-5 record. Ed Orgeron could find himself on the hot seat quickly if he can’t bring LSU back to the national stage soon.
The LSU quarterback battle between Myles Brennan and Max Johnson is one of the most intriguing in the SEC. Brennan started at the beginning of the 2020 season and looked great until an injury put him out for the year. TJ Finley, now at Auburn, got the start for five games but underperformed. Johnson was then named the starter for the final four games and would go on to upset Florida in the Swamp in his third career start. This position battle is a close one, and a starter likely won’t be announced until their season-opener at UCLA.
This running back room is the weakest part of the offense. Last season, LSU ranked 12th in the SEC in rushing yards per game. John Emery Jr. and Tyrion Davis-Price were not able to get it done last year, combining for six touchdowns, 824 yards and 4.7 yards per carry.
The receiving core is highlighted by Kayshon Boutte, who as a true freshman led the team in receiving yards and had a monster game against Ole Miss where he amassed over 300 yards receiving. Boutte is the only starter returning from last year at this position, but there is still an abundance of young players at wide receiver.
In the front seven, LSU returns all of their starters on the defensive line from 2020, a defense that ranked ninth in rush defense. This defense has to replace Jabril Cox and JaCoby Stevens who entered the NFL Draft. The Tigers have their third different defensive coordinator in three years and will look to improve how Bo Pelini left it last season.
LSU has one of the most formidable secondaries in all of college football. Derek Stingley, a projected top-five pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, and 2020 SEC Freshman of the Year Eli Ricks, who led LSU in interceptions last season with four, both return for 2021. This secondary had a lackluster year in 2020, but it is hard to believe that DBU won’t bounce back this season.
MAKE OR BREAK FACTORS:
For Auburn to win this game in Death Valley, the defense has to make these quarterbacks make mistakes, which both Brennan and Johnson didn’t turn over the ball often last season. This defense has to shut down Boutte and will need to force them to run the ball.
Offensively, Auburn will need to lean on the run. The LSU secondary had a poor outing last year, but if Stingley and Ricks are both healthy, it will be tough for any team to pass the ball. Tank Bigsby will need to have a big game to help Auburn finally beat LSU in Death Valley.