The Auburn-LSU rivalry, otherwise known as the Tiger Bowl, is not one of the oldest, most frequent, or talked about rivalries in college football. But it features two SEC powerhouses, which means it is usually must-see TV. This season’s game, set for Saturday night (9 p.m. ET, ESPN), is certainly shaping up to be a close, hard-fought, and entertaining one.
Of course, from a betting perspective, that means it will not be easy to pick a winner in this one. Not impossible, of course; just challenging.
|Auburn vs. LSU||Best Auburn Odds||Best LSU Odds|
|BetMGM||+3.5 (-110)||Spread||-3.5 (-105)||DraftKings|
|BetMGM||Over 54.5 (-115)||Total||Under 55.0 (-110)||BetRivers|
Junior quarterback Bo Nix has not gotten off to the best of starts this season. He struggled against Penn State in Week 3 and was benched last week against Georgia State. Heading into this week’s game against LSU, it is not clear who will start, Nix or LSU-transfer TJ Finley.
Finley was not bad last week (9 for 16 for 97 yards and a touchdown) and saved the Tigers from getting upset. But does LSU want to give up on its veteran quarterback who has started since his freshman season? LSU’s pass defense has not been great this season and could be without its best player, cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. Perhaps this is the week Nix rights the ship and gets the Auburn passing game on track.
LSU did give up 371 yards and three touchdowns to Mississippi State last week.
Nix will not have to do it alone, of course. He has a good stable of wide receivers to work with, and tight end John Samuel Shenker is having a solid season (13 receptions for 134 yards). It will be interesting to see how firing wide receiver coach Cornelius Williams impacts the passing game this week and in the future.
But Auburn will likely look to use its eighth-ranked run game to help set up the passing game. Tank Bigsby is averaging 6.2 yards a carry and has had 100+ yards in three of Auburn’s four games. Jarquez Hunter has chimed in with 10.6 yards a carry and two 100+ yard games.
As for the defense, Auburn has played well against the run (26th in the nation in yards allowed per game) and pass (34th). LSU’s run game has been unimpressive this season, but quarterback Max Johnson is off to a strong start with at least three touchdowns in every game and 15 total on the season.
On the offensive side of the ball, LSU has not looked like the kind of team fans are accustomed to seeing. After finishing the 2020 season with the 109th ranked rushing attack, the Tigers have continued to struggle running the ball. They have yet to have a running back go for 100+ yards in a single game. As a team, they are averaging a paltry 2.9 yards a carry.
But luckily, Johnson is coming along well. After completing just 56.5 percent of his passes against LSU, the sophomore has completed 66.7, 74.3, and 63 percent in the last three. Kayshon Boutte has been his favorite target, with 24 receptions for 309 yards and eight touchdowns this season.
No other wide receiver has 200+ yards, but LSU does have four with 100+ yards this season.
The defense has not measured up to the standard fans have grown accustomed to, either. While much improved compared to last season’s dismal unit, it is still giving up close to 350 yards a game (61st in the nation) and 22.8 points (63rd). The unit has been adequate at stopping the run (32nd with 108.0 yards/game allowed), but against the pass, it is 83rd in yards allowed and 93rd in efficiency.
Without much of a run game, it will be up to Johnson to get the passing game going early. However, against Auburn’s pass defense, that is easier said than done. LSU will also need the defense to keep Bigsby in check and whoever starts at quarterback from getting the passing game on track.
LSU has dominated the rivalry, going 31-23-1 in the 55 meetings between the schools, including wins in seven of the last 10. But Auburn rolled in last year’s game, 48-11. Auburn has not won back-to-back games in the series since beating LSU in 1999 and 2000. However, it looks like Auburn will make it two in a row with a win against LSU this weekend.
The question mark at quarterback would mean more if Auburn depended on the passing game. But it leans on its defense and rushing attack to win games. Auburn should be in good shape offensively as long as whoever plays QB does not turn the ball over. LSU’s defense is not up to par, and the team has no rushing game to speak of.
Auburn’s rushing defense is good enough to shut the LSU run game down. That will allow Auburn to focus on stopping Johnson and the LSU passing game.
Take Auburn to win via the moneyline and against the spread. As for the total, both offenses have put up some points this season. But blowouts against lackluster opponents have boosted their per-game averages. When the competition is better, they are not nearly as productive — take the under.