LSU (3-1) travels to face Auburn (3-1) in a battle between SEC West foes. Brian Kelly and LSU enter this contest after shutting out unranked New Mexico 38-0. However, they will be without left guard Garrett Dillinger and safety Major Burns.
On the other hand, Auburn barely escaped with a 17-14 overtime win versus Missouri. QB Robby Ashford started in place of injured QB TJ Finley, and he will start against LSU.
Can Ashford lead Auburn to victory? Auburn’s odds are found below, as well as picks, predictions, and key matchups.
LSU vs. Auburn Odds
The spread has risen to +9.5 Auburn, and it may reach the important 10-point threshold. Auburn’s moneyline sits at around +275, and the 46.5 over under mark is one of the lower marks for this batch of games. Given Auburn’s inept offense, the low total is understandable.
LSU vs. Auburn Prediction & Pick
LSU covering the -9 spread is the best bet because Auburn’s offense will be utterly ineffective.
Auburn orchestrated two touchdown drives in the 1st quarter against Missouri, but they failed to score on their next nine drives before kicking a field goal in overtime. Their first touchdown drive went for 59 yards in 14 plays; however, every single play during that drive was a rushing attempt. The second touchdown drive started at the Missouri 26-yard line and featured three rushes compared to two pass attempts. QB Robby Ashford ended with 127 passing yards, 46 rush yards, and one rushing touchdown.
RB Tank Bigsby is a strong runner who ranks 10th in the nation at 4.32 yards after contact per attempt (min. 40 attempts; per PFF). However, their usually effective rushing attack will underwhelm against LSU. Starting center Tate Johnson is out due to an injured elbow, and he was originally the backup (Nick Brahms retired from football before the season). With a third string center in the game, run blocking and passing protection will decline up front.
In addition, LSU owns a fierce run defense that has held opponents to 3.4 yards per rush. DT Mekhi Wingo and Jaquelin Roy excel at eliminating holes and forcing runners to find room outside the tackles. LB Harold Perkins and Greg Penn III collapse well; they have combined for 13 run play stops compared to two run play missed tackles (per PFF). It stings that S Major Burns is injured, but LSU’s defense is deep enough to compensate.
Overall, Auburn’s offense projects to be lifeless because LSU likely takes away the run and forces the limited Ashford to score points through the air. I hold serious doubts about Auburn’s ability to reach 14 points – they managed 17 against Missouri, but LSU’s defense is far stingier.
Meanwhile, Auburn’s defense may be susceptible to LSU’s own rushing attack. Penn State is the only comparable rushing team to LSU that Auburn has faced. They racked up 245 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 6.3 yards per rush in their matchup against Auburn. Although LSU won’t succeed to that degree, the run game will be available all game.
Daniels also possesses a higher passing ceiling than Ashford. Despite his prowess as a runner, he rarely commits mistakes and has connected at a solid rate on his deep throws. It helps that receivers Malik Nabers, Brian Thomas Jr, and Jaray Jenkins create decent separation. The trio has caught 44 of 52 targets for 576 yards and 6 touchdowns while hauling in 5 of 7 contested targets.
Auburn’s defense likely forces a few three and outs, but LSU’s offense will orchestrate drives and score around 24-31 points. The most probable outcome is in the range of a 27-13 game, so LSU covering is the optimal bet.
LSU vs. Auburn Key Matchups
Which offensive players will play a pivotal role? Check out their matchups below.
QB Robby Ashford and RB Tank Bigsby vs. LSU Front Seven
Ashford is a nimble runner who will attempt plenty of quarterback draws and scrambles. His raw passing game will not lend itself to success against LSU’s defense, so Auburn’s best hope for offensive production is to lean on the run game. Bigsby must continue to fight for yards after the contact, and Ashford has to break tackles and pick up key yards with his legs.
If the duo can churn out rushing yards and extend drives, then Auburn’s offense could perhaps have some success. Otherwise, LSU will force plenty of third and longs and dare Auburn to convert a high percentage of them through the air.
— Southeastern Conference (@SEC) September 24, 2022
WR Malik Nabers vs. CB Keionte Scott
Slot receiver Nabers leads LSU in receptions, yards, missed tackles forced, and first downs. He is quickly building chemistry with Daniels, which should intimidate Auburn. He faces slot cornerback Scott in this matchup, who has allowed 12 receptions on 14 targets for 207 yards and a 118.8 NFL passer rating when targeted (per PFF).
Because of LSU’s numerous weapons, Auburn cannot afford to double Nabers in the slightest. If Nabers exploits Scott all game, then Auburn will find it extremely difficult to stop LSU’s offense. Scott has to hold his ground or LSU can dominate through the run and air.
— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) September 18, 2022
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