Will Auburn’s players be looking to party like its 1999 when they make the trip to Baton Rouge for Saturday afternoon’s game against LSU?
Yes and no.
“We do need to understand that it has been a long time since we have beaten them there,” said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn. “I think we all need to know that, but this is a new year and that is the way we are looking at it. It is a big challenge to go there and win.”
Simply put, Malzahn would rather his players remain focused on what they need to do to stay on track to winning an SEC championship. And that’s all about winning – at home or on the road.
A little rivalry history doesn’t mean that much when compared to the larger goals the Tigers have set.
.“We’re in the process of having a chance to become a pretty good team.” Malzahn said.
But yeah, he and his players are aware that Auburn hasn’t won a game on LSU’s home field in 17 seasons. The last time was 1999 – the “Cigar Game” – when Auburn players were photographed lighting victory cigars at midfield.
Auburn won that game 41-7. Don’t be surprised if the score isn’t similar this time around.
The 10th ranked Tigers (5-1, 3-0 SEC)_haven’t been held to fewer than 44 points in their three Southeastern Conference games this season.
While LSU (4-2, 1-1) has had some impressive efforts, including road wins at Mississippi State last month and at Florida last week, Ed Orgeron’s team also suffered an inexplicable 24-21 loss to Troy University in their last home game two weeks ago.
“We are not worried about anything that has happened up to this point, good, bad or in between,” said Malzahn. “This is the week we play LSU. They are in the West, and it is a very important game.”
Quarterback Jason Stidham has gotten into a nice rhythm since Auburn suffered a 14-6 loss at Clemson. Stidham has passed for 1,345 yards, completing 71.2 percent of his passes for seven touchdowns with two interceptions.
The offensive balance has been good with Kerryon Johnson rushing for 504 yards and 12 touchdowns, including a 60 yarder.
“Our tempo has gotten better,” said Malzahn. “So I think it is just more of an all of the above: everything coming together, being more comfortable, knowing who we are and running the football effectively, which I think is where it all starts.
“Also, having the ability when your quarterback is highly efficient and protecting the football and making good decisions. I think the fact that we are spreading it around to a lot of different receivers is really good.”
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
All times Central
Auburn at LSU, Saturday 2:30 p.m., CBS
Texas A&M at Florida, Saturday 6 p.m. CT, ESPN2
South Carolina at Tennessee, Saturday 11 a.m. CT, ESPN
Arkansas at Alabama, Saturday 6:15 p.m. CT, ESPN
Missouri at Georgia, Saturday 6:30 p.m., SEC Network
Vanderbilt at Mississippi, Saturday 2:30 p.m. CT< SEC Network
Brigham Young at Mississippi State, Saturday 11 a.m. Ct, SEC Network
1 . Alabama (6-0, 3-0):Last Week: W, at Texas A&M, 27-10. The Impact – Nick Saban considers media praise “rat poison” for his players. But until his Crimson Tide loses a game or two, he’ll have to get used to it.
2. Georgia (6-0, 3-0):Last Week: W, at Vanderbilt, 45-14. The Impact – Bulldogs are running wild, off to best start since 2005 and on longest win streak (7) since 2012 SEC title game appearance.
3. Auburn (5-1, 3-0):Last Week: W, Mississippi, 44-23. The Impact – Since missing two games with a pulled hammy, Kerryon Johnson has rushed for 11 touchdowns in three games and Tigers have out-scored SEC foes 144 to 47.
4. Florida (3-2, 3-1): Last Week: L, LSU, 17-16. The Impact – On a day Gators set NCAA record by scoring in 366th straight game, kicker Eddie Pineiro missed the most important point. As punishment, Gators should have to wear their “swamp lizard” uniforms the rest of the month in honor of Halloween.
5. Texas A&M (4-2, 2-1):Last Week: L, Alabama, 27-10. The Impact – Remember when a trustee wanted Kevin Sumlin fired after Aggies blew 34-point lead against UCLA? Critics might want to ask other SEC coaches what they think of his coaching ability.
6. Kentucky (5-1, 2-1):Last Week: W, Missouri, 40-34. The Impact – Kicker Austin MacGinnis kicked four field goals to become Kentucky’s career scoring leader with 313 points as Wildcats moved within one win of being bowl eligible.
7. South Carolina (4-2, 2-2):Last Week: W, Arkansas, 48-22. The Impact – Gamecocks blew open tight game with school record three defensive touchdowns (and had a fourth called back) to serve notice that while they are bending, they aren’t breaking.
8. LSU (4-2, 1-1):Last Week: W, at Florida, 17-16. The Impact – How does a team lose at home to Troy, then one week later beat a ranked Florida squad on road?
9. Mississippi State (3-2, 1-2): Last Week: Idle. The Impact – QB Nick Fitzgerald has accounted for 56 career touchdowns – 32 passing, 24 rushing – but he’s still less than halfway to matching Dak Prescotts’ 114 career TDs.
10. Tennessee (3-2, 0-2):Last Week: Idle. The Impact – Butch Jones said his team enjoyed one of the best bye weeks ever, but he needs to be more worried about Vols’ experiencing a good-bye week if Gamecocks win Saturday’s game in Knoxville.
11. Arkansas (2-3, 0-2):Last Week: L, at South Carolina, 48-22. The Impact –Four-turnover implosion against South Carolina has left Razorbacks shaken heading into Saturday’s game at Alabama. The end of the Bret Bielema era is fast approaching.
12. Vanderbilt (3-3, 0-3): Last Week: L, Georgia, 45-14. The Impact – Commodores are getting beat up in the trenches. In three games against SEC teams (Alabama, Florida, Georgia), Vandy has been outgained in rushing yards by nearly a thousand yards (1,137 to 150).
13. Missouri (1-4, 0-3):Last Week: L, at Kentucky, 40-34. The Impact – Tigers continue to excel at making big plays on offense, but Barry Odom’s defense is also giving up too many back-breaking scoring plays, including 71- and 64-yarders against UK.
14. Mississippi (2-3, 0-2):Last Week: L, at Auburn, 44-23. The Impact – SEC schedule-makers put Rebels in tough spot with back-to-back games against Alabama and Auburn, who pummeled Matt Luke’s troubled team by combined 110-26.
Predicted winners in Bold Caps
AUBURN at LSU
Texas A&M at FLORIDA
SOUTH CAROLINA at Tennessee
Arkansas at ALABAMA
Missouri at GEORGIA
Vanderbilt at MISSISSIPPI
Brigham Young at MISSISSIPPI STATE
LAST WEEK: 5-1
Note: Each week during the college football season, I’ll be updating how things are unfolding in the Big Ten by Wednesday, the SEC by Thursday and ACC by Friday. I covered teams in each of the conferences during my 41 years as a sports journalist and I’m not ready to give it up in retirement.