The weeks go by, and LSU continues to dazzle. That magnificent spread offense run by quarterback Joe Burrow keeps its foot on the accelerator, racking up points and heading toward a collision course with top-ranked Alabama in two weeks.
At the moment, though, the second-ranked Bayou Bengals have another elite opponent on their hands: No. 9 Auburn, which travels to Death Valley for the showdown before the showdown on Saturday afternoon.
LSU is a 10.5-point favorite, and given that they’ve dispatched a pair of top-10 opponents already, it’s not outlandish to envision Ed Orgeron’s team covering that number this weekend.
But that’s not the one bet to make on this game. Instead, consider going under the total of 58.5 points.
It seems counterintuitive, to be sure. Wait, isn’t LSU averaging 50 points per game? Didn’t Auburn hang 51 on its most recent opponent? Shouldn’t we expect tons of yards and tons of points and the Tiger Stadium scoreboard to flash like a slot machine?
Well, maybe. But the more you dig into this matchup, the more you come to believe that it can be lower scoring than most people think.
A lot of that has to do with Auburn, whose offense has shown a tendency to blow out bad teams (like Arkansas last weekend) but play tight, relatively low-scoring grinders against the better opponents on its schedule.
No question, the Tigers of the Plains ran it up against an elite Florida defense in the Gators’ lone loss so far this season. But the same can’t be said of Texas A&M or Tulane, which limited them to 28 and 24 points, respectively.Auburn’s personnel also plays a role. True freshman quarterback Bo Nix is completing just 56 percent of his pass attempts, lower than starting signal-callers at lower-end SEC programs like Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.
And although Auburn manhandled Arkansas with a running back by committee, tailback JaTarvious Whitlow is their most effective player, and he’s out with a knee injury. It all hints at Auburn having difficulty sustaining drives against the SEC’s fourth-best defense.
Then there’s Auburn’s defense, which is right up there with the best in the league, even though Gus Malzahn’s Tigers have managed a woefully low three interceptions on the season.
Much like Florida did, this is a unit that will try to expose LSU’s one-dimensional offense and force Burrow to beat them with big plays. And it’s easy to anticipate a similar outcome: LSU gradually grinding down that Auburn defense, and the nation’s No. 2 team pulling away late.
For all of LSU’s offensive firepower, the Bayou Bengals have gone under in two of their past three games. Saturday’s total is also the largest faced so far this season by Auburn, which has gone over just three times on the year.
Auburn wins by running the ball and eating time of possession, a strategy that might keep them in the game against LSU—and produce a final combined scoring total lower than most foresee.