Great weekend of SEC football in Week 3. And perhaps the most intriguing question is which Auburn team will show up on Saturday when the No. 18 Tigers visit No. 13 LSU. The Bayou Bengals are -7 on 5Dimes' college football odds with a total of 49.5.
Auburn QB Struggling
Has any team in the country been more disappointing thus far than Auburn? (Well maybe Arkansas is close after losing to MAC school Toledo last week.) The Tigers were No. 6 in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 and I thought they would win the SEC West. Auburn beat Louisville 31-24 to open the season and that looked like a pretty solid win -- until U of L was beaten at home Houston last Saturday.
Perhaps Auburn was just looking past little FCS school Jacksonville State in Week 2, but we nearly saw one of the biggest college football upsets this century. The Tigers were very fortunate to escape with a 27-20 overtime win. They were down 20-13 late in the fourth quarter but tied it on a Jeremy Johnson 10-yard TD pass to Melvin Ray with 39 seconds left. A Peyton Barber 4-yard TD run gave Auburn the OT lead. Then came Auburn's biggest defensive play of the game. With JSU facing third-and-goal from the Auburn 5 on its OT possession, Tigers linebacker Cassanova McKinzy chased down Jacksonville State QB Eli Jenkins for a 16-yard loss. A fourth-and-goal pass from the 21 was incomplete. McKinzy was spectacular overall with 13 tackles with three for loss. including two sacks and forced a fumble. The close win dropped Auburn to No. 18 in this week's poll.
But if you want to know what's wrong with Auburn thus far, look no further than the QB Johnson, who was supposed to be a breakout star. He has thrown for only 373 yards thus far with five interceptions -- most by an SEC quarterback in first two games in six years -- and only 18 yards rushing on nine carries. Now Johnson faces perhaps the top secondary in the nation in LSU.
There are two key Auburn defensive injuries to note here. Defensive end Carl Lawson is questionable after sitting out the JSU game due to a hip flexor. He's the team's best pass rusher and had four tackles with two for loss, including a sack and three hurries while playing in the first half of the opener vs. Louisville. Meanwhile, cornerback Josh Holsey has been lost for the season to a torn ACL. His loss will mean extended playing time for the three true freshman in the secondary in Carlton Davis, Jeremiah Denson and Tim Irvin.
Fournette A Brilliant Talent
No. 13 LSU has played just one game because its season opener against McNeese State was canceled by weather and won't be made up. The Tigers beat No. 25 Mississippi State 21-19 in Week 2. Running back and top Heisman Trophy candidate Leonard Fournette, in my opinion the best player in the country, ran for a career-best 159 yards and scored all three touchdowns. Mississippi State's Devon Bell missed a 52-yard field goal as time expired. It was LSU's 13th straight season-opening win and 15th win in the past 16 meetings with MSU. Les Miles earned his 100th victory while coaching a ranked LSU team (100-28).
LSU cornerback Dwayne Thomas had some bulletin-board material this week when speaking of Auburn's Johnson: We know that this guy, if we play our technique right, if we do the fundamentals and have our eyes in the right place, he should be able to throw us one (interception) -- if not, hand it to us."
Certainly the QB matchup could decide this one. LSU's Brandon Harris won the starting job in camp despite playing pretty terribly in limited time in 2014. Harris was just 9-for-14 for 71 yards against Mississippi State. That's not likely to be good enough in this game as Auburn will put 8-9 in the box to stop Fournette. This will be Harris' first official home start with the Week 1 game wiped out. LSU quarterbacks in their first start in Tiger Stadium have been victorious 11 consecutive games.
Easily LSU's worst game last year was a 41-7 loss at Auburn. Then-Auburn QB Nick Marshall dominated, throwing for 207 yards and two scores and rushing for 119 and two more. The 41 points equaled Auburn's highest total in the rivalry. Harris made his only start of last year and was lousy, going 3-for-14 for 58 yards before getting replaced late in the third quarter by Anthony Jennings, his current backup. Fournette was held to 42 yards on 10 carries. However, LSU has won seven straight against Auburn in Baton Rouge, which includes a 35-21 victory the last time the teams met there in 2013.
College Football Free Picks: Wow, I wish this was 6.5 or 7.5 on the college football odds board. You likely will find alternate lines closer to kickoff. I don't trust either quarterback at all. I sure do Fournette. Give the points and for sure go 'under' the total. Auburn is 0-7 ATS in its past seven overall. The 'under' is 6-0 in LSU's past six SEC games. The home team is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. Take LSU -7 & 'under' 48.5 with your college football picks at 5Dimes.