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SEC Game of the Week

Auburn (5-1) at LSU (4-1) 7:45 pm ET ESPN

Why to watch: It's round one of the SEC West tournament with each team still needing to play Alabama. Finally, Auburn gets to play a living, breathing team after winning five straight against no one who'll go to a bowl game. Respect has been hard to come by after the opening day 23-14 loss to Georgia Tech, but a win in Death Valley would launch the Tigers back into national prominence. The other Tigers haven't been pretty, but they've been winning overcoming the heartbreaking overtime loss to Tennessee to beat Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Florida with stunning ease. Yeah, the Gators made it interesting, but the Tiger defense played too well to lose. If LSU loses this week, it's realistically out of the SEC title hunt. As the top one loss team in the BCS, there's a chance to be playing for more than an SEC title by winning out. Auburn can still play for the title after a loss, but it'll have some work to do.

Why Auburn might win: LSU has hardly been sharp. From penalties to turnovers to strange lapses for long stretches, the ultra-talented team has yet to put together a full game against a good team. The biggest problem is turnovers losing 15 in five games with 11 fumbles. Auburn's defense is fast and hits like a ton of bricks; look for at least two LSU fumbles. If Auburn capitalizes, the air will quickly go out of Death Valley, as it did against Tennessee and for a while against Florida, and the collar will start to get a bit tight.

Why LSU might win: Auburn, meet a defense. Defense, meet Auburn. Oh sure, Mississippi State has a decent D and South Carolina and Arkansas aren't complete pushovers, but Auburn's offense steps back up to the big boy table for the first time since September 3rd. Is QB Brandon Cox really better now? Can Kenny Irons and the running game remain effective? Yes and no. Cox might be more experienced and a stronger player, but the ground game isn't going anywhere against the Tiger defensive front. Cox threw two interceptions against Arkansas last week and four in the opener against Georgia Tech. With the offense on his shoulders, he'll have to come through in his toughest road game yet; that's a lot to ask for.

Who to watch: LSU LB Ali Highsmith was considered a strong young prospect as a true freshman last year, and now he's one of the SEC's best defenders leading the Tigers with 35 tackles along with four sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. With Kyle Williams and Claude Wroten holding up the line, Highsmith and Cameron Vaughn are cleaning everything up. They'll have to stop Auburn's new rushing star, Kenny Irons. The South Carolina transfer ripped up Arkansas for 182 yards last week and has 467 yards and five touchdowns in the last four games. The more effective he is, the less Cox will have to do.

What will happen: If you liked the Florida - LSU battle, you'll love this game with defense making the offenses look bad. The LSU D will make the Auburn offense look a little bit worse.

CFN Prediction: LSU 20 ... Auburn 16 ... Line: LSU -6.5 | Make your pick and compete against others

Must See Rating: (5 lock yourself in a room to watch - 1 The Tyra Banks Show) ... 5

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but the ground game isn't going anywhere against the Tiger defensive front.

To offer a counter point to this point, a poster on another board brings up a good statistical comparison:

I keep reading in articles, predictions and posts that the LSU strength is in the defense. I am also reading how Auburn will struggle to get a ground game going. I decided to research this claim....

In LSUs three games against quality competition (ASU, UT, UF) the defense has NOT shown dramatic success against the run.

ASU: 100 rushing yards (4 yards a carry)

Vols: G. Riggs ran for 90 yards and TWO touchdowns (3.7 yards a carry)

Florida: Wynn ran for 95 yards and a touchdown (5.8 yards a carry)

4 yards per carry, 3.7 yards a carry, 5.8 yards a carry (not exactly a shut down defense against the run)

Now, on the flip side...Kenny Irons is the Auburn starter (behind one of the top 10 offensive lines in the country). His stats: 87 carries 514 yards 5 TDs (5.9 yards per carry)

So, the real bottom line becomes...can Kenny Irons and Auburn replicate the numbers of other quality teams and continue Irons lofty yards per carry average? Irons is coming off a 182 yard rushing day against Arkansas (5.5 yards per carry)....the same Arkansas that held SEC leading rusher Ken Darby (Bama) to 98 yards and 5.1 yards a carry.

Should be interesting to see how this one pans out. But, I would take the media's view that LSU will shut down the AU rushing attack with a grain of salt.

Just to be clear, LSU has a very good defense and I expect a great game from them Saturday. I am simply pointing out that qoutes like the following may be a bit premature.

"the Auburn ground game isn't going anywhere against the Tiger defensive front" --College Footbal News

It should be a GREAT game...I can't wait!!!

If Auburn's OL plays like it did against Arkansas in the second half, and LSU makes as many mistakes as it has been making, I'd expect something like Auburn vs UT in 04. Break out game, Auburn dominates away from home in their breakout dominating game.

If LSU corrects the mistakes, I'll give the edge to Auburn with coaching. Two pretty evenly matched teams.

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I'm not going to argue too much, because this game is a toss-up in my opinion. And the stat talk really doesn't do much for me in this game.

But how can you use LSU's defensive stats vs. only quality competiion, but he includes all of Irons stats against the cupcakes?

I will agree that Irons had a great game vs. Arkansas.

But to turn it around....LSU's defense is giving up 69yds per game compared to AU's 114yds.

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