No. 12 Football Set for SEC Opener at No. 7 Auburn

by Cody Worsham
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No. 12 Football Set for SEC Opener at No. 7 Auburn

AUBURN, Ala. – After wins in its first two games of the season, No. 12 LSU gets its 2018 SEC campaign underway Saturday afternoon on the road, taking on No. 7 Auburn in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on CBS and CBSSports.com. The game is also available on the LSU Sports Radio Network, which can also be streamed online at LSUSports.net/live.

LSU (2-0) has used a strong running game, high-pressure defense, and exceptional special teams play to claim wins over Miami and Southeastern Louisiana through the first two weeks of the season.

Senior running back Nick Brossette is averaging 131.0 rushing yards per game to lead Steve Ensminger‘s offense. Brossette leads the SEC in runs of 10+ yards (9) and runs for first downs (10), picking up 140 of his 262 yards after contact.

Joe Burrow threw for his first two passing touchdowns as a Tiger last week – including a 40-yard Hail Mary as the first half clock expired to Stephen Sullivan – and picked up another on the ground. The LSU offense has yet to turn the ball over through two games after leading the NCAA with just eight turnovers last season.

Meanwhile, Dave Aranda‘s defense has netted five turnovers in two games and ranks second in the nation in sacks (9), led by sophomore safety Grant Delpit, who has picked up a sack in each of LSU’s first two games. The Tigers also rank second in the SEC in rushing defense (74.0 yards per game) and first in defensive yards per carry (1.9).

Junior linebacker Devin White‘s 9.5 tackles per game are third in the league, and sophomore cornerback Greedy Williams, who picked up his first interception of the season last week, ranks first in the nation in opposing passer rating when targeted (0.0).

“The offense put in new stuff this week,” said head coach Ed Orgeron. “We’re excited about it. Execution is going to be key. The noise factor is going to be key. Defensively, we’re going to have to tackle. They’re going to throw a lot of stuff at us. But we’re ready to go.”

Special teams will surely play a major role Saturday. Each of the last two contests between the two teams have been decided largely in the third phase, including last year’s LSU victory. That game featured a D.J. Chark punt return for a touchdown and two late field goals from Connor Culp to give Orgeron’s Tigers the win.

It’s a unit that’s much improved for LSU in 2018 under coordinator Greg McMahon. Senior field goal kicker Cole Tracy is a perfect 5-for-5 through two games, including two of 50+ yards. He leads all active collegiate kickers with 73 field goals. Freshman place kicker Avery Atkins, an Auburn native, has 11 touchbacks in 13 kickoffs, and punter Zach Von Rosenberg is averaging 46.7 net yards per punt.

“We feel confident about our special teams,” said Orgeron. “Obviously, we’re going to be tested. They have good special teams. I feel good about our kicking game right now. There’s going to be some adversity. A punt return last year broke the game open. Something’s going to happen on special teams that’s going to help us win the football game one way or the other. I just can’t tell which way it’s going to be.”

Auburn, who knocked off No. 10 Washington in their season opener, is coming off a 63-9 win over Alabama State. Gus Malzahn’s Tigers, the defending SEC West champions, average 288 rushing yards per game on offense. On defense, they’re tied with LSU for second in the nation with nine sacks per game.

“They’re fast at linebacker, aggressive in the secondary,” said Orgeron. “Their safeties hardly miss any tackles and they’re very solid on special teams. We’re excited about this week, opening SEC play. We’re looking forward to a very tough matchup with Auburn.”

Notes

  • LSU opens SEC play against Auburn for the 11th time. LSU is 5-5 against Auburn when it serves as the conference opener for the Tigers. 
  • LSU enters the contest 2-0 overall following wins over then-No. 8 Miami (33-17) and Southeastern Louisiana (31-0) last Saturday. 
  • LSU is 2-0 for the second straight year and for the 12th time in 13 years going back to 2006.
  • Ed Orgeron, who took over the Tigers four games into the 2016 season, is 17-6 as LSU’s head coach (6-2 in 2016; 9-4 in 2017, 2-0 in 2018). Over his last 31 games as a head coach, Orgeron has produced a 23-8 mark – a stretch the also includes a 6-2 record with Southern Cal in 2013. 
  • In 23 games under Orgeron, LSU’s has gone without a turnover 12 times. Dating back to last year, LSU has turned the ball over only one time over the past 16 quarters, which includes no turnovers in 2018. 
  • LSU is 13-0 under Orgeron when the Tigers feature a 100-yard rusher (6-0 in 2016, 5-0 in 2017, 2-0 in 2018. 
  • Nick Brossette has gone over the 100-yard rushing mark in LSU’s first two games and ranks No. 5 in the SEC with 131.0 yards a contest. 
  • All-America LB Devin White had his 9th career double-digit tackle game vs. SE Louisiana. He ranks third in the SEC in tackles with 9.5 a contest. 
  • LSU PK Cole Tracy ranks first among all active collegiate kickers with 73 career field goals. The graduate transfer kicked 68 field goals at DII Assumption College and has 5 so far this year. 
  • LSU ranks third in the SEC in rushing defense, allowing only 74.0 yards per game. The Tigers are giving up an SEC-best 1.9 yards per rush. 
  • By holding Southeastern Louisiana to 65 rushing yards, LSU has held opponents to fewer than 100 rushing yards 12 times (in 27 games) since Dave Aranda took over as defensive coordinator in 2016. LSU is 12-0 in those games. 
  • Going back to 2001 when LSU’s football program won its first SEC Championship since the 1980s, LSU has played 205 of its 223 games ranked in the Top 25, which includes 19 of 23 games under Orgeron. LSU is 12-6 as a Top 25 team under Coach O.
  • 0 – LSU has yet to turn the ball over in 2018 and the Tigers are one of just six teams nationally without a turnover this year. LSU has played 15 consecutive quarters without a turnover. 
  • 3 – This is only the third time in school history that LSU will face a pair of Top 10 opponents in the first three weeks of the season. LSU opened the year with a 33-17 win over then-No. 8 Miami. LSU played two Top 10 opponents during first three weeks of season in 1995 and 1981. 
  • 6 – Six of LSU’s seven touchdowns this year have come from players that had never scored a touchdown for the Tigers. The list includes Nick Brossette, Ja’Marr ChaseJoe BurrowClyde Edwards-Helaire, and Jacob Phillips.