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Texas A&M Football

SEC Round-Up: LSU, Auburn meet as unranked teams for first time since 1999

October 29, 2020

The LSU-Auburn football rivalry is so dramatic that some of the games have titles.

There is the “Earthquake Game” of 1988, the “Night the Barn Burned” in 1996 and the “Cigar Game” of 1999.

The “Cigar Game” is notable because, after prevailing 41-7 in Baton Rouge, Auburn players gathered at midfield on the Tiger Eye logo to smoke celebratory cigars.

“The Cigar Game” is also notable this week. That’s because Saturday’s clash between LSU (2-2) and Auburn (3-1) on The Plains marks the first time they’ve met as unranked opponents since 1999.

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LSU won last year’s national championship, but the Tigers no longer have Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow leading the offense.

Since the turn of the century, LSU won football national championships in 2003, 2007 and 2019. Bayou Bengals played for another title in 2011. Auburn finished undefeated in 2004, won the national championship in 2010 and was runner-up in 2013.

Both teams usually have been powerful over the last 20 years. Auburn has finished ranked 12 times and in the top ten six times. LSU has finished ranked 18 times and in the top ten eight times.

The only season in the last 20 years they both finished unranked was 2008, but when they played that year, No. 6 LSU defeated No. 10 Auburn 26-21 on Jarrett Lee’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell with 1:03 remaining.

That was one of many closely-fought games between the rivals. Indeed, the last four clashes have been decided by a total of 13 points.

If Saturday’s meeting is also close, it’s because both teams are equally inept.

LSU’s defense has uncharacteristically allowed more than 40 points in both of its losses. Meanwhile, Auburn has sputtered on both sides of the line of scrimmage, but they have been bailed out by fortuitous and egregious errors by officials.

Of course, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn isn’t apologizing for his good fortune.

“I mean, we had a kickoff return called back (against Ole Miss), that was a tough one,” he said earlier this week. “That’s just the way it goes.”

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Gus Malzahn’s job could be in jeopardy should Auburn continuing to drop football games.

Malzahn may need more help from officials this week. Auburn’s defense also has been vulnerable, and his offense doesn’t seem capable of keeping up with LSU, which has scored at least 34 points in every game.

But should LSU prevail, the Tigers would be wise not to repeat Auburn’s 1999 celebration and light up stogies at midfield.

Karma can be devastating.

Auburn was smoked in its next five games in 1999, losing by an average margin of 15 points.

Around the SEC

This week’s games: Arkansas at No. 8 Texas A&M; No. 5 Georgia at Kentucky; LSU at Auburn; Ole Miss at Vanderbilt; Mississippi State at No. 2 Alabama; Missouri at No. 10 Florida

Who’s hot: Regardless of who is throwing to him, LSU receiver Terrace Marshall seemingly cannot be stopped. He has caught nine touchdown passes in four games. He’s averaging a touchdown on every three catches. Marshall averages 128 receiving yards per game to lead the SEC.

Who’s not: Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson has suffered through an abysmal stretch. Wilson has completed just 24 of 46 passes (52 percent) over the last three games. In that span, he’s passed for 212 yards and three touchdowns. Miraculously, the Wildcats are 2-1 in those games. That isn’t good enough, though. Speculation is backup that Joey Gatewood will start against Georgia. Gatewood has only attempted five passes (he’s completed two).

Keep an eye on: Florida. The Gators are ranked No. 10 but have not played since falling to Texas A&M on Oct. 10. They’ve also missed a lot of practice because of a COVID-19 outbreak with the Gator program. How sharp can the offense expect to be? Could the defense have gotten worse?

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Despite being injured earlier this year, Bumper Pool should return for Arkansas this week.

Pressure is on: Arkansas’ run defense is suspect. The Razorbacks allowed 242 rushing yards to Ole Miss last week. They gave up 259 to Auburn the week before. Next, they face Texas A&M, which has a powerful running game that is averaging 172 rushing yards to rank third in the SEC. A&M sophomore running back Isaiah Spiller has exceeded 100 rushing yards in three of four games. The Aggies won those three games. A strong running game also creates possibilities in the passing game. The Razorbacks could be in trouble if they can’t slow down Spiller.

Best matchup: The trenches clash between Georgia and Missouri is intriguing. Missouri has excelled in pass protection. The Tigers have allowed just six sacks in four games. Meanwhile, Georgia has amassed 13 sacks in four games. Missouri has a shot at pulling off an upset if freshman quarterback Connor Bazelak gets adequate protection.

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SEC Round-Up: LSU, Auburn meet as unranked teams for first time since 1999

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