AP photo by Todd Van Emst|
Meeting with Arkansas coach Houston Nutt, right, at midfield Saturday night, Auburn’s TommyTuberville had reason to be happy after a 9-7 win over the Razorbacks.
LSU next for streaking Auburn
A berth in SEC title game could be on the line
By Ross Dellenger
The scene is set. Let the mayhem begin.
Fewer than 24 hours after his team won for the fourth time in four weeks, Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville turned his attention to what could be his squad’s biggest game of the season.
The No. 18-ranked Tigers (5-2, 3-1 SEC) will travel to Baton Rouge, La., on Saturday night to take on No. 5 LSU (6-1, 3-1) in a game between SEC Western Division leaders. In five of the last seven seasons, the winner of this week’s game has played in the SEC championship.
Tuberville knows that, and so, he says, does LSU.
“The winner of this game, normally, has gone on to the championship game. We’ll treat it like that, and I’m sure they will, too,” said Tuberville, whose team has won eight straight SEC road games with its 9-7 win over Arkansas on Saturday.
Auburn is arguably one of the hottest teams in the nation, rebounding from a 1-2 start to win four straight. The Tigers are tied with LSU and Alabama (5-2, 3-1) atop the division standings as they head into this week’s showdown.
Following Auburn’s third game of the season, a 19-14 loss at home to Mississippi State, Tuberville faced questions about his job security, and starting quarterback Brandon Cox was being booed off Auburn’s home field.
Only a month later, Cox is being praised after leading Auburn to its third game-winning drive of the season.
Published reports included his name as a possible replacement at Texas A&M, where former Alabama coach Dennis Franchione’s seat is warming up.
“We knew we weren’t out of it,” Tuberville said about the early slide, “but we knew our back was against the wall.”
The Tigers have climbed out of the hole they dug for themselves.
A home pounding of New Mexico State, a road upset over then-No. 4 Florida and a thumping of Vanderbilt in Auburn vaulted the Tigers back into the national rankings.
The win at Arkansas has them where most prognosticators thought they would be: in the hunt for an SEC West crown.
But Tuberville reiterated Sunday what he said just minutes following Auburn’s victory in Fayetteville: “We’re not a good enough team to go to Atlanta and win in Atlanta.”
Tuberville added, “We’ve got the potential to do that, and the guys are working hard enough to do it. Right now, we’re kind of chugging along, trying to improve and keep our poise and get a little more consistent.”
It is likely that Auburn will need to bring a better offense into LSU’s Tiger Stadium this week than it showed in Fayetteville. Although the Tigers moved the ball Saturday night, they failed to get into the end zone , settling for five field-goal attempts and turning the ball over inside the 10-yard line.
But Tuberville said that was all game-planning. The coach said he went into the game with “several game plans.” When he realized early that Auburn’s defense could stop the Hogs, Tuberville elected to play conservatively.
“If (Arkansas was) moving it up and down the field, we were going to have to spread it out and throw a little bit more,” he said.
“Once we saw we could play defense against them and they were going to struggle, you shift gears and you do some different things.”
He said, though, a modest offense will go nowhere against LSU’s defense, which is ranked second in the nation.
“We’re going to need to take a better game than we took to Arkansas,” Tuberville said. “We know that. It’s going to have to be an overall team effort because we know what we’re getting into.”
Auburn Monday playback
Three things Auburn should remember after a 9-7 win over Arkansas.
Rush defense even better than thought: Auburn’s defense held the best tailback tandem in the nation to 85 rushing yards. Running backs Felix Jones and Darren McFadden were each averaging more than 100 yards a game, but the Tigers shut down the duo. They won’t face a better pair this season.
Lester in full swing: Running back Brad Lester illustrated why he deserved to win his starting job back. The junior ran 21 times for 89 yards in his return to a starting spot.
Byrum is human: True freshman place-kicker Wes Byrum may have hit the game-winning field goal Saturday, but it should never have come down to that. Byrum had two misses (36 and 46 yards) against Arkansas. He entered the game with just two misses in six games.
In recent years, the winner of this one often has won the Western Division and advanced to the Southeastern Conference game.
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