No. 10 Auburn aims to vanquish demons at LSU's Death Valley
By BRETT MARTEL
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) If Auburn and LSU are playing one another, something memorable is bound to happen.
That's just the way it's been in recent years.
There was Leonard Fournette's breakout game in 2015, when he steamrolled one tackler and sent another spinning off his shoulders.
Last season, there was the apparent game-winning LSU touchdown on a fourth-down play that ultimately wouldn't count - overturned after officials realized the game clock had hit zero moments before the snap.
"Just a huge swing of emotions," recalled LSU tight end Foster Moreau.
And not just because LSU lost the game after initially believing they'd won. They also lost their coach the next day when Les Miles was fired. His replacement, Ed Orgeron, is now under plenty of scrutiny himself as LSU (4-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) prepares for the latest visit by Auburn (5-1, 3-0), which has climbed to No. 10 in the AP Poll .
"I'm sure there are a lot of memories about Auburn in here. We don't talk about them," Orgeron said. "We're focused on this year's opponent, which is very good and that's enough."
Auburn has won four straight, including three SEC games by 21 or more points. On Saturday, Auburn is favored by a touchdown, so odds makers don't see quite as much room for error. Neither does Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, for that matter.
"I told our team we've not arrived," Malzahn said. "I'll let them know when we've arrived."
LSU looked like it was crumbling when it lost at home to Troy just two weeks after being beaten by 30 at Mississippi State. Then last week, LSU showed signs of regrouping, pulling out a one-point victory at Florida.
"They found a way to win," Malzahn asserted. "So I know they're going to have a lot of momentum."
Moreau said LSU got "a little bit of mojo, a little bit of swagger back," at Florida, but added that beating Auburn "would kind of prove that we could string together a good series of wins."
Then again, LSU could falter again and become the latest SEC team blown out by Auburn.
Those divergent possibilities left Moreau to conclude that the Auburn game "could be very beneficial, or very detrimental" for LSU.
Some other things to watch when Auburn visits LSU:
DEATH VALLEY STREAK: Auburn coaches have made sure the players knew about one streak this week: They haven't won in Baton Rouge since a 41-7 victory in 1999, when most of them were toddlers. "Everybody is fully aware of that," Auburn safety Tray Matthews said. "It's a tough place to play. They are a great team and been a good team for a long time now. We'll be ready for them."
RUNNING HOT: Auburn's hottest player has been junior tailback Kerryon Johnson , who has 11 rushing touchdowns in the last three games. He leads the nation with 12 TDs on the ground. "I've been blessed to coach a lot of good ones, but I'd say he's right up there," Malzahn said.
Johnson ran for 93 yards and had 68 receiving in last season's meeting. Backfield mate Kamryn Pettway has missed two of the last three games with a lower right leg injury, but could be available in this one. Meanwhile, Orgeron said top LSU rusher Derrius Guice, who has been bothered by ankle and knee soreness, appeared to gain confidence from a few rushes at Florida last weekend and looked healthy at practice this week.
BATTERED BLOCKERS: Because of injuries at Florida, LSU had to play three freshmen on the offensive line for part of the game. Orgeron said tackles K.J. Malone and Toby Weathersby were questionable to return this week, and that LSU might play three freshmen up front against Auburn, "if we have to."
"They can handle the physicality of the game. That's a positive for them," Orgeron noted, adding that the main worry with the younger linemen is that they'll miss an assignment.
GETTING PRESSURE: Two players who could raise LSU's game are outside linebacker Arden Key and defensive end Frank Herron. Key is entering his fourth game back from shoulder surgery and by all accounts has progressively played better while losing more than 10 pounds. Herron, who was sidelined for undisclosed reasons, is due to return for the first time this season and provide depth behind Rashard Lawrence and Christian LaCouture. Herron's "conditioning level playing football is going to have to improve, but he worked very hard," Orgeron said.
MILES TO GO: During the game, LSU plans to honor its 2007 national championship team. Miles coached that team and plans to attend.
AP Sports Writer John Zenor in Auburn, Alabama, contributed to this report.
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Updated October 13, 2017