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Playin’ Nice: College & Magnolia

We talk LSU-Auburn with Walt Austin of College and Mag!

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1. Seems like we're brothers in offensive question marks at the moment. What's been the problem for Auburn?

Someone took Gus Malzahn and replaced him with someone who has no idea what he's doing. Really, it's been so strange to watch the guy known for HUNH, playing fast, and being a great play caller turn into someone who doesn't play fast and seems to be just throwing stuff against the wall and hoping it sticks. I don't think it's because he's been "figured out" so much, either. Auburn just isn't running the plays it used to run and isn't playing with the pace Gus was known for and that is key to his offense. I really think Auburn has the athletes to run wide-open like he did at Tulsa, but none of the plays are there. We're not seeing the sweeps, the speed, or anything. I'm in the camp that doesn't believe Gus has to have a running QB, but if he doesn't have one, then he has to open up the passing game, and we're not seeing that happen right now.

2. Sean White has started every game for Auburn, but John Franklin III came in late last week. Should LSU be preparing to see both again?

I suspect you'll see both. How much you'll see both I don't know. I'm not against a 2 quarterback system as long as Gus runs plays that fit the strength of the QB in the game at the time and doesn't change them until a stoppage of play (like a penalty), but I don't know if he'll go that route.

3. Kamryn Pettway appears to have taken over the roll of bellcow runner for Auburn. What's he doing well?

Pettway runs hard and angry. He's not a guy who is going to make too many people miss, but he'll make one cut, find the hole, and then burst through it with more speed than you think he has. Then it's a matter of running him down. He's not the fastest in the world, but you definitely want to wrap him up at the legs, because he loves to hit people who get in front of him.

4. Likewise, Auburn's defense has had a strong start under Kevin Steele, up until last week. What's been working there?

Auburn's defense - until last weekend - was playing great fundamental football. The linebackers were filling gaps and not over-pursuing like they'd been doing the last few years. The line was getting pressure (even if they haven't been getting sacks) and forcing QBs to make quick throws or scramble out of the pocket to throw. The DBs have even covered really well with the exception of just 2-3 pass plays. The unfortunate thing for Auburn is that on each of those bad coverages, the drive ended in a touchdown.

5. This is going to get a lot of run as the "Hotseat Bowl" for these two coaches. What's the mood like on the Plains? Is Gus Malzahn in real danger, or do you expect Auburn to come out with a sense of desperation on Saturday?

It's really hard to judge the mood in Auburn. After last week's game was the first time I've walked around campus after the game and really heard a lot of people grumbling about whether it was time for Gus to go. I don't think we've tilted that far, yet, because Auburn has been in both losses until late and they were both against teams ranked in the Top 10 or 15 depending on the polls. Of course, what does have Auburn folks concerned is that the problem holding us back is the offense and not the defense, which is our coach's supposed wheelhouse.

I don't know if you'll see Auburn come out with a sense of desperation, but I do think they'll come out hard and motivated. They were embarrassed last year in Baton Rouge, and Auburn always plays LSU well at home - even in the bad years (2008 and 2012). The biggest difference between this team and Chizik's final team is that there's been no sign of quitting from anyone on the team. I think they'll come out motivated and hoping to right the ship.