Once uncertain, LSU’s quarterback drama seems to have been resolved, as Danny Etling has taken the reins to the Tigers offense.
Auburn’s quarterback drama, on the other hand, may have just started.
To find out more about what’s happening on The Plains, we welcome back our Pick 6 series — a Q&A with a beat writer covering LSU’s opponent — for another week. Brandon Marcello, who covers Auburn for 247Sports, kindly joined us to answer our questions about Gus Malzahn’s bunch.
1.) Let’s start things off with the obvious question. If Auburn wants to get things rolling on offense, does Malzahn need to hand the offense over to John Franklin III, or should he stick with Sean White?
I believe Auburn is doing everything it can to prepare John Franklin III to be the starter when and if it is needed. For now, Sean White is the starter and will remain so unless the offense is again an issue for a third time in four weeks.
Gus Malzahn has often said he doesn't need a dual-threat quarterback for his offense to work, but we've quickly discovered it certainly seems he needs a dual-threat player for his offense to work in recent years. Franklin III sparked the offense when he jumped on the field in the fourth quarter last week, but coaches are still not confident in him as a passer or running the entire playbook.
2.) The Aggies defense last week recorded four sacks, six quarterback hurries and 13 tackles for loss. How much is offensive line play a concern for Auburn going forward?
It's a huge concern for Auburn. The Tigers have been stopped for negative yardage on 32 plays this season — that's the most by any team in the country this season. That's a big concern and while it's not necessarily the fault of the offensive line on every play, it has been the majority of the time.
The Tigers attempted to double team Myles Garrett and pulled a guard over to try to disrupt him, but the guard simply wasn't fast enough. Interestingly, when Auburn allowed its tackles (thought to be the weakness of the team) to go one-on-one with Garrett, they didn't fare as badly.
Auburn needs to figure things out quickly along the offensive line, because being on pace for 120-plus tackles behind the line of scrimmage is losing football. It's the kind of football that gets coaches fired.
As the football came toward him through Tiger Stadium air thickened by a pregame downpour an…
3.) Auburn appears to have two capable running backs in Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson. But Pettway was utilized more and was more effective against Texas A&M. Do you see Pettway and Johnson splitting the reps going forward or will one emerge as the No. 1 option?
They will continue to split reps, and I don't expect a clear No. 1 to emerge this season. Auburn likes splitting reps with them and providing different and fresh threats on the field. Pettway is the battering ram and Johnson is the home run hitter, even if the numbers don't quite show it. I really like both players, and they're developing into quite the tandem.
If only that offensive line can block a tad better then things would be great. The Tigers rushed for 230-plus yards last week against Texas A&M, but it could have easily been higher.
4.) The Auburn defense gave up an 89-yard touchdown run that sealed Saturday’s loss against Texas A&M, but it held the Aggies to four field goals in five red zone trips. What’s been the biggest difference between this year’s defense under Kevin Steele and last year’s defense under Will Muschamp?
Will Muschamp laid the foundation for this turnaround and it wasn't until the Birmingham Bowl (holding the Memphis offense to a field goal) that we saw what could be for the defense. The Tigers' defensive line is super strong and deep, even if the sacks haven't quite been produced yet. Something tells me this game sets up well for Auburn's defensive line to get a lot of tackles behind the line, including a few sacks.
The key to the defense's turnaround is the defensive line. Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams, Dontavius Russell and freshman Marlon Davidson have been the key to the success. The secret, however, might just be the play of the linebackers. Many expected Tre' Williams, Deshaun Davis and others to be the weak link on the defense, but it's easily the second-strongest aspect of the entire team. It's a nice surprise and one which the Tigers can build upon as the season continues.
Twitter Mailbag is a post running each Tuesday or Wednesday answering readers’ questions abo…
5.) At least one Auburn defender said they have “circled” the LSU game on their schedule. Leonard Fournette ran for 228 yards in a 45-21 win in Baton Rouge. How fired up are Auburn players for this game?
I'd say the defense is much more fired up for this game than the offense. What Leonard Fournette did against them is not something they will soon forget. Safeties Tray Matthews and Rudy Ford were especially on alert after that game and were repeatedly shown on Fournette's Heisman highlight reel.
Linebacker Deshaun Davis said he has circled this game on his calendar. They don't want to look like fools again, especially on their home field, so I expect the defense to come out fired up.
As for the offense? Well, I'm not so sure.
6.) Auburn just can’t seem to buy a conference win at home. In fact, they haven’t won a conference game at Jordan-Hare Stadium since 2014. Is there any specific reason for the struggles at home or is it just a mental roadblock?
The key to the losses have been Auburn's offense, which is Gus Malzahn's favorite toy. The Tigers struggle in the red zone, get behind the chains and can't make big plays at crucial times. It all started with a fumble at the goal line in a comeback attempt against Texas A&M in 2014. The Tigers lost 41-38 and are 2-10 against SEC teams ever since. In fact, Auburn's seven-game losing streak at home against Power 5 teams is the second-worst mark in the country (Colorado has 10).
The issue has been the offense, which is especially concerning considering that's the one thing Malzahn is known for across the country. It's what pushed him from the high school ranks to college football, and the last two years have been devastatingly bad in the red zone. Auburn might pile up the points and even the yards at times, but fans hold their breath when the Tigers enter the red zone.
If Auburn can fix that issue, things will be a lot better on the Plains. Fans want to see more than field goals when they come to Jordan-Hare Stadium for a game.