Auburn at LSU Preview: Three most important matchups to watch for

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Sep 12, 2015; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers quarterback Jeremy Johnson (6) passes the ball as running back Peyton Barber (25) runs during the first quarter at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn at LSU is one of the most highly anticipated games of Week 3. We explore three matchups to watch in this week’s clash of SEC West rivals.

One week ago, Auburn was considered one of the favorites to win the SEC and among the most likely contenders for a national championship. But things went horribly wrong in Week 2. FCS opponent Jacksonville State wasn’t intimidated by Jordan-Hare Stadium, or its new gigantic scoreboard, and they certainly weren’t scared by the No. 6 Auburn Tigers.

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The Gamecocks rolled up 438 yards of offense, 28 first downs, and dominated the time of possession battle 35:25 to 24:25. Quarterback Eli Jenkins moved the football with his arm (26-for-43, 277 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) and his legs (37 yards on 18 carries) and hooked up with receivers Josh Barge and Ruben Gonzalez for a combined 22 completions and 233 yards with a touchdown. The 6-foot-1 Barge and 6-foot-4 Gonzalez made life very difficult for an undersized and injury depleted Auburn secondary.

And, Quarterback Jeremy Johnson struggled again on offense, tossing two more interceptions to bring his season total to five. Running back Peyton Barber saved the Tigers with his second consecutive 100-yard game, which included the game-winning touchdown in overtime and followed his pivotal nine-yard catch on third down.

No. 14 LSU also had their hands full, but with a brand-name opponent – the No. 25 Mississippi State Bulldogs – and in hostile, ear-splitting Starkville. LSU got a Heisman-like performance out of running back Leonard Fournette, who gained 159 rushing yards and scored three TDs in the 21-19 victory. The defense did just enough to keep the lead following a furious fourth quarter comeback that ended with a missed 52-yard field goal.

Despite their struggles, both teams are still undefeated and both are ranked – though Auburn slid all the way to No. 18 in the AP Top 25. And, with Auburn traveling to Death Valley to face LSU in a big-time SEC West clash, this game is as just as important as ever before. Looking ahead to this weekend’s battle in Baton Rouge, here are three important matchups to watch.

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