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

2 of 5

Sep 5, 2015; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Brandon Harris (6) before a game against the McNeese State Cowboys at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

LSU QB Brandon Harris vs. the Auburn Secondary

LSU quarterback Brandon Harris will be making his third career start Saturday night, but his second against Auburn. Last season, when Harris was a true freshman, he led the Tigers into Jordan-Hare Stadium where they were thrashed 41-7.

Harris completed just three of 14 pass attempts for 58 yards against Auburn, 52 of which came on one play. He was so rattled that the Auburn defense, which allowed 438 yards on average in conference games last season, held LSU to just 280 yards. Harris was benched and attempted only one pass the rest of the season.

Perhaps due to Harris’ inexperience, the play-calling appeared to be very conservative in the second half last week, which has led to criticism from fans and analysts because Mississippi State nearly overcome a 21-3 second half deficit and had a chance to win the game on a 52-yard field goal attempt as time expired. Harris only attempted 14 passes, and completed nine, for 71 yards. He also had 48 rushing yards on five carries, including an 18-yard scamper.

Head coach Les Miles called the offensive game plan “imperfect,” according to Marcus Rodrigue of The Advocate, though Harris defended the Tigers’ approach when talking with the media Monday.

“We were really aggressive,” Harris said, according to David Ching of “Coach Cam [Cameron] called a lot of pass plays, but you’ve got to realize … if we go out there and we call a pass play and they’re sending field pressure, they’re sending a blitz that the average fan wouldn’t know that they’re sending, we check to a run play away from that blitz.”

If Harris checked to running plays over passes against Mississippi State, it shows maturity and intelligence. After all, putting the ball in Fournette’s hands is almost always a good plan. But, for the Tigers to win Saturday, Harris will need to move the football with his arm. He has plenty of weapons to help, including wide receivers Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural, and will challenge a new-look Auburn secondary.

Last week, Auburn played without starting safety Tray Matthews, who had a big interception against Louisville in the season opener. They were also without starting cornerback Blake Countess much of the afternoon because of a targeting ejection. Not having those two newcomers, neither of which played a down for the Tigers last year because of transfer restrictions and playing for Michigan, respectively, handicapped what is supposed to be an improved unit this year. They also lost veteran defensive back Josh Holsey to another ACL injury against JSU.

Auburn allowed 277 passing yards to Jacksonville State with two receivers each posting over more than 100 yards. Countess will be back in action but Holsey is out for the year and it’s too early to tell whether Matthews will play. That means depth is razor-thin and true freshmen Tim Irvin, Carlton Davis and Jeremiah Dinson will need to play a big role in their first SEC game – something Harris and LSU will surely try to take advantage of.

Next: Cam Cameron vs. Will Muschamp