We're getting real now. In a series stretching back to 1901, but which didn't become an annual affair until the SEC expanded in 1992, LSU has a 27-20-1 lead over Auburn. That series has possibly seen more bad things happen to Auburn than to LSU. Before facing Florida State in the BCS title game last year, Auburn lost one game: in Baton Rouge. In 2004, Auburn was left out of the championship tilt despite an undefeated season; arguably, one reason may well have been that they only managed a 10-9 win at home over the Bayou Bengals. And as our guest today will remind us, it was a 1995 12-6 LSU win in Red Stick that began the reverse from a long slide into mediocrity for the gold and purple. One might think that the Plainsmen would have more hate for LSU than the other way around, but make no mistake: it goes both ways.
Joining us today is Poseur, the poet laureate over at SB Nation's And the Valley Shook. For those of you who've paid attention when I've gone insane and decided fully covering the Olympics, Poseur and I first connected in 2012 because he's just as insane as I am, and was writing a series of posts where he made a point of watching and trying to decipher every single sport at the event. Mutual insanity breeds camaraderie, I suppose. However, aside from being utterly mad, Poseur's also a brilliant storyteller, as you'll see as we dive into our questions.
But first: Poseur's latest article is a must-read, discussing the culture of violence against women and its connection with sports. Before or after you read this, go read it.
Jon: Before we get into the product on the field, this wouldn't be any fun if we didn't dig into off-field topics too. So let's start with this: Tell us about your absolute worst memory of an Auburn game, and your favorite moment against them.
Poseur: I want to say the worst moment was the 2006 game in Auburn, which is the only game in my life that I truly feel that a team I root for was robbed of a win by the officials. A pass interference flag with just seconds left was picked up and waived off by the head official, the last of a series of baffling calls that all went in Auburn’s favor. But as much as that game bothers me, it is not my low point in rooting against Auburn.
In 1997, Cecil Collins had perhaps the best game an LSU running back has ever had. He rushed for 232 yards on 27 carries, and scored two touchdowns. It didn’t matter. Dameyune Craig suddenly became competent and guided Auburn on a game-winning 10-play, 80-yard drive that never should have happened in the first place. On 3rd and 5, with three and half minutes to play, LSU’s coaching staff decided to put the game in Herb Tyler’s hand, and not the running back who had rushed for over 200 yards. I sat in the flatbed of a truck after the game, trying to see if the answer to how we lost that game was at the bottom of a beer can. An older woman, on crutches and wearing Auburn colors, stopped. She looked us over and sneered, "That’s right. Drink up the failure, boys." And that’s how I ended up chasing down an old lady on crutches, screaming obscenities. I’m not proud of it.
The best moment? The Bring Back the Magic Game is, to me, the single most important LSU game in the past thirty years. That 12-6 win in 1995 was the first step in putting the Dark Ages behind us and climbing back to national prominence. It wasn’t a straight line of ascendency, but it started that night. When Troy Twillie sealed the win with an interception in the end zone, I accidentally tackled my roommate’s girlfriend down four rows of bleachers (I slipped after being struck in the head with an errant whiskey bottle). I thought I might have killed her, but she looked up at me and yelled, "GEAUX TIGERS!" Even more than the national title, that is my happiest moment as a fan. LSU’s Golden Age is built on beating Auburn.
Jon: We're always a bit curious about how we're viewed outside the Big 12. What are your impressions of K-State?
Poseur: First, I think Bill Snyder is a damned genius. K-State was one of the worst programs in college football history, and he built it into a consistent winner. Twice. I do think it’s an open question what happens when he retires, but it’s hard not to root for an underdog program that willed itself into national prominence.
Though I’m also not entirely an outsider anymore. My mother-in-law is one of twelve siblings, half of which live in Texas, and the other half in Kansas. The Kansas side of the family are all fanatical K-State fans, and I’ve made the trip to the Little Apple with them to watch a game. I’ve got nothing but warm feelings towards the Wildcats, which I feel is the Little Program That Could. Any time someone complains about external factors or whatever as the reason their team stinks, well, my rebuttal is KSU. No excuses, just go win. I think that is admirable.
Jon: Luck plays a part in everything, obviously, and almost no team wins a championship without catching a break here and there. Do you feel Auburn's run to the BCS title game last year was more a function of fortune than talent, or did they really belong?
Poseur: Any national title run requires both talent and luck. Auburn had an undefeated team left out of the national title game before,* so they know better than anyone how much luck plays a part. I don’t think there’s ever been a team in a national title game that didn’t have some bit of good fortune.
* - Which was hilarious… both times.
That said, they really pushed the limits last year. They won six games last season by a touchdown or less, including close calls against Wazzu and Mississippi St. People point to the Kick Six, but that game was almost normal compared to the Georgia game.
Also, their defense was pretty terrible last year. It ranked 12th in the SEC in yards allowed, 10th in yards/play, 9th in scoring, 10th in rushing, and 13th in passing. If defense wins championships, Auburn making the title game was nothing short of a miracle.
Jon: How about this year? What are your impressions of the team in general, and how serious a threat do you think they are to reach the playoff? Other than Nick Marshall, who should we be really concerned about?
Poseur: We’ve been having this debate all offseason. My fellow writers at ATVS described the Auburn defense as "sneaky good". I whole-heartedly disagree, and think their defense was openly terrible. It probably won’t be quite the sieve it was last season, but their defensive line took some hits on the injury front in the offseason, which is a bad sign. They need to find someone in the secondary to replace Chris Davis.
Of course, their offense is built to devastate. The Death Star is fully operational on this front, and the Arkansas game showed that it really doesn’t matter who the quarterback is. They don’t lose anything when Jeremy Johnson is in the game. The backfield is deep and talented, and Cameron Artis—Payne averaged 6.5 yards/carry last season. Auburn also boasts an impressive receiver corps and the best offensive line in the SEC. They are forced by the defense to outscore you. The thing is, the offense is up to that task.
Jon: Granted you probably don't follow K-State as closely as you do Auburn (which is why we're doing this in the first place), but is there anything you've seen with Auburn that you think K-State is well-positioned to exploit?
Poseur: Six teams rushed for 200 yards or more against Auburn last year. Now, they seemed to improve on that front a tad, as Arkansas "only" managed 153 yards on 29 carries in the opener, and the Hogs have a good running game. OK, five teams threw for over 300 yards against them and twice went over 400, so they weren’t good defending the pass either.
But it seems to me that running the ball is the key to beating Auburn, which should suit the K-State offense. Not only is the defense vulnerable to a powerful running game, it keeps the Auburn offense off the field. Auburn is going to score, and they are going to score a lot. Perhaps the only way to stop them is by denying them the ball. The Arkansas game was close at the half, but Auburn’s offense just exploded. You cannot try and keep pace with them. It’s a losing proposition.
Jon: They're coming to our place, and that means that at least some of their fans will be there too. Now, level with us: what's that going to be like if they've got any sizable presence?
Poseur: Auburn fans are just like any other fanbase in the SEC: loud, drunk, and obnoxious. We think we’re God’s gift to football, and we’re not afraid to tell you. Also, expect them to insult your food. But I don’t think you need to worry about any incidents or anything. Trash talk is pretty harmless.
Jon: Finally, it's that obligatory moment when I wring a prediction out of you. What's your call?
Poseur: Ugh. Before the season began, I had K-State winning this game, but Auburn’s offense looked so good in the opener and y’all looked so terrible against Iowa St. I do think that the home crowd at night should play a factor, and weird things can happen in Manhattan. I hate to say this, but right now, I just think Auburn is the better team. This makes me want to break out into hives, because I hate saying anything nice about Auburn. If K-State plays like they did against Iowa St, they have no chance of winning this game, but you already knew that. I do think this team is better than they showed us so far. I hate picking against a Bill Snyder-coached team led by a senior quarterback playing at home, which is a traditional recipe for success, but I think Auburn’s offense just scores too much: Auburn 38, KSU 34.
Huge thanks to Poseur, and be sure to pay a visit to ATVS sometime. Great folks there. What kind of folks? Well, this kind:
@jonfmorse Weird things happen when we play Auburn. Earthquakes (and the valley shook). Fires. Rainstorms. Close games.— The name is Nuwanda (@RouxgarouLSU) September 13, 2014
@jonfmorse they're called Tigers. Fucking Fake Tigers. I hate Chaz Ramsey. Fuck Chaz Ramsey. I hate how Auburn isn't even Alabama yet I— Jake Nazar (@ATVS_JakeNazar) September 13, 2014
@jonfmorse still hate them so much anyway. I hate the name Auburn. I fucking hate Auburn— Jake Nazar (@ATVS_JakeNazar) September 13, 2014
Jake's a little wound up. I think he dislikes Auburn somewhat, but he sure does a good job of hiding it.