Network Notebook: Auburn at LSU
IS AUBURN REALLY A FINAL FOUR CALIBER TEAM AFTER ALL? ROAD GAME AT LSU A GOOD TEST
The college football world pretty much gave up on Auburn three weeks into the 2017 season. The Tigers had been hyped all summer as a serious threat to Alabama in the SEC East...and maybe even a Final Four contender.
Jarrett Stidham was going to run a potent offense that would scare the pants off everyone. A ton of returning talent would put Auburn in position to beat anyone on any given day. Yessir...Auburn was a team to watch!
Everyone stopped watching after a 14-6 loss at Clemson where the offense couldn't get anything going at all. The following week, a shockingly close 24-10 decision over unheralded Mercer kicked Auburn all the way off the map. Stidham fell off the Heisman Trophy list. Obviously, a Heisman Trophy candidate would do a lot better than that against a non-entity like Mercer!
Hated Alabama was now positioned to run away and hide from the SEC (again). Auburn was just another overrated pretender in an overrated conference.
Since then...Clemson has very much looked like National Championship material, making Auburn's loss in Death Valley seem less embarrassing. And, the offense finally started clicking.
*Auburn beat Missouri 51-14
*Auburn beat Mississippi State 49-10
*Auburn beat Ole Miss 44-23
Don't forget that Mississippi State was ranked at the time, and in a bounce-back spot off a bad loss to Georgia. That was supposed to be a good game, and Auburn crushed them.
Of course, we still could be dealing with an SEC that's much worse in the mid and lower levels than originally realized. But, you can at least see what pundits were thinking about when they circled Auburn as a national darkhorse entering the season. The Tigers are at least trending in the right direction. With home games against both #4 Georgia and #1 Alabama ahead...they could certainly climb back into the Final Four discussion. Were Auburn to win out, how could the committee possibly keep them out of the brackets?! Wins over Alabama and Georgia on the way to a 12-1 season and an SEC Championship...where the only loss was on the road to powerhouse Clemson? That's more than good enough.
First things first. We may be about to learn that Auburn is still a pretender...and that the likes of Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Missouri are pathetic (which is safe to say already about the latter two). Auburn visits LSU Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. ET in a game that will be televised nationally by CBS. A loss there...and you can kick Stidham and the Tigers back off the radar for good.
LSU has had a very up-and-down season. You just can't trust this offense as favorites. The Bayou Bengals don't score enough to cover big numbers. And, that home loss to Troy two weeks ago was a huge embarrassment that could get head coach Ed Orgeron fired by the end of the season. But LSU bounced back strong with a road win at The Swamp in Florida last Saturday. And, something about this team appealed to the most influential forces in the betting markets. LSU opened as an underdog of more than a field goal...but was bet all the way to a short favorite ON THE ROAD the week after LOSING TO TROY!
The Wise Guys know something about LSU, apparently. They hit them at the opener vs. Auburn as well. The first numbers up were Auburn by around 9 in Baton Rouge. That's already been bet down to Auburn by 6.5. Backing LSU as a DOG makes a lot more sense because of a tough defense.
Volatile situation here. Auburn is #10 in the polls...but could conceivably have played itself into form that's much better than that. Or, they could have just been bullying the worst SEC teams in a way that created temporary illusions. LSU can't be trusted as a favorite, but is very much a live dog at a dangerous home site.
Who should YOU bet on? JIM HURLEY is going to spend the week thinking about this one from all angles. It's easy to imagine the final scoreboard missing the market by a TD in either direction. If Auburn is for real, they can pull away from a team that couldn't even beat Troy. You also saw that LSU can't play catch up if they have to in its blowout loss to Mississippi State. But, sharp betting might be hinting that LSU still has a story to tell in 2017...and one of the chapters might be about how they exposed Auburn.
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