AUBURN – Following their bye week, the Auburn Tigers (3-2, 0-2 SEC) turn their attention to the No. 22 LSU Tigers (4-2, 2-1 SEC) for a crucial road matchup this weekend.
Auburn head coach Hugh Freeze previewed the tough challenge during his weekly press conference on Monday.
”We’re excited to get back to work after an open week, excited to see our kids this afternoon and get the week started off right preparing to go to Baton Rouge to play a very difficult opponent," Freeze said. "I think their offense is the most explosive that I’ve seen in a long, long time."
Auburn has acquired a decent amount of injuries this season but coming off the bye week has given players a chance to heal.
“Of course, (Austin) Keys and Keionte (Scott) are still out for the foreseeable future," Freeze said. "Mosiah (Nasili-Kite), unfortunately, is done for the year, which is a blow to us defensively for sure. Jaylin Simpson I think will go. He’s day-to-day and said he’s feeling better each day, so I’m hopeful and expecting that he will go. Doubtful on Damari (Alston), and Malcolm Johnson is a day-to-day guy too."
He continued, "Of the guys we have remaining … (Ja’Varrius Johnson) is questionable also. He’s having an issue with his elbow that he just can’t get straight. So, that’s where we are. It’s the next man up, and we’ve got to get some of these younger kids to play more consistently. We worked on that hard last week in the open week. They got a ton of reps, because we’re going to need them before this season is over, with the remaining seven games we have.”
Quarterback Payton Thorne took a step forward against Georgia, and Freeze believes that trend will continue.
“We are trying hard to build upon that," Freeze said. "I thought he made some really good throws. When you are playing in this league the DBs are in position. You do not find many where you are running wide open. You'll have a few of those from time to time in blown coverages, but there are going to be some contested catches. There were nine incompletions and I think six of them could have gone either way."
LSU has a very talented quarterback in Jaylin Daniels, and he will surely give Auburn a challenge. Freeze spoke on the preparation for him.
“I don’t want to talk about game plans, but I don’t think you can stop him," Freeze said. "There are just too many weapons around him and he’s too good. The key to this game is ‘Can we hold the field goals?’. Truthfully. Nobody has stopped him."
"He plays so effortlessly, literally runs 40-yard touchdowns, and it looks like he's jogging, and yet no one is catching him," he added. "His balls are so accurate to those talented receivers. I just think it's a hard task. To this point, and I haven't watched future opponents so nobody use it for a bulletin board material, but to this point, it’s the best offensive personnel I've seen in this league, to this point.”
Tiger Stadium is one of the toughest places to play in college football. Freeze discussed how he is attempting to get the team prepared for the environment by playing music loudly at practice throughout the week.
"Yeah, I heard this was a new thing, but it is actually not," Freeze said. "We will have it as loud as we can get it on the practice field, and it will be playing 'Hold That Tiger' or whatever the fight song is. We will have a couple different plans for cadence, just in case."
"I do remember having a fistfight with them down there when I was at Ole Miss," he added. "It was a Saturday night game and obviously very loud, and we were backed up in the student section in a critical drive and we had 3 false starts. It was so loud. So we will have a couple different plans if that is the case."
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. CT at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. ESPN will carry the broadcast.
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