AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Jeremiah Dinson didn’t bother reviewing film of Joe Burrow and LSU’s offense against Auburn last season because “he’s a totally different quarterback.”
Now, the challenge for Dinson and No. 9 Auburn in Baton Rouge on Saturday will be contending with the 2019 edition of Burrow and No. 2 LSU’s much more explosive offense. It’s no small task, of course.
“I knew he could always throw the ball,” Dinson, Auburn’s safety and leading tackler, said Tuesday. “But it’s crazy, man, that they look like a totally different offense.”
Burrow is leading the nation with 29 touchdown passes and his 2,484 yards passing ranks second.
An Auburn defense led by Dinson and linemen Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson is the latest to try to slow him. Auburn has banked heavily on a defense that hasn’t allowed more than 24 points in a game while freshman quarterback Bo Nix has gained experience and the offense dealt with injuries to receiver Anthony Schwartz and tailback JaTarvious Whitlow.
Of course, 24 points has been less than a half’s work for Burrow and LSU this season. This LSU offense is averaging 52.5 points and 561 yards a game.
Burrow was solid against Auburn last season, if not spectacular. He passed for 249 yards while completing less than half his attempts, with LSU winning 22-21 on Cole Tracy’s field goal as time expired.
While that performance wasn’t necessarily a harbinger that Burrow would emerge as a Heisman Trophy contender a year later, his clutch play in a hostile environment did show mettle and poise.
“Joe is cool as a cucumber,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said after the game. “He’s not going to falter under pressure and he’s going to make the right decisions.”
Now, Burrow faces a defense whose weakest link has been the secondary. Auburn ranks 68th nationally in yards passing allowed per game (224.7).
Auburn intercepted only one pass in its first seven games but had two picks in a 51-10 win over Arkansas.
Auburn held Oregon’s Justin Herbert to a respectable 242 yards but allowed 335 yards passing to Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond, with a sizable chunk coming during a fourth-quarter comeback that fell short.
Davidson is hardly lacking confidence in Auburn’s defense, but he doesn’t downplay the task, either.
“It’s a big challenge, I can say that,” Davidson said. “I’ll take my guys over anybody because I know we put in the work beside each other every day. But that’s a great football team. That’s a great football team. They’re going to be a test, a big test. A great offense vs. a great defense. You never know who’s going to come out on top of that.”
Auburn’s two biggest stars have been Brown and Davidson, both recruited by Orgeron. They’re part of a defensive front the LSU coach says is the best “we have seen so far.”
Brown has three sacks, three pass breakups and two forced fumbles. Orgeron predicts he’ll likely be a top-five NFL draft pick and called the 6-foot-5, 318-pounder a “mountain of a man.”
LSU offensive tackle Austin Deculus likes the challenge of facing Brown & Co.
“Everybody in the movies wants to slay the dragon,” Deculus said. “In that sense he’s the big guy. He’s the one with a target on his back. You want to beat the best guy.”
Davidson has emerged as one of the SEC’s top pass rushers with 5.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. Both have forced two fumbles.
“You look at a guy like Derrick Brown, who is that big and physical,” Orgeron said. “Nobody that we’ve faced so far has been that big and physical. He’s very, very disruptive. He’s hard to match one-on-one. You have to double-team him.
“Marlon Davidson is good pass-rusher. These guys get most of their rushes with a four-man rush.”
With LSU’s explosive offense, that could be a key.