LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger. (Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Friday, September 21, 2012 6:12 PM
AUBURN, Ala. — LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger was asked this week what was the most intimidating Southeastern Conference stadium he’s been subjected to.
In reality, LSU’s first road trip of the season tonight at Auburn will be the first-ever test for Mettenberger in a hostile environment, his first performance in front of college fans who would wish him ill.
Mettenberger patiently explained his situation to the questioner.
“A third-string quarterback sitting on the bench. What’s been intimidating? Nothing’s really been too intimidating since I’ve never actually played.”
Good point. That was last year while Mettenberger was biding his time.
This year Mettenberger has shown signs of being the offensive savior LSU fans have been longing for at the quarterback position. But that was in three games against outmanned opponents playing before friendly fans in Tiger Stadium.
This is another step.
Mettenberger should get his SEC baptism tonight at Jordan-Hare Stadium, a venue that has not been kind to the Tigers in recent years.
LSU has won once in its last six visits to Auburn in a series that has been dominated of late by the stadium of choice. The home team has won 11 of the last 12.
By comparison, the Tigers have gone to Alabama and won five of the last six visits to Bryant-Denny Stadium in that same time frame.
Head coach Les Miles is 3-1 in Tuscaloosa, but 1-2 when visiting the so-called “Loveliest Village on the Plains.”
But if the place has gotten in Miles’ head, he wasn’t letting on this week.
“We’re looking forward to going on the road,” said Miles. “It’s a great, great venue.”
The No. 2-ranked Tigers (3-0) did the usual this week, pumping in loud music for their practices to simulate the decibels they can expect for their offensive chores tonight.
But Miles also said it’s not gimmicks that has allowed the Tigers to win nine of their last 11 true road trips.
“I think road games are an extension of the team,” Miles said. “If there’s a strong personality, those teams that are very good teams play good on the road. It’s the same 100 yards, just a different stadium.”
The familiar turf might be the only advantage for Auburn. On paper, it looks like a mismatch for the unbeaten visiting Tigers against the 1-2 (0-1 SEC) home Tigers. Auburn needed overtime to escape with a 31-28 victory over Louisiana-Monroe last week while LSU was destroying Idaho 63-14 even though a handful of ailing regulars were rested or saw limited action.
“I think they’re a very sound and solid club,” Miles said. “I think they’re playing real quality defense. We’ve played some real quality Auburn defenses in the past. I suspect this will be one.”
He’s just being nice to a 20 1/2-point underdog. Or trying to keep his team from walking into a trap.
In reality — Mettenberger aside — LSU’s vaunted power running game that leads the SEC at 269.3 yards per game, will go against an Auburn defense that is last in the league against the run at 217 yards per game.
Offensively, Auburn hasn’t been much better, last in the SEC in scoring (20 ppg), last in passing and a mere ninth in passing (160.7 ypg).
But Miles has been here before — and won only once.
“Every SEC team is good.” Miles said. “We have to prepare our mind-set to do great. They could bounce back. They’re in their home stadium. They’re going to be fight. It’s going to be a battle we’ve got to be ready for.”
Mettenberger knows what to expect.
“A lot of name-calling coming my way, a lot of boos,” he said. “Normal stuff.”
He didn’t seem too intimidated.