During the 2019 football season, The Villager will run comments from a focus group on results of the previous Auburn University game and a prognostication for the upcoming game. We’ve collectively labeled the group, Panel of Wanna-Be Experts, or POWE! for short.

Here are the panel's comments for the Tigers' road showdown against LSU on Saturday:



Coming off a disappointing mistake-filled loss at The Swamp, auburn, with an extra week to prepare, bounced back nicely with a big win at woeful Arkansas.

But the now No. 9 Tigers return to big-boy football Saturday against unbeaten No. 2 LSU, which may be the best team in the nation.

LSU opened as a 12.5-point favorite. 

Things to like about Auburn's chances against the Bayou Bengals:

– Starting with Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson, the Tigers may have the best defensive line in the country. 

– Bo Nix, after an uneven first half against the Razorbacks, Nix regained his touch on his downfield passes, throwing for three touchdowns. 

– Led by the ever-reliable Seth Williams and Anthony Schwartz, five Tigers caught passes from Nix. 

– Even without Boobee Whitlow, eight other Tigers combined to pile up nearly 300 yards rushing — more than Arkansas' total offense. 

– LSU's defense is not quite as salty as it's been most years. 

Things to like about LSU's chances:

– Tiger Stadium. The Tigers haven't won at (the real) Death Valley since Tommy Tuberville's first year at Auburn. For those counting, that's 20 years, or before Bo Nix was born. 

– Odd things happen to Auburn at Tiger Stadium, like a phantom whistle, five missed field goals, LSU's winning 22-yard TD pass with one second left in the game, and blowing a 20-0 lead. 

– Joe Burrow, Joe Burrow, Joe Burrow. Just say he isn't the same quarterback he was in LSU's narrow win at Auburn in 2018. 

Auburn has to break a 20-year losing streak at some point, and the Tiger defense should bother Burrow more than any he's seen this year. 

But like Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Nix will encounter another loud, possibly more hostile, crowd at Tiger Stadium. 

The question is can the Auburn offense keep up with the high-flying LSU offense led by Heisman candidate Burrow?

Not likely. 

Make it 21 years in a row that LSU extends Auburn's misery in Red Stick. 

LSU 34, Auburn 20. 

Bob Lowry, retired political reporter for United Press International, and three daily newspapers



Last Saturday’s win in Fayetteville was a great victory. It was just what we needed to get over the Gator loss. We scored early and led the rest of the game. We had a bad second quarter on offense with too many three-and-outs. We have to be consistent on offense to stay with good teams. We have to continue to work on our third and short yardage plays. 

I did like what I saw with some of our young players. Gatewood got to play the last 11 minutes of the game, which he needed. Our two young running backs, Williams and Joiner, showed some needed potential to help out until Whitlow gets back and for the future. I can’t say enough about our defense.

Now on to Baton Rouge with a huge challenge ahead of us. This is a place where we haven’t won in 20 years. Most of you older fans know we didn’t play LSU on a regular basis until we went to two divisions in the SEC in 1992. We have really started a good rivalry series with LSU. Some call it the Tiger Bowl. There have  been many historical games. The famous Auburn–LSU games are the Earthquake game, the passing game, the burning barn game, the cigar game, and the hot seat game.

The last time we won at LSU was Tommy Tuberville’s first year as Auburn’s head coach. Tubbs wanted to start a new tradition by lighting up a stogie after a victory over LSU. Never think this game will be business as usual. It will be different and unique.

The Auburn–LSU game this year matches two top-10 teams with a lot riding on the outcome. LSU is hitting on all cylinders on offense. Joe Burrow is lighting up the scoreboard with his superb passing skills. Normally, LSU has a great defense but struggles on offense. Not this year. Burrow is very comfortable running their offense and effective. He hasn’t faced a defense like the Auburn Tigers. No other team has put consistent pressure on Burrow. We have to put pressure on Burrow all afternoon. I say again, WE HAVE TO PUT PRESSURE ON BURROW ALL AFTERNOON. We have to get him out of rhythm and make him uncomfortable.

Our offense has to score early and often. No matter how good our defense plays, LSU will score. We can’t afford to get behind early. If we win the coin toss, take the football. Nix needs to have a good game and offensive line a great game. We have to be physical on both sides of the ball. Gus needs to have an unpredictable game plan. At times during the Florida game, it seemed they knew what we were going to run before we snapped the ball. Have at least three package plays for Gatewood. Get him in the game. We can’t win against LSU with unnecessary penalties and turnovers. We have to play smart football. If we win the time of possession on offense, we win the game. They can’t score with Burrow on the sidelines.

It will be difficult for us to get good calls by our officials in Death Valley. SEC and CBS want an undefeated match up in November between Bammer and LSU. We can spoil all that with a victory. Again, we have to play physical, forcing turnovers, and sack the QB. We can win an ugly game with turnovers, sacks, blocked punts and a defensive score. 

I think our Auburn Tigers want this victory more than the Bengal Tigers. In an ugly game: Auburn 21, LSU 17.

Wendell McLain, Auburn retired brigadier general, Alabama National Guard



An entire generation has come of age since No. 9 Auburn last defeated No. 2 LSU in Baton Rouge. This year’s game may be even challenging than our last nine attempts in Death Valley with their HeisMoon candidate quarterback Joe Burrow, who in just seven games has broken the LSU season record for passing touchdowns at 29, leading the charge. Burrow's excellent passing (21 of 24 for 293 yards against No. 7 Florida) enables their offense also to get hefty gains from their running backs (24 rushes for 221 yards against Florida). This deadly one-two punch has led to LSU’s producing one of the most balanced offensive attacks in all of college football. It’s no surprise that they are ranked No. 2 in the country.

Auburn is coming off of a big 51-10 win against Arkansas. Although we have a veteran, first class defense, our offense has shown cracks, especially against Florida in Gainesville. In The Swamp, Bo Nix proved that he was not Superman, as many had thought after his dramatic come from behind win against Oregon in the season-opener. Uncharacteristically, he threw three interceptions and our offensive line failed to protect him as it should, resulting in one particularly costly sack when we were close to taking the lead. In that game, the Gators, despite their four turnovers, were on such an emotional high that it would have been difficult for most opponents to spoil the Florida Homecoming in Gainesville that afternoon. 

Last Saturday, following a much-needed bye week, our Tigers claimed a convincing win in Fayetteville. I was pleased to see Anthony Schwartz and several others who hadn’t been in recent highlight reels make some impressive plays. However, after getting off to a quick start as we had also done in College Station and Starkville, we then lapsed into a 36 minute lull where we only scored one field goal before charging ahead with 34 points in the last 20 minutes of play. We can’t afford to do that in Death Valley.

One good thing about this Saturday’s game is that we don’t have to play the Bengal Tigers at night when their partisan crowd is particularly boisterous, making it even more difficult to call plays and to hear the snap count. Orgeron has done an exceptional job in running his team over the past three years and his assistant coaches all seem to be in tune and capable of devising plays that make the Bayou Bengals a real menace. They are definitely not paper tigers.

That said, Auburn has the opportunity to pull off what might be the biggest upset of Malzahn’s career as an Auburn head coach. None of the experts will pick us to win but if we put together a near perfect game, we could accomplish the unexpected. The Green Dog blitzes that Mississippi State used against LSU were pretty effective on LSU’s first three trips into the Bulldogs’ red zone, limiting them to three field goals. Our defense might take a page from State’s playbook and do the same.

We are 11-point underdogs, but I think we will cover the spread and, with a whole lot of luck, allow our guys to come away with a W in Baton Rouge for the first time since 1999, when my son John was an Auburn student and his AHS classmate Marcus Washington was on the team. I’m going against the odds and hoping that Auburn can pull off a 27 to 24 victory. 

Betty Burgess, retired English teacher, Auburn grad and lifelong Auburn fan



Auburn, this week, looked more prepared and ready than their previous two or three games. And they utilized their faster running backs and receivers to put points on the board. About 300 yards running and 200 passing looks great, but we were not playing a LSU or Bama type team. And my wife and I didn’t even know we were in the lead with the most consecutive extra points and broke the record. I thought both Kam Martin and the freshman, D.J. Williams, played well. 

And we approach the hardest, most difficult part of our schedule and it may be the most difficult in the country. LSU, UGA and Bama. 

I haven’t been to Tiger Stadium since probably college, years ago. It was very loud and very rowdy. It is a very difficult place to play. If we play like we did this past Saturday, we can win. But as I have written all fall, we have to be fast-paced and balanced. 

The coaches can’t put all the pressure on Nix, or all the pressure on the running game. They must be balanced, fast-paced and give Nix time to pass. If we do, Auburn can be competitive with anyone, even almighty Bama. 

I think we will be clicking as long as the noise doesn’t disrupt us. I think we will pull a major upset and beat LSU in Tiger Stadium 28-24.

James Sprayberry, local attorney and longtime Auburn season ticket holder



Auburn once again finds itself in the weekend's marquee matchup — this time facing the LSU Tigers. This tilt marks only the fifth time in this series that both teams come into the game ranked in the top 10.

The 2019 version of the Bayou Bengals features the conference’s top offense, averaging a blistering 52 points per game. LSU has been held under 42 points just once this season and Auburn has not allowed a team to score more than 24, so something will have to give Saturday afternoon. Auburn has shown that it can handle even the best running attack, so defensive success will rise and fall on the ability to limit the big plays against the nation’s number two passing offense. The Auburn defense will have its hands full down in Death Valley, but Kevin Steele and company will no doubt be up to the challenge.

As for the Tiger offense, Auburn must run the football. Running the ball controls the clock, limits LSU’s possessions and takes the crowd out of the game. Auburn runs the ball more than any team in the conference and Malzahn-coached Auburn teams are 35-1 when they rush for over 250 yards. The message is clear: run the football, win the game.

Auburn has not won in Red Stick since 1999 and in the last 20 years Auburn has only beaten the Great Value Tigers eight times. Everything points to an LSU victory. However, the trip to the Swamp has given Auburn a taste of what to expect and I believe that experience will pay dividends. Nix will be composed and the coaches will put the offense in better situations with regard to play-calling. Auburn needs a quick start and I have a feeling that is what we will see this week. Daniel Carlson kicks the game winner as Auburn wins 30-28.

Brandon Hughes, Lee County

district attorney



Well how about that! Apparently, a week off was just the thing for the DDC as the visit to Fayetteville resulted in a 51-point outburst against the red hawgs. 

I and my fellow POWE members ended up kinda light on our AU point predictions. I feel comfortable in offering that we were all glad to be wrong in that regard! 

The Tiger defense posted another stellar effort, and the offense sputtered only slightly before hitting the gears and pulling away. At the risk of emulating Captain Obvious , our defense is not too shabby. 

That is a good thing because it is going to take a superb effort by a great defense to be successful this coming weekend. Folks, we are in for a real cat fight. 

One thing I think is worth mentioning. Seems that all the talk is about the LSU –UAT matchup down the road. It appears that this weekend’s game is just a pesky necessity in the preparation for the contest down the road. I hope the Baton Rouge guys feel that way. Overlooking an opponent can result in bad consequences. I imagine Coach “O” will work on that issue. 

Speaking of him, it’s hard not to like him. I think he may be the only coach that requires a translator.  One thing you can bet the house on is that the ’shu folks are going to be tailgate cooking every Cajun dish known to modern man and then packing about 92,000 gold wearing (this is LSU designated Gold game), foaming at the mouth, ethyl alcohol infused bayou dwellers looking for a home team beat down of the visiting hapless victims. 

Other than that, this should be a piece of cake. Tip for AU fans going to the game: If you are confronted with a gold-and-purple attired individual who visibly presents with what appears to be symptoms of rabies incessantly screaming “Go Tigers!"  — don’t be alarmed, just back away slowly with no sudden movements. 

One break in our favor is that this is an afternoon as opposed to night game. Night games add about 4 to 5 points to the spread in Vegas. Auburn is going in as the underdog . . . er, undertiger by about 13 points. I always like for us to be picked as the down dog. Those of you who have been AU faithful for many years know that we usually relish and play better when we are counted out. No matter the outcome, we are a defiant family! 

Anyway, our offense will need to play their best game of the year — nothing else will do this time. If we get some throws on target to our burners along with some solid ball-toting by our backs du jour, we have a shot at leaving North Stadium Drive, 70803, with a “W” against a very scary good LSU team. 

It will take a solid performance by our goal keepers to slow down those 50-point-a-game guys. The football experts are all predicting an Auburn loss. I’m not a football expert. AU 27,  LSU 26.

Jay Jones, Lee County sheriff



We did what we were supposed to against an inferior Arkansas team this past weekend, although the second quarter offensive lull was a bit concerning. 

Obviously, we can’t do that against LSU. Our Tigers broke out of that lull in the second half with a plethora of points. Our defense was down-right nasty. 

Now comes the big test in what most believe is the most impressive team in the country right now — LSU at their home stadium in Baton Rouge. 

I have a lot of memories at the stadium, albeit most of them bad. I was there for the famous “earthquake game" in which LSU quarterback Tommy Hodson limped off the bench and threw the winning TD with 1;47 left in the game to win 7-6, costing Auburn a likely National Championship matchup with Notre Dame. It was indeed deafening. 

And who can forget the 2017 game there when we roared out to a 20–0 lead only to lose 27-23. Hard to imagine it was 20 years ago in 1999 that we won there 41-7. LSU leads the series 30-22-1. 

The game with Florida exposed us badly. Hopefully, we have adjusted those shortcomings. Ball distribution looks much better and new running backs have emerged with production. Placing the ball into playmakers hands such as Anthony Schwartz has improved. Our defense is impressive, and hopefully Nick Coe will return this week. 

LSU quarterback Joe Burrows is the real deal with an impressive 79 percent completion rate. Our DBs have to be ready, disciplined and look to become receivers. We seem to have trouble with the short 10-yard slants. LSU's defense is a gauntlet but have they played a team like Auburn? I don’t think so. 

The pundits have already declared the LSU/Bama game in two weeks as the "game of the century." I think that gives our Tigers an attitude as they feel overlooked. I think our defense will give their offense big problems. 

If our offense can keep its head and execute, and the play-calling is not predictable, I think we can win this game. We need to get off to a fast start and be in it during the fourth quarter in an atmosphere that can best be described as rowdy, hostile and downright — zany! 

I think our Tigers grow up this game. For that reason, I’m going Auburn 29, LSU 27.

Barry Mask, Auburn's first "Friend of Aubie," director of marketing for River Bank & Trust

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