Back for my annual breakdown of the game and the expected feedback I know I can count on from the regulars. So, with as much objectivity as I can muster, here goes ..... Offense QB - Cox versus Russell …… Russell is harder to bring down, and has a stronger arm ….. slight Advantage LSU. RB – Kenny Irons cashed two bills on LSU’s defense last season …. in Tiger Stadium. I’m betting Pellini hasn’t forgotten about that. Lester and Stewart are a strong accompaniment. Broussard and Vincent are both finally healthy ……. Advantage: Auburn. OL - LSU lost Niswanger, Whitworth, and Livings and are just now pulling this line back together. Auburn replaced 2 starters anchored by the best guard tandem in the conference ……. Slight Advantage: Auburn TE – LSU’s Zinger is a solid blocking TE but has not shown much in the way of receiving. AU counters with two dual-threats in Bennett and Trott ……. Slight Advantage: Auburn WR - LSU has , perhaps, the finest WR corps in the conference. The crew of Bowe, Davis, Doucet, and LaFell have size, speed, durability, and are each a threat to get YAC every time they touch. AU counters with Courtney Taylor, P-Rod, Guess, Smith, and Dunn. Serviceable, yes, but other than CT they are not as scary ……. Advantage: LSU Overall Offense : the OL gives a slight advantage to Auburn. Defense DL - the entire SEC coaching fraternity gave a collective applause when LSU lost Williams, Wroten, and Oliver from their DL. The bad news? The backups may be just as talented. Auburn’s DL went through a similar transition, but Thompson, Gunn, Groves, Browder, and Marks sure looked solid in the opener ….. Advantage: Even (too early still to lean one way or the other) LB - Highsmith is a stud, Beckwith and Sanders aren’t far behind, and the freshman Cutera is making his presence known. They are big and fast, but not a ton of experience. Auburn’s strength at LB may depend on suspensions, or lack thereof. Herring is a solid leader, but with limited experience in the position. Dede played well against Wazzu, but Johnson appeared suspect against the run. His side is LSU’s “strong side.” ……. Advantage : LSU Secondary : LSU’s Landry is a serious baler. Along with Daniels and Jackson, this is the SEC’s strongest and deepest secondary. Auburn’s D. Irons and Wilhite offer a better tandem of CB’s, but there is virtually no depth behind them with the absence of vetern CB Pitts. AU’s safeties are it’s weakest link on D ……. Advantage: LSU Overall Defense : Advantage LSU. Special Teams Kicking – LSU fans will laugh, but Vaugh finally has his stuff in a pile and he’s anxious to make amends. His range and accuracy have both improved considerably since last season. He’ll prove better than Jackson/David, IMHO ……. Advantage: Auburn Punting - no doubt, Jackson is good, but Bliss is the SEC’s bull-in-the-woods ……. Advantage : Auburn Returns - while AU’s Dunn performed admirably returning punts, Davis stole the show returning kicks and he’ll be a surprise to many in the conference this season. Likewise, Trindon Holliday is a speed merchant on a mission. He’s as dangerous as any returner in the conference every time he touches the football ….. Advantage – Even Overall Special Teams - slight Advantage : Auburn (Bliss provides the edge) Intangibles Playmakers - LSU’s top 3 are Landry (S), Highsmith (LB), and Russell (QB). Auburn’s top 3 are Irons (RB) , Cox (QB), and Herring (LB) Advantage: Even Home Field – Jordan-Hare will be loud & proud. Home edge has made a difference in the series ……. slight Advantage: Auburn Coaching - this presents numerous subplots than a Stephen king novel, since Fisher and Muschamp know each other so well. Normally this provides a slight edge to the defense, but I dunno in this case. Miles/Pelini/Fisher versus Tuberville/Borges/Muschamp …. All veterans, all successful, all are cagey. ……. Advantage : Even. Depth – with still another game to be played, the depth issue and overall team health is difficult to project. The advantage may very well go to the team that can rest more starters in their week 2 game. But clearly, the suspensions of Sears and Blackmon will be felt against such a strong opponent that knows how exploit a defensive weakness. Unless Blackmon can earn his way back in time …….. Advantage : LSU Overall Summary Advantage - the outcome of this game, a game that WILL determine the eventual SECW champ, will very likely come down to which Quarterback can gut-out a winning drive late in the game. One or two big plays will determine the outcome for all the marbles. Can John Vaughn redeem himself? IMO, the slight edge in Special teams will prove the winning difference ………. Very slight Advantage : Auburn My Pick: Auburn 23-20 in overtime.