Auburn and LSU want victory and top of SEC West

Updated: October 23, 2003, 4:17 PM ET

BATON ROUGE, La. -- When No. 9 LSU and No. 17 Auburn square off Saturday night they can be sure of one thing -- the winner has the inside track toward the Southeastern Conference West division title.

"To call it a championship game would be a stretch, because there are still so many games left," said LSU quarterback Matt Mauck. "But this will be the first real big test in the Western Division, so it will be a real big game for us."

Auburn (5-2, 4-0), after opening the season with two losses, is in first place in the division.

Beating LSU (6-1,3-1) would also give Auburn the edge in a tiebreaker if needed.

"You couldn't really ask for anything better," said Auburn defensive tackle Spencer Johnson. "We're in a good position and we're going to a place where a lot of football has been played. It's going to be a task for us to see how far we've come as a football team."

There is no secret about what each team will try to do.

During its five-game winning streak, Auburn has had success running the football. In the five victories Auburn rushed for 266.6 yards per game. It had only 83 combined in the first two.

The Auburn running game is led by Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, who gained 161 yards and six touchdowns against Mississippi State last week. He is third in the SEC at 101.9 rushing yards per game.

When Williams needs a rest Auburn can bring in Ronnie Brown, who rushed for 95 yards and two touchdowns against LSU last season. He has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury. Behind him is 256-pound Brandon Jacobs, who had 182 yards against Mississippi State.

"They are going to run it right at us and we're going to run right into them and see who wins," said LSU linebacker Jason LeDoux. "We look forward to it. This is what defensive players look forward to. The game's opened up too much. The old-school guys would appreciate this. Auburn is coming in to try and be traditional."

Auburn will be facing the No. 1 defense in the nation against the run and the top scoring defense.

Through seven games LSU's defense has not allowed an opponent to reach 100 yards rushing. LSU is giving up just 53.3 yards per game on the ground, an average of 1.9 per carry.

LSU has allowed just two rushing touchdowns this season and none since the second game of the season. The most any team has rushed for against LSU is 97 yards on 31 carries by Georgia in a 17-10 loss.

"I'm pretty sure that we're going to have to throw the ball to move the sticks," said Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell. "They're going to put eight or nine people in the box and make us throw the ball."

Run or pass, LSU expects to play one of the most physical games of the season against Auburn.

It should also be a good game the players said. There's a lot on the line -- pride, rankings, and control of the SEC West.

"If they gain a lot of yards on us we're going to drop out of first," said LSU defensive end Marquise Hill. "If we stop them they're going to drop. This is a game of good players coming together. That's what makes it so exciting."

This story is from's automated news wire. Wire index