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Wednesday, Jul. 14, 2010

Top 10 SEC football games to watch in 2010: No. 7 is LSU at Auburn

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The three-day bonanza that is SEC Media Days begins in Hoover, Ala., on July 21, ending the summer drought of football news.

In the 10 days leading up to the event, the Ledger-Enquirer will count down the top 10 SEC games to watch in 2010.

Date: Oct. 23

Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Ala.

Last meeting: LSU dominated Auburn 31-10 in Baton Rouge, holding the visiting Tigers to 193 yards of offense and keeping them out of the end zone until the final three seconds. LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson threw for a career-high 242 yards and two touchdowns and added another on the ground in the most lopsided game in the series since 2003.

Recent history: After trading victories throughout the early- and mid-2000’s in a string of classic games, LSU has emerged victorious in four of the last five meetings. In fact, the Bengal Tigers have beaten Auburn in three straight years for the first time since 1969-73.

What’s at stake: If any team is going to challenge Alabama for the Western Division crown, it’s going to have to win games like this. For Auburn, it’s the middle of a three-game stretch against division foes Arkansas and Ole Miss. For LSU, it’s the start of a second-half gauntlet that includes Alabama, Ole Miss and Arkansas. Neither team can afford to lose this game if it hopes to win the West.

Subplots: Despite the fact that Les Miles has won 51 games and a national championship in five years at LSU, there is a perception that the program is at a crossroads. The Tigers have gone 17-9 since winning the national championship in 2007, a slight but noticeable swoon since winning 34 games from 2005-07. Their trademark defense underachieved last year and their offense bottomed out. This could be a defining year, both for Jefferson as a quarterback and Miles as LSU’s coach going forward. Auburn, meanwhile, hopes to maintain its team-on-the-rise label. Although the Tigers showed promise in their first year under Gene Chizik, they still only improved by one game in conference play, finishing 3-5 and tying for last with Arkansas and Mississippi State. A win against a conference heavyweight like LSU could signal a changing of the guard and bump Auburn into contender status.

— Andy Bitter

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