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Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011

Auburn football: First career start for Tigers QB Clint Moseley comes at No. 1 LSU

- jerickson@ledger-enquirer.com
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AUBURN, Ala. -- Clint Moseley has been handed a task that left Florida’s Jacoby Brissett and Tennessee’s Matt Simms hanging their heads in frustration.

Moseley has to make the first start of his career against an LSU defense that feeds off of the big play.

“I know they’re probably going to be coming straight for me,” Moseley said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.”

A struggling Auburn offense faces its toughest test of the season this weekend. No. 19 Auburn (5-2, 3-1 SEC) marches into Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La., to take on No. 1 LSU (7-0, 4-0) and an aggressive defense that has forced 16 turnovers this season.

Moseley has to make plays against a defense ranked in the top 10 nationally in four major categories: total defense, rushing defense, scoring and pass efficiency.

“Their whole defense is just explosive and fast. They have so many guys that can run,” Auburn offensive line coach Jeff Grimes said. “They are making big hits and just killing people with turnovers.”

LSU’s most disruptive defender will most likely be out of action this week.

Cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, who has forced six turnovers this season and returned two fumble recoveries for touchdown, is suspended for the Auburn game after testing positive for synthetic marijuana, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune and several other media sources.

LSU coach Les Miles refused to confirm the report -- along with Mathieu, running back Spencer Ware and defensive back Tharold Simon are also reportedly suspended -- but never denied the suspensions.

“We’re really not paying a whole lot of attention to that,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said.

Moseley has been paying close attention to LSU’s aggressive secondary. Even without the services of Mathieu, LSU’s defensive backs can be dangerous.

Cornerback Morris Claiborne has picked off three passes this season, including a red-zone interception against Tennessee last week that Claiborne returned 89 yards to set up an LSU score.

Mistakes against LSU have been magnified by its offense’s miserly protection of the football. LSU has turned the ball over only three times all season.

“The timing has to be great,” Moseley said.

“They’re very aggressive, and they could hurt us. They could change the game with a pick-six.”

At the same time, an aggressive defense presents an opportunity for big plays.

As long as Moseley can stay upright against an LSU defense that has 13 sacks this season, he may be able to use its penchant for making plays in his favor.

Teams that gamble on the big play can get burned, although Brissett and Simms -- both quarterbacks making their first start against LSU -- largely failed to exploit LSU’s aggression.

“It can play into our favor,” Moseley said. “At the same time, we know we have to be very precise.”

Or LSU’s fourth-ranked defense will take advantage.

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