Auburn Football: Why LSU Will Be Tigers' Toughest Competition in 2013

Ian BergCorrespondent IFebruary 26, 2013

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 22:  Onterio McCalebb #23 of the Auburn Tigers scores a touchdown past Eric Reid #1 of the LSU Tigers at Jordan Hare Stadium on September 22, 2012 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Auburn Tigers are walking into the 2013 season with a lot of questions surrounding them. Gus Malzahn is entering his first year as the head coach, and the Tigers are coming off of a 3-9 season that saw the squad go winless in the SEC.

There is a lot of work that has to be done for the Tigers to be ready to play the big boys in the SEC, but by Week 4, all bets are off when Auburn travels to Baton Rouge to face-off against LSU.

The toughest game of the season lands in the Tigers' lap by the end of the first month, and there really isn’t much time for this program to catch its breath once the year begins.

A season-opening contest against Washington State should be won, as should a Week 2 game against Arkansas State. Week 3 brings Mississippi State to the Plains, and then the first road game of the season follows the Bulldogs.

While there aren’t any games in the first three weeks that should rattle the Tigers, there is no time for this program to rest, catch its balance or work out the kinks before a major game hits it in the chest.

LSU returns starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger and leading rusher Jeremy Hill. The Tigers also bring back a host of talent at receiver and arguably one of the most talented offensive lines in the country for 2013.

The Tigers' offense is set to push around Auburn’s defense, as the front seven was the biggest weakness for Auburn last year.

Auburn did sign some JUCO talent at linebacker and along the defensive line which should help shore up the front this year, but LSU is not the team to test new players against.

The Bayou Bengals also bring back a host of talent on defense as they return the best secondary in the SEC this fall. There are some gaps in experience at linebacker and along the defensive line, but overall this LSU defense is as good as any in recent memory.

The LSU faithful will welcome in an unsure Auburn unit even if the Tigers start the year at 3-0 heading into Death Valley. 

Gus Malzahn breeds confidence into his program, however, so they could play stronger than anyone expects.

No matter who wins the game or how well this Auburn program plays, this is the toughest contest on the 2013 schedule. A mid-October game against Texas A&M is also going to be a tough road trip, but Week 4 will be when the Tigers know if they can win big this fall.