The Odd History of Auburn vs LSU

September 14, 2018 By Cameron Caldwell

Auburn defensive lineman Andrew Williams (79), Auburn defensive back Tray Matthews (28) and Auburn defensive back Jamel Dean (12) tackle LSU’s Derrius Guice on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2018 in Baton Rouge, LA.
Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics

When the Auburn Football schedule comes out each year, there’s three games that fans always circle on the calendar involving Alabama, Georgia, and LSU.

The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry and the Iron Bowl are always reserved for season’s end, while the LSU game is generally towards the beginning of Auburn’s schedule each year, which gives both sets of Tiger fans a true gauge of where their team stands in the mighty SEC. And though LSU hasn’t been as dominant the last couple years when compared to previous seasons in the past decade, the Bayou Bengals always have a talented roster and never back down from a good old-fashioned, SEC West bare-knuckle brawl.

This series is historically a physical and emotional one; hard-hitting and nail-biting contests have been a staple, and another one on Saturday would merely add to the list.

If you watch enough of these Tiger wars, you soon learn to always expect the unexpected. The LSU-Auburn game can be as quirky and unusual as Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras.

As much as we all want to dissect this week’s game and prime ourselves for the 2:30 pm kickoff on CBS, today we will dive into the history of the LSU-Auburn series, specifically from the 1980s till now.

The last few decades have been filled with ups and downs for both teams, which is why we love this sport. You truly never know what might happen on any given Saturday in college football.

1980s

The ’80s were very different for both programs. For Auburn, it didn’t take new coach Pat Dye very long before he brought sustained success to The Plains. Auburn had a winning record from 1982-1990, averaging 9.3 wins a season.

The Tigers not only won a lot of games in the ’80s, they also won 4 SEC Championships. Needless to say, Auburn was the best team in the Southeastern Conference during the decade when Members Only jackets were fashionable.

As mentioned, this period in time was not the same for both teams. LSU didn’t share the same amount of success as Auburn during the 1980s after suffering through three years with a losing record and only recording three seasons where the Bayou Bengals achieved at least nine wins.

A carousel of coaches also roamed the sidelines in Baton Rouge — Jerry Stovall, Bill Arnsparger, and Mike Archer each were the LSU head coach at some point in the 80s.

And you can’t talk about the Auburn-LSU rivalry in that decade without mentioning the “Earthquake Game” in 1988. With less than two minutes remaining in the game, LSU quarterback Tommy Hodson found Eddie Fuller for a touchdown in the back of the end zone to help the Bayou Bengals upset No. 4 Auburn, 7-6, prompting a hellacious roar from the Death Valley crowd, which registered as an earthquake according to a seismograph stationed on LSU’s campus.

This was before the divisions were formed in 1992, so the two teams only met 4 times: 1980, 1981, 1988, and 1989.

The four contests were split with each team winning two games on their home field. These games weren’t blowouts — 3 of the 4 clashes were decided by four points or less. And though Auburn was the more overall successful program in the 80s, in their four head-to-head meetings, the pair split the series with the home team winning every game.

1990s

When the SEC split into Eastern and Western divisions in 1992, the rivalry took off because of the two teams’ placement in the same division. Since that moment, LSU and Auburn have met every single season.

Speaking of the ’90s, the Auburn football program was in a state of flux during this decade.

Pat Dye resigned over an NCAA scandal. Terry Bowden was later hired to replace him. The year of 1993 brought a probation-stricken undefeated 11-0 season in Bowden’s first year, but a few years later saw Bowden quit during the middle of the 1998 season before Tiger defensive coordinator Bill “Brother” Oliver took over as Auburn’s interim head coach to finish out the year.

Inconsistency plagued Auburn in the 90s, but the Plainsmen still managed to go 5-3 against the Bayou Bengals in the decade.

1994 contains one of the most astonishing comebacks of all time after LSU threw three “pick six” interceptions in the 4th quarter alone, which ultimately allowed Auburn to come back at home for the win. It has been immortalized as “The Interception Game.”

The game dubbed “The Cigar Game” occurred in 1999 when No. 24 Auburn won 41-7 at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, which marks the last time an Auburn football team escaped with a victory in Red Stick.

After the game, Auburn players celebrated in the locker room and on LSU’s home field with victory cigars.

It has now been almost twenty years since Auburn won in Death Valley and some fans on The Plains feel that Auburn may have cursed themselves after celebrating with cigars on LSU’s home field.

2000s

Moving on into the 21st Century, a trend really started to take place and it is one that still shows up frequently in the rivalry between Auburn and LSU.

From 2000 to 2007, the home team won each game. Since 2000, Auburn has played LSU in its home venue of Jordan-Hare Stadium 9 times, and the good guys have won 7 of those 9.

The two losses came in 2008 and 2012, which are the only two losing seasons Auburn has had in that time span.

Both Auburn and LSU had quality teams during the 2000s, especially from 2000 to 2005 when either Auburn or LSU won or tied for the SEC Western Division Championship every season.

In 2004, the year Auburn won the SEC and was cheated out of a BCS Championship Game appearance, they beat LSU at home, 10-9 in one of the all-time great games in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

In that game, defending national champion and 4th ranked LSU came into The Loveliest Village on The Plains with a stingy defense and victory on their minds. In the way stood one of the best defenses in the history of Auburn, along with offensive stars like Ronnie Brown, Cadillac Williams, Jason Campbell, and Courtney Taylor.

In fact, it was Campbell’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Taylor with just 1:14 left in the 4th quarter that was ultimately the game winning score.

Shockingly, Auburn kicker John Vaughn missed the extra point attempt, but a flag gave him another shot. He hit the next one to defeat the Nick Saban led Tigers, 10-9.

There has only been one overtime game in this series (2005 when LSU won 20-17), but the 2000’s have brought multiple instant classics and thrillers.

2006 saw the lowest score in the rivalry’s history since 1972, as #3 Auburn beat #6 LSU 7-3. JaMarcus Russell threw a pass to Early Doucet on 4th down with under 3 minutes to go, and defensive back Zach Gilbert was called for pass interference. Immediately, the flag was picked up and waved off and Auburn took over on downs to win.

The years 2000-2009 were pretty even from a win/loss standpoint, but LSU did hold the upper hand in the head-to-head series record, 6-4. Both teams saw success, which meant the rivalry heated up on several occasions as it was forming into a nationally known contest as the decade turned.

2010s

When 2010 came around, Auburn had hired head coach Gene Chizik prior to 2009 and were still trying to establish an identity. LSU on the other hand, had a seasoned head coach in Les Miles and its fans were excited about the direction of the program.

As you already know, Cam Newton came to Auburn and made them an instant contender. LSU was riding a strong defense as it rotated Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee at quarterback.

The Tigers from The Plains entered the game ranked No. 4 while LSU was tabbed as the No. 6 team in the country. Auburn won the thriller, 24-17 after new Tiger quarterback Cam Newton showcased his skills to the country in his “Heisman moment” that would ultimately help solidify him as college football’s most valuable player and Auburn’s third Heisman winner. Newton pounded LSU with 217 yards on the ground along with two touchdowns, but the defining play of the game is one that will be remembered by Auburn fans for generations to come.

While the 2010 game was a thing of beauty for Auburn fans, LSU actually won the next three matchups and ironically, the most competitive game of those three contests was in 2012 when LSU won, 12-10 in a season where Auburn finished with a mind-numbing 3-9 record.

In 2013, Auburn won the SEC and earned a trip to the BCS National Championship game. But before that, they made a trip to Death Valley and lost, 35-21 in an absolute monsoon.

Before the SEC West showdown, Auburn was in search of its identity, but arguably discovered it that very evening and went onto win the rest of its regular season games including knocking off Missouri in the SEC Championship in Atlanta.

The Tigers got their revenge against LSU in 2014, demolishing the Bayou Bengals, 41-7 in the friendly confines of Jordan-Hare. Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall threw for 207 yards and 2 touchdowns and ran for 119 yards and another 2 scores. The 34-point margin of victory tied Auburn’s 1999 win over LSU for the largest margin of victory for Auburn in the storied rivalry.

While the 2014 contest was never really close, the same can be said of LSU’s 45-21 victory over Auburn the following season in 2015.

Fournette and his Tigers ran for 411 yards and looked unstoppable. In my opinion, this is the game where Ellis Johnson was fired before he was actually fired. This is the worst defensive performance I have ever seen from an Auburn team.

One of the more unusual games happened in 2016. Daniel Carlson kicked 6 field goals and Auburn won 18-13. LSU scored a touchdown on the last play of the game to win, but the play was reviewed, which showed that time ran off the clock before LSU could manage to get the snap off, preserving victory for the Tigers from The Plains.

LSU and Auburn’s 2016 matchup was tabbed as the “Loser Leaves Town” game as the media predicted the head coach on the losing end of the contest would ultimately be fired, and as fate would have it, the next day Les Miles was shown the door.

In 2017, Auburn jumped out to a 20-point lead before turning uber-conservative on offense, which allowed LSU to come roaring back and win, 27-23. It was LSU’s biggest comeback ever in an SEC home game. However, just like in 2013, Auburn picked itself up off the floor and rallied to win out in the regular season and advance to the SEC Championship Game.

So, with all this history to go off of, there really is no telling what you’re going to see come Saturday. My guess is that it will fit in with all the other games mentioned here, and that things might get a bit weird.

But then again, this is one compelling stat that you may want to keep in mind before Saturday’s contest — the home team is 8-1 in the last 9 games of the series against the spread. Auburn currently is a 9 1/2 point favorite over LSU according to the wise guys in Vegas.

Skye Underwood contributed to this article.