By JOEL A. ERICKSON
Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer
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 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 Southeastern Conference) marches into Tiger Stadium 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 most likely will be out of action this week.
Cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, who has forced six turnovers this season and returned two fumble recoveries for touchdown, running back Spencer Ware and defensive back Tharold Simon are all reportedly suspended.
“We’re really not paying a whole lot of attention to that,” Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said.
Moseley has been paying close attention to LSU’s aggressive secondary. Even without 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 a defense that has 13 sacks this season, he may be able to use their 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.