Auburn waits while Ivan rolls through
Auburn athletic director David Housel stuck to his plan of waiting until Friday morning to assess the viability of holding the game between the 15th-ranked Tigers and No. 4 LSU. However, as the thrust of Hurricane Ivan plowed north, 75 miles or so west of Auburn, on Thursday, it appeared that the campus escaped the worst.
"We're sitting here watching it rain and the wind blow hard," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said Thursday afternoon from the Auburn athletic building. Tuberville, his staff and their families hunkered down there. The younger kids carried on with a mean game of tag in the building's halls, while the older kids played Texas Hold 'Em. Tuberville sat in on a couple of hands.
Auburn held team meetings at the conference center Thursday morning, and then, like the rest of the state, began to wait for the storm to pass. Alabama, where classes were canceled as well, took a more direct hit from the storm. The Tide held an indoor walk-through Thursday in anticipation of its home game against I-AA Western Carolina on Saturday night.
Schools throughout the Southeast were affected, with at least two games (Cal at Southern Mississippi on Thursday night and Louisville at Tulane on Saturday) being postponed, most likely until December. At Mississippi State, afternoon classes were canceled and the team practiced indoors. The Bulldogs play host to I-AA Maine on Saturday.
A boggy Jordan-Hare Stadium will make the Auburn-LSU game an interesting one, because both teams will need their running games to be effective. Auburn needs tailback Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown to keep the chains moving, mainly to keep its young defense off the field.
LSU needs its collection of talented running backs to take the load off of its quarterbacks -- fifth-year senior Marcus Randall and the talented but inexperienced redshirt freshman, JaMarcus Russell. Randall made his first start on the road at Auburn two years ago, replacing injured Matt Mauck. Randall threw four interceptions, and Auburn won 31-7.
Auburn's offense has become a hybrid of sorts. Coordinator Al Borges has installed a West Coast passing attack, but the bread and butter plays of the ground game are similar to last season's. The Tigers' offense was humiliated in last season's defeat at LSU.
The difference, Auburn hopes, is that its veteran offensive line, as quick as any in the SEC, can hold its own against an LSU defensive line that is one of the best in the nation. Tuberville calls his O-line "the best we've had" in his six seasons at Auburn.
Auburn also figures that Campbell will be able to make a play or two. The game, and how happy Tuberville will be Saturday on his 50th birthday, likely will ride on whether that is true.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your question/comments to Ivan at email@example.com. Your e-mail could be answered in a future Maisel E-mails.