Posted: 12:10 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013
By Brandon Larrabee
With the value of LSU's win against TCU having long ago disappeared only two other cupcake stompings to show for the first part of 2013, the game against Auburn looked like the perfect opportunity for the Bayou Bengals to establish themselves as the cream of the SEC. An easy win would make it clear that LSU was the most complete team in the conference, especially after Alabama's game against Colorado State was far too competitive for far too long. A close win or, worse yet, a loss would send the message that LSU's early run was a sign of an easy start.
So did LSU pass its first test? Maybe. After all, it took less than 17 and a half minutes for the Bayou Bengals to establish a 21-0 lead on Auburn. Jeremy Hill ran for 183 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries. And while Zach Mettenberger didn't always look like an All-American candidate, his outing (14-of-22, 229 yards, a touchdown and an interception) was solid enough to give some hope that the LSU offense is potent enough to cause problems. In all, LSU gained 456 yards.
But there are also reasons to think that LSU's armor might have just as many dents as Alabama's. Auburn gained 437 yards against LSU's vaunted defense, which allowed the Orange and Blue Tigers to get back into the game and make it closer than it should have been in the final minutes. Nick Marshall wasn't particularly sharp (17-of-33, 224 yards, two interceptions), but Tre Mason ran for 132 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. Were it not for a debatable illegal touching call on an on-sides kick (which I thought the referees got right), Auburn would have had the ball in good field position down 14 points with 6:33 to go.
Which might tell us as much about Auburn as it does about LSU. After all, we can still only guess at the ceiling for the Orange and Blue Tigers until we see a bit more information. We know they're good enough to beat Washington State, Arkansas State and Mississippi State, but not good enough to beat LSU. There's quite a bit of room in that statement, and we might look back and see that it made perfect sense for LSU to "only" win this game by two touchdowns. And that might be a compliment to the Bayou Bengals. Or it might not.
Next week's game at Georgia will provide us some of the answers. A win in Athens against the Dawgs would cement the Bayou Bengals' place as the team to beat in the SEC. A loss could serve to reinforce the idea that LSU's early opponents made it look good, and it's time to hold off on the talk of conference and national titles. Saturday night's game probably told us something about one of these teams. Now, we just have to figure out which one it was.