October 22, 2011
LSU 45, Auburn 10.
Lord knows, LSU has always had talent. Frightening talent. But the Tigers have lived for so long as the kind of team that scrapes by for a living — more than half of their SEC wins from 2008 to 2010 came by a touchdown or less — surviving by whatever means necessary almost seemed to be part of the weekly gameplan. It took three fourth quarter comebacks to get this team to 11 wins last year. Hell, it took four fourth quarter comebacks for the 2007 team to make the BCS Championship Game, not to mention the two games it lost that season in overtime. Under Les Miles, that's how LSU rolls.
That's how it has rolled, anyway. Maybe it's the new offensive coordinator. Maybe it's a more experienced, mature lineup coming together as upperclassmen. Maybe it's a looser attitude from a more entrenched head coach. Maybe it's a combination of all of the above. But the Tigers flipped some kind of switch between the end of the 2010 season and the beginning of 2011. The result is an absolute nightmare.
And once again, the catalyst for nationwide tremors is the ongoing emergence of an offense that seemed to spend years keeping its blue-chip athletes as close to the vest as possible. No one is particularly surprised by the dominance on the other side: Today, the defense did exactly what it was expected to do to Auburn's first-time starting quarterback, Clint Moseley, sacking him six times and returning an interception for a touchdown in the third quarter, a series of scenes right out of the "Inexperienced Quarterback In a Tough Environment" script. Auburn punted or turned the ball over on eight of its first nine possessions.
By the time Ron Brooks hit paydirt on the pick-six, though, the extra padding hardly mattered. The offense had just turned in its fourth touchdown in as many possessions, the rout was old news and the home crowd was already calling for Alabama on the other side of the coming bye week.
With 45 points today, the Tigers have scored at least 35 in seven of their first eight games, a mark they hit just three times in 26 games in 2009-10 combined. With a pair of touchdown grabs covering 42 and 46 yards in the second quarter, Rueben Randle alone has more 40-plus-yard receptions (7) than the entire team had in 2010. As preposterous as it would have seemed at the beginning of the year, with three more scoring passes and no interceptions, senior quarterbacks Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson remain stewards of the most efficient passing game in the SEC. Overall, the offense has now gone five full games without a turnover.
At this point, "momentum" is irrelevant: Going into the most anticipated regular season game of this year or almost any other, LSU is legitimately dominant. It hasn't been anything less than dominant from the opening kickoff of opening night. Oregon, West Virginia, Florida, Tennessee, Auburn — all speed bumps en route to Tuscaloosa. If the stage for Nov. 5 was already set but for the hype, the Tigers played their role to the hilt.