The LSU Tigers slogged through mud, rain and a surprisingly never say die Auburn team to rack up their first Southeastern Conference win Saturday night in Baton Rouge. The game featured an LSU squad predicted by most pundits to be down this year after losing an army to the NFL Draft and an Auburn squad and new coaching staff desperately trying to put the train back on the right tracks a couple years removed from BCS glory. LSU’s Tigers seemed at home in the muck capitalizing on Auburn miscues and imposing their will on their befuddled foes from the plains early and often. Running back sensation Jeremy Hill made a statement against Auburn rushing for 183 yards and three touchdowns as LSU jumped to a 21-0 early lead and really never looked back in front of a rain dowsed crowd that had dwindled to a few thousand diehards when the game concluded. A few takeaways from the game: Jeremy Hill is good–really good. The Tiger tailback seems to have found his way back into the good graces of Les Miles, and if he can navigate his way out of trouble off the field he could cause a lot of damage to LSU opponents on the field. He gives LSU an elite back to go along with a steady and deep — albeit not nearly as good as Hill — running back corps.
Zack Mettenberger threw his first pick of the year against a scrappy Auburn defense. Mettenberger, aside from the one miscue, was a very efficient game manager and made some pinpoint accurate throws to the LSU receiving corps led by perhaps the best combination in the country in Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. The combination of the NFL bound wide receivers, Cam Cameron and a new found Mettenberger confidence has given LSU a lethal balance on offense they haven’t seen in several seasons. The only thing Mettenberger can’t do is run very well and when Auburn was able to flush him from the pocket with pressure that usually meant good things for the War Eagles of Auburn. Les Miles and the Tigers from LSU must address a problem that is common with younger teams — focus and concentration. If there was a critique of the Tigers Saturday night it was the numerous false start penalties and mental breakdowns. After jumping on Auburn as they did LSU was content to simply run out the game, and once you lose that momentum it is difficult if not impossible to get it back. Les attempted to swing it back with a fake field goal, channeling back the Lesticles we all know and love, but at fourth-and-10 it wasn’t meant to be and Auburn tacked on a couple scores to make the game appear much closer than it really was.
A key for LSU as they approach Georgia and the rest of the SEC gauntlet of death will be how well the offensive line can protect Mettenberger and how Cam Cameron can dial up plays to offset Mettenberger’s less than stellar mobility. There were lots of questions answered on both sides the other night in Death Valley. Auburn has to be pleased with the fight they put up against what was a superior LSU squad in talent, athleticism and speed. The War Eagle faithful, despite the loss, have to be encouraged about the direction of the program with the Gus Bus driving full speed ahead. LSU has to shore up and continue improving on the defensive side of the ball, but the thing that sticks out about this year’s squad is the defense has a bit more room to make mistakes as the explosive Tiger offense can put up points in a hurry. In recent years that simply hasn’t been the case. As the Tigers get ready to travel to take on the Georgia Bulldogs for the first of their murder’s row of SEC showdown games the jury is still out on how good this LSU team can really be. Currently they have proven thy belong in the Top 5 in the country and will continue moving up with a victory in Athens this Saturday. One thing for certain is the young Tigers will be tested by what is arguably the most grueling schedule in the country. If they can come out unscathed the November meetings with Alabama and Johnny Football could be epic.