If it wasn't all clear to us before, it is now. There are more teams to worry about on LSU's schedule besides the Alabama Crimson Tide. Just the idea of Auburn being a challenge to the Tigers before Saturday night's contest seemed to anger some of you in the Twitter universe. Well, we see how that turned out.
Gene Chizik's club was indeed hungry, desperate and played like a team that had absolutely nothing to lose. The Jordan-Hare Stadium crowd also seemed to play a big factor in the game and rattled LSU at times. Auburn, a 20-point underdog, was simply one big completion and field goal away from pulling off a shocking upset in the final moments. But in the end, Tharold Simon's interception of Kiehl Frazier just before the gun "secured victory" and LSU escaped with a 12-10 heart-stopper.
LSU has recently had a hard time scoring touchdowns at Auburn (Lost 10-9 in 2004, 7-3 in 2006, 24-17 in 2010) and again only reached the end zone once Saturday. So, let's give credit to the rivalry and Chizik's Tigers, who had a great game plan and rebounded tremendously from a morbid start in the game. But, Miles and his staff certainly know LSU has harder hitting heavyweights around the corner, including three straight SEC opponents in October.
Yes, I know Towson is up next for Saturday night and you should always respect your opponent. However, the days of telling tales of Miami of Ohio's 1986 upset of LSU and getting everyone worried are clearly over. Miles not only doesn't lose non-conference affairs, he's blasted the likes of Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, West Virginia and Ohio State. So, we're guessing the chances of losing to a team whose last two games were against William & Mary and a team called St. Francis from Pennsylvania are relatively small.
The Oct. 6 trip to Gainesville is now looming very large. Nick Saban disciple Will Muschamp has fought off the doubting vultures for the moment and has his No. 11 Florida Gators 4-0 after Saturday's 38-0 crushing of listless Kentucky. As Auburn remembered its 45-10 skunking at the hands of LSU last year, the Gators likewise haven't forgotten their 41-11 Baton Rouge nightmare from last October. Muschamp has the opportunity to earn what would easily be the biggest win of his young Florida career and likewise win over the skeptics that remain. Don't worry. "The Swamp" should easily be louder than Jordan-Hare, with an atmosphere rivaling the glory days of Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer.
Speaking of Spurrier, "The Ole Ball Coach" brings his No. 6 South Carolina Gamecocks to Tiger Stadium the following weekend, on Oct. 13. Spurrier hasn't defeated a ranked opponent yet this year, but has a very talented club capable of the task. Let's not forget, many give Spurrier credit for finding the first noticeable weaknesses in LSU's defense during the Tigers 2007 national championship run. The Gamecocks lost 28-16 in Baton Rouge, yet moved the ball well during the second half of that affair. Critics said that gave helpful tips to Kentucky and Arkansas, who both defeated LSU in high-scoring affairs later that season. Spurrier can still coach and is likewise capable of his trademark snarly line or two during game week. This should be great sports theater.
And while Texas A&M isn't ranked and was blasted by LSU 41-24 in the 2010 Cotton Bowl, the Aggies possess one of the greatest venues in all of sports. Kyle Field will be awaiting the Tigers on Oct. 20 with its kissing coeds and frightening cannon. It will be LSU's first trip to College Station since 1995, Gerry Dinardo's debut as the Tigers' head coach.
So, will Miles be able to navigate his team through that murderous October? The coach's defense gives LSU the chance to beat anyone. However, his offensive line must protect quarterback Zach Mettenberger better and Mettenberger, likewise, must do a better job protecting the football. The downfield passing game needs development also, as evidenced by Odell Beckham's drop of what would have been a 38-yarder and a missed connection on another bomb to Russell Shepard in the end zone, both of which occurred in the second half against Auburn. The coach also grimaced when seeing nine penalties for 80 yards on that stat sheet. Some of the infractions were defendable, but others clearly weren't and hurt LSU tremendously.
So, after a cozy three-game start in Tiger Stadium against outmatched opponents, LSU now gets one more rent-a-win this week. After that, it's big boy football the rest of the way.
Oh, small reminder. No. 3 LSU hosts No. 1 Alabama on Nov. 3.
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