LSU looked fantastic against former AP No. 13 Auburn on Saturday. The Tigers (2-0) ran past the other Tigers (2-1) compiling 485 total yards of offense on the way to a 45-21 statement win.
The game got off on the right foot for LSU fans with running back Leonard Fournette breaking off a 71-yard run to the Auburn 4-yard line setting up a Brandon Harris two-yard rushing score. Fournette filled the game with highlight runs rushing for a career-high 228 yards on 19 carries with three touchdowns.
The win sets LSU up to be 7-0, unfortunately not 8-0 after the McNeese State game was called due to weather, when Alabama comes to Death Valley on Nov. 7. There are plenty of positives pushing LSU towards a SEC West title run but what did we learn about the Tigers after their Week 3 matchup against Auburn?
The Texas A&M vs. Ole Miss game on Oct. 24 is the alignment setter. Whoever gets out of that game unscathed still has LSU left to contend with. The Tigers travel to Oxford, Miss., to face the Rebels on Nov. 21 followed by a home date with the Aggies on Nov. 28.
1. Leonard Fournette has a Legitimate Shot at the Heisman Trophy
LSU fans believed their true sophomore running back had a shot before the season started but results are needed on the field and Fournette is delivering. In two games he has 398 yards rushing yards, averaging 199 yards per contest with six touchdowns. If this amazing pace is kept up, Fournette will finish the season with 2,189 yards and roughly 33 rushing touchdowns.
Fournette’s numbers still might not be good enough for the Heisman hardware if he's held back in upcoming games. If he had the McNeese State game, and kept his 199 yards per game average. If LSU makes it to the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta, he seemed a good bet to surpass the 2,300-yard mark, or come very close to it. Factor in a potential two games should LSU make it (and advance) in the College Football Playoff, again at the same pace, and Fournette is looking at a possible 2,700-yard season. Trouble is the numbers are improbable.
Can he keep the pace? LSU has five very winnable games coming up (at Syracuse, vs. Eastern Michigan, at South Carolina, vs. Florida, and vs. Western Kentucky). The Tigers get back into the meat of their SEC West schedule in November with games at Alabama, vs. Arkansas, at Ole Miss, and vs. Texas A&M. How much will head coach Les Miles push Fournette if LSU is up big during the five-game stretch?
College Football Podcast: Week 3 Recap and Analysis
2. LSU’s Defense is Shaping Up
Auburn, while looking like a team in disarray entering this game, certainly did not find its identity in Death Valley. If anything, being held to 260 yards of total offense, including just 100 yards rushing, only adds to the question marks surrounding Gus Malzahn's team. However, LSU deserves a lot of credit for how well it played defense played on Saturday.
The final score was not indicative of how well the Tigers held Malzahn's touted offense in check. Auburn didn't score until its opening drive of the third quarter when quarterback Jeremy Johnson surprised everyone with a 65-yard touchdown run. As mentioned, Auburn had just 100 yards on the ground and Johnson’s run comprised the bulk of it. Johnson was sacked five times, leaving him a net total of 41 yards rushing for the game.
LSU’s secondary kept everything in front, with the longest pass of the day for Auburn covering only 20 yards. Potential All-American receiver D'haquille Williams was not a part of the game until the fourth quarter when the outcome was already decided. Williams had two receptions for 19 yards with a meaningless score midway through the fourth quarter.
3. LSU has a Great Shot at Winning the SEC West
As the Tigers rose to the occasion on Saturday, many of their conference members fell apart. Already with two SEC West wins under their belt, the Tigers can sit back and watch Alabama, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Auburn and Arkansas slug it out for spots along the pecking pole.
The natural Week 3 attrition shows Ole Miss, Texas A&M and LSU appear to be the contenders in the SEC West. There are a lot of games left to be played for a team or two to slip, but a path is starting to show. Arkansas is too young and still rebuilding but still could be dangerous in the second half of the season if overlooked. Auburn is out. Mississippi State could keep Alabama out of the equation, as the Bulldogs draw the Tide in Starkville in November and have a home matchup against in-state rival Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl to end the season.
If LSU can stay healthy, its offensive line looks great and Harris is appearing to gain confidence on the field. True freshman Derrius Guice is proving to be a suitable backup to Fournette, only leaving a fleet of very talented receivers with limitless potential waiting for their time to break out. The defense is coming along under coordinator Kevin Steele leading Tiger nation to begin to believe that 2015 could be the year for another national championship in Baton Rouge.
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @HogManInLA.