Surely, this is the first time that the No. 1 team in college football has come to Tiger Stadium as a 17-point underdog to LSU.
Yes, it’s Auburn. Saturday night. Kind of caught me off guard, too.
The War Eagles are undefeated at 3-0, although decidedly unranked in most of your more prominent polls.
But this computer outfit known as Colley Matrix, which actually has a seat at the adult table among the rankings used in the BCS formula, has Auburn ranked No. 1.
In the nation. This nation (United States).
LSU is No. 14.
One can only guess that this particular computer formula needs more than three weeks’ data before it can be trusted out in public.
“The computer hasn’t seen us practice,” said first-year head coach Gus Malzahn, who inherited a 3-9 team from a year ago. “We’re not there yet.”
LSU and Auburn have a proud and nutty tradition, and there’s no need to again rehash all the earthquakes and hurricanes and barn fires and cigars that have visited this rivalry.
LSU was a 20-point favorite last against a truly bad Auburn team, one that never did get around to winning an SEC game, and had to hang on for dear life to escape 12-10.
So maybe three weeks isn’t enough to get a clear picture.
But has that ever stopped us before? Of course not.
It’s way too early, but let’s look at what we know about the SEC so far.
• For all the excitement and buzz, LSU’s offensive numbers aren’t remarkably different from the first three games from last year. There’s Zach Mettenberger’s nine touchdown passes to only one at this point a year ago, but in total yards the Tigers are gaining only 16 more per game (488-472) and have scored fewer points (48.3 ppg to 46).
Stats have always lied, and these are of the bald-faced variety. Forget the numbers. Trust your own vision. This Cam Cameron offense passes the eye test. This offense seems to have a purpose, a design, a clue. The Tigers are no longer throwing mud at the wall to see what might stick and you might see the “jumbo” package extinct in your lifetime.
On the other hand, the Tigers defense really hasn’t had to stop an offense that had a fighting chance.
• Auburn was supposed to be a team without a quarterback but fooled everybody by finding Nick Marshall in the secondary. He’s not bad. The War Eagles didn’t figure to stay down long.
The War Eagles will probably give LSU fits, but are likely at least a year away from sustaining it over a season.
• Alabama? Trust me, Alabama’s defense is a whole lot better than it looked against Texas A(utograph) & M(anziel) but its questionable offensive line didn’t really prove anything. Sometimes you get caught up in one of those roller-coaster games, in which case you just hold on for dear life and win it anyway you can. Even if it embarrasses Nick Saban.
The Tide’s latest defense of its tailor-made schedule is that Ole Miss might be pretty good. So there.
• At Texas A&M, no matter what you think about Johnny Autograph, the kid can flat out play and, if you think about it, he is defying all football logic and tradition by playing it with unabashed glee with a genuine joy of competing. He really doesn’t give a big hoot what you think about him.
On the other hand, the Aggies defense really stinks.
• Ole Miss is suddenly everyone’s darling after beating a Texas team that is in total disarray.
The Rebels might be pretty good, maybe really good, certainly good enough to beat anybody on their schedule. Except Alabama.
• Arkansas is about to find out that you can’t win in the SEC without a wide-open offense capable of scoring touchdowns in big gulps with this new development known as the “forward pass.”
New head coach Brett Bielema got sold a bill of goods. Maybe he watched too many 9-6 LSU-Alabama games. He should have come down to the SEC two years ago when that Wisconsin stuff still worked. Even LSU is making the transition.
• Mississippi State, which finds hope in the strangest places, was all set to declare a win over Auburn (which didn’t win an SEC game last year) to be its signature, booster-shot victory.
Then Auburn scored on its last possession. Mississippi State is still searching. Something will turn up.
• Georgia just might be the best team in the SEC.
Don’t tell anybody with SEC leaning, but the possible best team in the SEC still lost to Clemson (ACC).
• South Carolina is hard to figure. Here we are three games into the season and Jadeveon Clowney hasn’t sent a single knocked-off helmet spinning into Earth orbit.
Patience, Gamecocks, the season is young yet.
• Florida seems intent on not just making a sequel, but creating an exact replica of one of the ugliest 11-win seasons in SEC history.
Even after seeing most of the replay, I’m still trying to figure out how the Gators lost to Miami.
• Vanderbilt isn’t an easy out for anybody anymore. Of course, even if you work the count full and hit one to the wall, it’s still an out.
The Commodores look to be just good enough to reach the Music City Bowl again.
• Tennessee was starting to show some signs of life under Butch Jones, although it’s possible to put too much stock in wins over Austin Peay (one school) and Western Kentucky (five turnovers in six plays).
The Vols really need to quit scheduling Oregon before the Pac-12 gets too uppity. At least take the SEC logo off the jerseys if you’re fool enough to go out there again.
• Missouri, I hear, is still in the SEC. Really, dues are all paid up and everything. I looked it up.
I know, it shocked me too. Still doesn’t sound right.
• Kentucky did college football fans a favor by exposing Louisville without actually beating the Cardinals.
That moral victory will probably be the Wildcats’ highlight of the year once SEC play starts.
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Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org