OK, stop it. Don't even go there.

Auburn this week presents LSU with a lot of problems, right? It will be the best defense LSU's big-gulp offense has played, for one thing, with plenty enough offense to keep up with the Tigers if it slows them down just a little bit.

It seems a little odd, in fact, that LSU is a 101⁄2-point favorite.

Things happen.

But it is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a so-called "trap game."

Last week at Mississippi State? Yeah, it had all the warning signs, mainly that it was trapped between sexier games the week before (Florida) and this week's game with Auburn.

I'll check with the authorities, but I'm pretty sure you're not allowed to have trap games in consecutive weeks.

Besides, Auburn is ranked No. 9 in the country. With LSU No. 2, this is another top-10 battle, even though its like they're becoming commonplace for LSU this year.

Still, LSU and the War Eagles have a long history, not only of exciting, down-to-the-last-minute games, but of nutty, unexplainable quirks of football that often as not get nicknames in the retelling — i.e., Earthquake, Barn-burner, Goodbye Mad Hatter, etc.

You don't overlook those kind of ventures into the football "Twilight Zone."

Even with Alabama on the other end.

Sure, I get it. Everybody wants another Game of the Century two weeks later with LSU and Alabama, this time with offense.

But there's an open date buffer before that. Nobody's attention span is that long in this day and age.

But I'll go you one better.

Forget Alabama … for the moment at least.

This week's game, this game against Auburn, is LSU's most important game of the season.

Including Alabama.

I'm not a coach — and don't care to be — so I won't insult your intelligence with coach-speak that this is LSU's most important game of the season because it's the … wait for it … drum roll … yes, the next game on the schedule.

No, that ain't it. Happens every week. So don't even try to sell that hogwash around here.

But hear me out.

The fear is that an LSU loss to Auburn would take some of the luster off the Alabama game.

Nationally, maybe so. CBS would be crying crocodile tears. But for LSU, I'd say just the opposite. Lose to Auburn, and LSU is in a must-win situation against an Alabama team the Tigers haven't beaten in the last eight tries.

Win this game, and LSU might go to Tuscaloosa on house money.

The Tigers would likely be rated No. 1 in the first College Football Playoff ratings.

The Tigers would still have to beat Alabama to validate it.

Or would they?

The Tide are living proof, twice, that you don't have to win your conference, or even your division, to get a seat at the CFP table.

The Tigers won the last Game of the Century with Bama, in 2011, and all it got them was a rematch with a much higher degree of difficulty for the national championship. We all know how that turned out.

That was under the BCS system, which had only two teams in what couldn't even be called a playoff.

But if LSU beats Auburn this week and loses no other game except to Alabama, LSU might well get that same benefit of the doubt. The Tigers might need help, but it's not that far-fetched to still get into the playoff as a second SEC team.

But lose to Auburn this week and that's out the window. All LSU's chips would be in Bryant-Denny Stadium … and good luck with that.

Still, while we're looking ahead to Alabama, might as well bring up the red elephant in the room.

LSU fans should be wishing Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa a speedy recovery from his high ankle sprain to get him ready for the Tigers' visit.

It's the gentlemanly thing to do, of course, but forget that. Such sporting civilities have no place in a bitter blood rivalry.

The Tigers need Tagovailoa in that game no matter how efficiently he carved up LSU in Tiger Stadium last year.

Would it matter? In the Tide's eight-game winning streak over LSU, Tagovailoa played in one of them. I'll give you the previous two years with Jalen Hurts was something special. But in the other five it was some form of the same John Parker-A.J.-McIroy generic quarterback the Tide had been trotting out there for years.

Without Tagovailoa, it doesn't matter that Bama would have an excuse for bragging rights if LSU wins. That's just for the fans' bickering pleasure.

And the CFP selection committee wouldn't dock LSU any style points. But the committee might give the Tide something of a pass, with an opportunity to take another back door into the playoffs as a second SEC team.

And as LSU learned in 2011, if you're going to beat Alabama, you better cut off the head before it comes back to bite you.


Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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