BATON ROUGE — It's getting stranger and stranger and stranger.

Oh, sure. LSU football promised things would be different this year, the Tigers' first in 21st century football.

But this thing is careening so far off the norm they might as well move the LSU campus to the moon.

You've got longtime LSU fans sitting at the breakfast table, searching for clues while staring across at their beloved team and saying wistfully, "I don't even know who you are anymore."

It's taking some getting used to, of course.

The old rules apparently don't apply.

Everybody had been warned. Get ready for a totally different experience.

Right.

But who knew it would be in a totally different orbit, this parallel universe the Tigers have blasted into with both feet.

It must be a good thing, right? LSU is ranked No. 4 in the country and seen with a 50-50 chance to make the College Football Playoff right after Joe Burrow picks up the Heisman Trophy.

That's the short version.

But, basically, here's where things stand three games into this 3-0 season:

A 65-14 victory Saturday night over Northwestern — that's a 51-point margin if you're keeping score at home — is being dissected thoroughly, with wild rumors that disturbing red flags have been detected.

Nothing new there. This is LSU. Those things happen, particularly in scrimmage games like these.

But that's not the best of it.

And keep in mind this is still LSU we're talking about.

The biggest concern after a 51-point win is — are you sitting down? — this: Will the Tigers ever get a defense the offense can be proud of.

Let that one sink in for a minute. It's not a role-reversal exercise that the HR department came up with. It's real.

You've got an LSU offense patting its defense on the head and saying, Don't worry little brother, we got this.

Oh, and there's more.

That offense, the one that is currently averaging 55 points per game, might have a red flag trying to get a word in, too.

Yes, this passing game is such a ton of fun, seemingly so easy, that the current gripe is why in the world the Tigers didn't unleash it sooner.

How many championships got buried in that stubborn three yards and those endless clouds of dust?

But — grab the smelling salts, Mable — now the question is this: Is LSU's new-fangled thing ever going to figure out how to run the blasted ball?

It's a whole new world.

Of course, it's possible that whatever concerns emerged from a 51-point victory can be explained by a whirlwind week following the New LSU's introduction to America in last week's awe-inspiring Texas victory.

It was almost like they'd just won The Masters and spent the week making the late-night talk show circuit.

Pats on the back here, multiple toasts there. A hangover seemed inevitable.

With LSU's talent advantage it's a better excuse that missing four defensive starters Saturday night.

Yes, it turned out fine, but Northwestern led 7-3 at the end of the first quarter (hopefully the Demons got an Instagram of it) and it was only 24-14 LSU's way at the half.

Burrow squeezed of four effortless touchdowns in the third quarter and that was that.

But it was still hard to un-see the way Demon quarterback Shelton Eppler picked LSU apart in the first half for 175 yards .

Maybe you take Northwestern coach Brad Laird at his word, that the Demons did some soul-searching and weren't the same team that lost 33-7 last week to Midwestern State ( which a long Google search will tell you is a Division II school in Wichita Falls, Texas). Dig deeper and you'll find that on Saturday Midwestern State allowed something called Lindwood to score 27 points on it.

Give Eppler some credit. There were some LSU secondary breakdowns, but mostly he got rid of the ball quickly, hit some tight windows and his receivers made some excellent catches.

DBU should be fine.

But LSU is going to have to find a pass rush at some point.

I suspect defensive coordinator Dave Aranda will figure it out.

Rediscovering a running game looks to be more challenging — and I say this after watching a game where Tigers ran for six touchdowns.

That was just coincidence and circumstance — the passing game did virtually all the heavy lifting against an NSU secondary that would have to tighten up some to be called porous.

Now we know why LSU went for the jugular last week against Texas instead of trying to run the clock out.

Oh, to see one of those old, familiar toss sweeps — just once for old times sakes.

Instead, for all the speed and precision and wow factor of this passing game, the running game now looks confused, uncommitted and mostly timid.

A slow-developing afterthought, if you will, although presumably they do practice it.

It might come in handy some game.


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

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