AUBURN, Ala. -- No. 5 Auburn wanted to remind everyone it was the reigning SEC champion on Saturday night. The Tigers made that statement with a dominant 41-7 win over No. 15 LSU at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Here are three quick thoughts from Auburn’s victory:
1. Nick Marshall was electric
If this is the Marshall we can expect the rest of the way, the SEC better watch out.
Auburn’s senior quarterback made LSU’s defense look silly for most of the night. He led Auburn on scoring drives on its first four possessions, including three in the first quarter that propelled it to a 17-7 lead by the end of the quarter. The 247 yards of total offense were the most in any quarter under Gus Malzahn.
By halftime, Marshall -- who’d worked diligently on becoming a better passer during the offseason -- had accounted for all four of Auburn’s touchdowns. The quarterback recorded 263 of his TK total yards of offense by intermission as the Tigers held a commanding 31-7 lead. He also completed 12 of his first 16 passes.
Marshall finished 13 for 21 with 207 yards rushing against the SEC’s top passing defense in LSU. The performance marked the eighth time in his career that he’s thrown for a touchdown and rushed for a touchdown in the same game (the quarterback also ran for 119 yards and two touchdowns). The Tigers needed Marshall to show how dangerous he can be in both phases of his game before they embark on a tough second half of the season. That’s exactly what he did against LSU.
2. LSU didn’t look like LSU, especially on defense
Auburn’s offense had its way with LSU’s defense from the get-go, and it wasn’t even close.
Behind Marshall’s stellar outing, coach Les Miles’ squad had little answer for what Malzahn brought to the table. Auburn’s run game was its usual effective self -- finishing with 6.1 yards per carry and 299 yards rushing -- but the Tigers also picked apart LSU through the air. The Bayou Bengals came into the night boasting the SEC’s top passing defense, allowing just 130.6 yards per game. But Marshall and Auburn rang up 268 passing yards.
The last two weeks have been brutal for the Tigers’ defense. LSU gave up 570 yards in a loss to Mississippi State two weeks ago, and now Auburn embarrassed Miles and company on Saturday. Defensive coordinator John Chavis is among the best defensive minds in football, but he has some work to do with this unit.
3. Is the SEC West now Auburn’s to lose?
College football’s deepest division did a lot of damage to itself on Saturday. Ole Miss and Mississippi State staged upsets over Alabama and Texas A&M, respectively. With other top-tier SEC West teams dropping off, is Auburn now the favorite to emerge from the division?
The Tigers will have to venture to Oxford and Starkville, home to two other current undefeated SEC West programs. Plus, Auburn must close the season in a highly anticipated Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa. It’s a little too early to anoint the Tigers as sure-fire repeat SEC champs, but if they do to the rest of the SEC what they did to LSU on Saturday, Malzahn’s crew will punch its playoff ticket.