BATON ROUGE — Even when this LSU team struggles, it is still good enough to defeat a Top 10 opponent just like it did again on Saturday.
It didn’t matter that Joe Burrow was sacked three times, and hit a handful more times on the afternoon, or that freshman Cade York missed another extra point (his third of the season) or that freshman phenom Derek Stingley Jr. muffed a punt return which set up a touchdown.
None of those miscues or setbacks would keep the Tigers from winning their 10th straight game against the Tigers-War Eagles-Plainsmen from Alabama. No. 2-ranked LSU overcame a not-so-polished performance to hold off No. 9 Auburn, 23-20, inside a deafening Death Valley on Saturday.
There would be no championship-busting upset on Saturday and there would definitely be no opposing head coach, and his players, brashly smoking birthday cigars on the field afterwards either.
This year’s LSU team would not see its championship dreams die or coach’s contract perish at the hands of Auburn.
There would be no Auburn quarterback pulling off a career-high 217 rushing yards as Cam Newton did in 2010, nor would Ronnie Prude be flagged for jumping on a field goal attempt and give Auburn another chance to win the game as what occurred in 2004. Nor would there would be awful time management in the final seconds of the game, like it did in 2016, when a loss to Auburn proved to be the final time Les Miles would coach the Tigers.
No, this year’s LSU team would be having none of it because this year’s Tigers seem different, they carry themselves different and appear to be a more gutty and confident LSU team than ones in years past.
This year’s LSU team seems primed to once again become the nation’s top-ranked team and finally has a real chance of slaying the dragon of red menace known as the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Yes, Burrow was sacked three times in the first quarter but LSU’s offensive line made the adjustments and didn’t give up another sack the rest of the game as Burrow would go on to throw for 321 yards — for his record eighth 300-yard game of his career and his now record-tying sixth of this season.
Yes, York missed an extra point but he also ended the game 2-of-3 on extra points and also kicked a 20-yard field goal — his 11th of the season.
And how did Stingley Jr. recover from his blunder that set up a short field and allowed Auburn to take a 10-7 lead in the game? Stingley would only go on to record his fourth interception of the season — a team-high.
LSU has seemed destined from the start of the season to be on a collision course with its most hated rival — Alabama. The team led by LSU’s former coach, which has bested the Bayou Bengals eight straight games — including most famously the 2012 BCS National Championship Game.
This season though LSU seems like an equal to Alabama in talent, coaching, recruiting and most importantly quarterback play. With other teams falling by the wayside as contenders for the College Football Playoff (Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Georgia have all lost to unranked teams the past three weeks), the upcoming LSU-Alabama matchup towers ever larger now as a game in which the winner punches its ticket to the CFP, but a game in which the loser may do so as well.
The game may finally live up to the billing of the 2011 regular season matchup known as “The Game of the Century” — a 9-6 win for LSU which at the time was difficult to watch for those who enjoy touchdowns. But we got a rematch in the national championship game and we could very well see both of those teams again come January.
The championship talk though can wait for right now as LSU can rest easy that even when it has an off night, the Tigers are still better than most. We will all find out if that will still hold true two weeks from now when the clock hits zero on the scoreboard inside Bryant-Denny Stadium.