LSU, Auburn heading in different directions
After three dominant performances, LSU is back in a familiar position. Its first SEC opponent is in a decidedly unfamiliar one.
The second-ranked Tigers will try to keep rolling during Saturday night's visit to Auburn, which nearly came into this matchup winless.
LSU has outscored its first three opponents 145-31 and showcased its depth in last week's 63-14 rout of visiting Idaho. While filling in for injured safety Craig Loston, sophomore Ronald Martin had two interceptions and returned one for a touchdown in his first collegiate start.
"I think everyone can see that we can be a dominant football team," coach Les Miles said. "In all three phases at different times, we were dominant in this game."
Backup running backs Kenny Hilliard and Jeremy Hill combined for 177 yards and ran for two touchdowns apiece with Hillard gaining 116. Because of an unspecified injury to starter Alfred Blue, LSU (3-0, 0-0) might need those two players' help as it tries to hang on to its lofty spot in the rankings.
"We keep fresh legs in the game at all times," Hilliard said. "Whenever one guy gets tired you can put a fresh guy in and you don't lose anything. That is great. We have multiple backs that can all play well so that means that one guy is not going to have to get 30-40 carries in a game."
The Tigers, the nation's No. 1 team for much of last season, are back in position to advance to another BCS championship game if they can stay unbeaten. They climbed to No. 2 following Southern California's loss at Stanford this past Saturday.
The owners of an NCAA-best 16 consecutive regular-season victories, LSU will try to take a step toward that goal by beating a team that recently claimed a BCS title.
With Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, Auburn finished 14-0 in 2010, but that run is beginning to seem like a distant memory. The program finished 8-5 last season and dropped its first two games this year before edging Louisiana-Monroe 31-28 in overtime last week.
Auburn (1-2, 0-1) allowed the Warhawks, who upset then-No. 8 Arkansas in their season opener, to rally from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter but stopped them on their only possession in the extra period.
"We have a great football team coming in to play next week. We have to improve, but it was big to get the win," coach Gene Chizik said. "Wins are great, and so we needed one, and we got one."
Auburn is off to its worst start since 2007 and will seek to avoid dropping to 1-3 for the first time since losing five of its first six in 1998.
Auburn has lost five straight to ranked foes, including 45-10 at LSU on Oct. 22, after winning eight such matchups in a row. However, it lost only 26-19 to then-No. 14 Clemson in this year's opener.
One of those eight consecutive victories over Top 25 opponents was a 24-17 win over then-No. 6 LSU at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Oct. 23, 2010.
Onterio McCalebb ran for a tiebreaking 70-yard touchdown with 5:05 remaining in that game and enters this one after gaining a season-high 128 yards on 11 carries this past Saturday.
McCalebb's 214 yards are only seven fewer than team leader Tre Mason, who had 90 yards and a touchdown in last week's win.
McCalebb was given only three carries in last year's defeat in Baton Rouge but had 32 yards and a touchdown. Hilliard scored a pair of TDs and had 65 yards on 10 attempts.
While Hilliard might start because of Blue's injury, Loston could return from his turf toe problem. If he's back in the lineup, the safety will try to help his team earn a fifth victory in six matchups with Auburn.
Auburn, though, has prevailed in five of the last six games at Jordan-Hare.
LSU was forced to cancel a practice for the second time this season Monday because of a bomb threat that required a campus evacuation. It also lost a practice before the season opener against North Texas due to Hurricane Issac.