LSU Football: If Auburn Was a Problem, How Will Tigers Handle Alabama?

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterSeptember 22, 2012

LSU head coach Les Miles
LSU head coach Les MilesKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Every championship team usually has a scare or two during the title run, and if LSU hoists the crystal football in Miami Gardens in early January, the 12-10 escape from Auburn on Saturday night would certainly count as that scare.

LSU came into the game with the No. 2 ranking, but it didn't look like it on the Plains, particularly on offense.

If LSU struggled this much against Auburn, a team that ranked 13th in the SEC in total defense coming in, how will it handle Alabama when the two SEC West juggernauts meet in Baton Rouge on Nov. 3?

LSU is going to have to get better, that's for sure.

But before we jump all over LSU as being the fraud of the century, give credit to Auburn's defense, which played its best game of the season on Saturday night, particularly when LSU center P.J. Lonergan briefly left the game with an injury.

Auburn's front seven pressured LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger, forced him into some bad throws and forced the fumble that set up its only touchdown of the night.

Fixing the protection is job No. 1 for LSU head coach Les Miles.

Auburn played well, but that front seven in Tuscaloosa is just a bit better. 

Mettenberger can move in the pocket to buy some time, but Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart had to be watching tonight's game chomping at the bit to exploit the LSU's breakdown in protection.

Secondly, Mettenberger has to make quicker decisions.

If he thought his first SEC test was tough, things will only get tougher from here. His decision-making was slow at times against Auburn, and that should concern LSU fans more than anything else.

Part of that had to do with the fact that he wasn't getting great protection, but his head appeared to be spinning at times. That's not uncommon for a quarterback making his first start on the road, but it's not good for the quarterback of a national title contender.

Defensively, LSU played great. It only allowed 183 yards on the night and forced Auburn offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler to call plays around quarterback Kiehl Frazier, who was clearly rattled in the second half.

The silver lining for the Bayou Bengals is that there's still plenty of time between now and the Nov. 3 showdown with the Crimson Tide, which happens to be in the friendly confines of Death Valley.

That means six weeks to get its offensive line issues worked out and six weeks to get Mettenberger comfortable with what SEC defenses are going to throw at him.

Any road win in the SEC is a good win, especially when your opponent is desperate and playing solid football.

But if LSU plays like it did against Auburn when the showdown with Alabama rolls around, it will look a lot like it did the last time the two played, which was the 21-0 shutout in last season's BCS National Championship game.