Why LSU's Zach Mettenberger Is Set to Explode Against Auburn

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterSeptember 16, 2013

LSU QB Zach Mettenberger
LSU QB Zach MettenbergerDerick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

Remember when LSU was going through a rebuilding year and quarterback Zach Mettenberger was a liability, not a weapon?

Yeah, August seems like a long time ago.

Mettenberger has been phenomenal for the Tigers through three games, completing 65.2 percent of his passes (45-of-69) for 797 yards, nine touchdowns and zero interceptions. His 205.29 passer rating leads the SEC in ranks third nationally, ahead of Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater.

For perspective, he threw 12 touchdowns all of last year.

Are you impressed yet?

Sure, the competition hasn't exactly been stout considering two of those games were versus Kent State and UAB, and TCU—which LSU played in the opener—hasn't exactly lived up to the hype. But Mettenberger putting up this type of season against any opponent—including air—would be progress.

But those were non-conference games, and the real tests start this weekend when the Tigers open SEC play against Auburn.

Well, at least in theory.

While Auburn's 3-0 start has been one of the surprises of the young season, it's pass defense has not been part of the equation. The Tigers rank last in the SEC in pass D after giving up 276.3 yards per game in the three wins.

But it gets worse. 

Cornerback Chris Davis, Auburn's No. 1 corner, is questionable for LSU after missing the win over Mississippi State with a foot injury, according to Joel A. Erickson of AL.com.

"It irritated him a little bit the other night, and we felt more safe about not pressing the issue," defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson told Erickson. "It could've hurt worse, so we'll have to see how he feels this week."


Ryan White and Jonathon Mincy have plenty of experience, but against LSU's wide receivers, they'll have their work cut out for them.

Odell Beckham, Jr. has been an absolute stud with 15 catches for 330 yards and four touchdowns, with Jarvis Landry hauling in 17 passes for 246 yards and five touchdowns. Auburn needs its No. 1 cornerback to keep up with those horses, and even if Davis is 100 percent, it's still a tall order considering the way LSU's offense has clicked in 2013.

The marriage between LSU and first-year offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is a match made in Heaven. They have the horses at running back to pound the rock, which is a staple of any Cameron-led offense. Plus, his desire to then stretch the field after the run has been established suits Mettenberger's strength, which is that big arm, well.

Mettenberger has been off to a hot start but has done so in relative anonymity. 

The TCU game went head-to-head with Georgia at Clemson in Week 1, and two cupcakes in the subsequent weeks haven't exactly made LSU appointment viewing.

That changes this week, when LSU and Auburn square off in a battle of undefeated teams in—with apologizes to Florida and Tennessee—the most intriguing game of the week in the SEC.

Auburn's secondary is reeling and Mettenberger is hot, so expect the senior to have a big night in Death Valley in the battle of the Tigers.