LSU began Southeastern Conference play and in the third game of the season for the Tigers, finally looked like the team projected by some to end the season in the playoff picture.
The Tigers (2-1, 1-0 SEC) beat Mississippi State 23-20 in their conference opener last week in Tiger Stadium as Danny Etling stabilized the quarterback position in his first start, Leonard Fournette returned from injury to have a 100-yard rushing game, the defense was dominant at times, and the special teams were solid.
No. 18 LSU plays its first SEC road game against Auburn (1-2, 0-1) at 6 p.m. ET Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, and LSU coach Les Miles is looking for improvement in every phase of the game.
"It wasn't perfect in any way," Tigers coach Les Miles said of his team's win over the Bulldogs. "But we got a real good start in conference play."
Etling, a junior transfer from Purdue who earned the start with a solid but unspectacular performance in relief of Brandon Harris in a win over Jacksonville State a week earlier, completed 19 of 30 passes for 215 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions against Mississippi State.
"He extended plays, ad-libbed and did things he was supposed to do," Miles said. "He made plays with his feet."
On third-down plays, Etling was 6-of-9 passing for 96 yards and the touchdown.
As for Fournette, after resting a sore ankle a week earlier, he carried 28 times for 147 yards and two touchdowns against the Bulldogs, but he fumbled twice and lost one, the first time he had lost a fumble in 414 carries.
Miles, who has been known to immediately bench others runners in the wake of even one fumble, is more forgiving with Fournette.
"He's one of the most ball-secure runners that I've ever had," Miles said. "I'm sure he'll continue to be. It will just be a little refresher course there."
The defense had six sacks and helped the Tigers to a 23-6 fourth-quarter lead before Fournette's fumble and an onside kick recovery helped the Bulldogs score two touchdowns in a 40-second stretch.
"We've got to finish out games," LSU safety Jamal Adams said. "We've got to finish stronger. We've got to put a nail in them."
If LSU has managed to turn things in the right direction after losing its opener 16-14 at Wisconsin, Auburn is still searching for answers after dropping its second game in three outings, all at home, this time 29-16 to Texas A&M.
With only the one win over an overmatched Arkansas State team, coach Gus Malzahn's team looks to have issues getting consistent play from its offense, especially at quarterback.
Sophomore Sean White has not performed all that badly -- he has completed 63.4 percent of his passes with just one interception in 71 attempts -- but his 45 completions have produced only 510 yards, an average of 170 a game.
After starting the game against Texas A&M last week by completing his first six attempts, he bogged down and completed only 12 of his last 21 throws.
When he couldn't get the offense moving against the Aggies, Malzahn turned to junior college transfer John Franklin III in the fourth quarter. Franklin had two drives end with Auburn giving up the ball on downs, but he did get his team into the end zone for a late touchdown.
"We felt like we needed a shot in the arm, so we gave John Franklin a chance and he did a good job moving the football," Malzahn said. "I thought he did some good things.
"He created some things for us when the protection broke down and made a couple of good throws. He's still learning the offense, but I think he gave us a spark."
Still, White will get the start against LSU with Franklin, who has rushed for 117 yards on 13 carries but passed for just 34 yards, waiting on the bench. Senior Jeremy Johnson, who gained back his starting job last year when White was hurt, hasn't played since the opener this season.
Malzahn acknowledges his team has to find a way to get more consistent.
"The inconsistency on offense was the key to the game," he said, looking back on the loss to the Aggies. "We have to find a way to get better. We just weren't consistent enough to win the game."
Prediction and Pick to Win
Etling has the LSU offense moving in the right direction. Auburn has no answer for Fournette and he should pound the Auburn defense all day. Auburn's inconsistency at QB continues in this game, leading to another SEC loss.
LSU 31, Auburn 7