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LSU, Auburn May Not Be So Dead After All

"The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated." – Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain)

We can thank Samuel Clemens, known as Mark Twain, the legendary American writer, publisher, lecturer and businessman for many memorable quotes, including this one, even though he didn't really say it.

Way back in June, 1897, Clemens wrote a note to reporter Frank Marshall White of the New York Journal about a sick cousin in London. Somehow the report of Twain's demise, and his famous paraphrased quote, evolved from that.

But, you know what they say… don't let accuracy stand in the way of a good story… and after all, the incorrectly reported line was a whole lot better than what he really said. So, it stuck.

You can forgive Tiger fans – in Auburn and in Baton Rouge – if they're using that Twain quote often this week. Both programs were written off for dead by many analysts, and a lot of Tiger fans, just a few weeks ago. Everything was done except the obituaries being published.

But to use another quote, this one from ESPN Gameday icon Lee Corso, "Not so fast my friend!"

After the games on Saturday in Jordan-Hare and Tiger Stadium, it looks like those death notices were written prematurely.

In Auburn, the transformation has been so dramatic and so dominating that you wonder how far the Tigers were actually down to begin with.

Remember that in the opening game the home field Tigers (5-2), played musical chairs with three quarterbacks, made mistake after mistake, but still threw to the end zone on the game's final play when a completion would have tied No. 2 Clemson. Two weeks later, Auburn played a competitive game into the fourth quarter against Texas A&M. Those two teams are a combined 14-1 and ranked No. 3 and No. 9 in this week's Associated Press poll.

After the A&M loss, head coach Gus Malzahn made a significant change, turning play calling duties over to offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee. The results have been overwhelming.

Auburn has won all four games, including wins over three SEC Western Division opponents. In the last three games, the combined score has been Auburn 150, opponents 24. In the first halves combined against Mississippi State and Arkansas, the score was Auburn 63-3.

Saturday's game against the Razorbacks produced eye-popping numbers. The Tigers gained 543 yards rushing, the most ever in program history against an SEC opponent. They had no turnovers and only two penalties. On the other side of the ball, Arkansas gained just 25 yards rushing and 215 total yards, had just 14 first downs and converted only three of 15 third downs. The Razorbacks did not make it to the red zone the entire game and scored their only points on a desperation 54-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.

This is the same Arkansas team that just two weeks ago amassed 473 total yards, 25 first downs, converted eight of 16 third downs, and scored 30 points against Alabama.

The impressive stats against the Razorbacks were nothing new. Without as much hoopla, the Tigers have established themselves among the nation's Top 25 in many categories. Here are some examples (there are 128 FBS teams):

Total Offense … No. 14 … No. 2 SEC

Rushing Offense … No. 3 … No. 1 SEC

Passing Efficiency … No. 17 … No. 1 SEC

Total Defense … No. 17 … No. 4 SEC

Scoring Defense … No. 3 … No. 2 SEC

Red Zone Defense … No. 5 … No. 3 SEC

Third Down Defense … No. 12 … No. 2 SEC

Passing Efficiency Defense … No. 21 … No. 4 SEC

Fewest Penalty Yards per Game … No. 4 … No. 1 SEC

Punt Return Defense … No. 1 … No. 1 SEC

Individual players are making their mark in the national rankings, too.

Passing Efficiency … Sean White, No. 10 … No. 1 SEC

Rushing Yards per Game … Kamryn Pettway, No. 11 … No. 1 SEC

Sacks … Carl Lawson, No. 15 … No. 2 SEC

People are taking notice. Auburn climbed to No. 15 this week in the AP poll. The ESPN Football Power Index (FPI) ranks the Tigers at No. 7 behind only Alabama, Michigan, Louisville, Ohio State, Clemson and Washington.

To put it in perspective, Auburn won the national championship in 2010 and played for it again in 2013. Neither of those teams came close to matching this year's stat numbers, and neither team played back-to-back games as dominating as the Tigers' last two. The last time that Auburn was this good in all aspects, the quarterback was named Campbell and the running backs were Williams and Brown. Before that, go back to the SEC Championship seasons of Pat Dye's teams in the 1980s.

After Auburn's loss to the Aggies, a GoFundMe account was started anonymously to raise money for Malzahn and Lashlee to be fired. Of course, that didn't happen.

But, in Baton Rouge it did.

Les Miles, whose 114 wins in 11-plus seasons included the 2007 national championship and two SEC titles, was fired, along with offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron. For the interim replacement, LSU turned to defensive line Coach Ed Orgeron, the former Ole Miss head coach, whose tenure there produced just three SEC wins in three seasons.

Many fans were understandably skeptical. But, so far, there's been no need to worry. Since Miles' departure, LSU (5-2) has back-to-back 35-point wins over Missouri and Southern Miss, and a 17-point victory over Ole Miss. In the win over the Rebels, Leonard Fournette ran for an all-time team record 284 yards on just 16 carries, including touchdowns of 78, 76 and 59 yards.

Like Auburn, LSU is near the top of several statistical categories nationally:

Total Defense … No. 13 … No. 3 SEC

Scoring Defense … No. 7 … No. 4 SEC

Rushing Defense … No. 12 … No. 2 SEC

Third Down Conversion Defense … No. 17 … No. 4 SEC

Passing Efficiency Defense … No. 24 … No. 5 SEC

Rushing Offense … No. 19 … No. 4 SEC

And like Auburn, people are taking notice. LSU moved up to No. 19 in this week's AP poll and is ranked No. 8 in the FPI.

Read the rest of this article here:

By Lyn Scarbrough

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