LSU corrected numerous errors against Mississippi State last week.
He learned from his historically poor defensive performance against the Bulldogs last season and won his first SEC game 28-25.
He has a similar challenge this week.
Number 22 Auburn arrives at Tiger Stadium this Saturday, a year after beating LSU 48-11 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
If this season is to turn into the redemption tour LSU is aiming for, the team will need to have an even more dramatic turnaround against Auburn than they have had against State.
Here are five things LSU needs to beat Auburn:
5. A good introduction to the SEC for Bryan Harsin
The first-year Auburn coach got this promotion from Boise State for good reason.
He had great success with the Broncos and deserved an opportunity to show he could be successful in the SEC.
His first team is 3-1 with only a narrow loss to No.4 at Penn State, tarnishing his pre-SEC resume.
But that’s where we start to find out whether Auburn made a wise hire or not.
LSU head coach Ed Orgeron is still one conference away from critics who rekindle questions of whether he belongs as the SEC head coach.
But he’s an SEC guy through and through. Born and raised in Louisiana. Coach in Arkansas and Tennessee. Had three years as Ole Miss’s head coach, a full season as an assistant and nine games as an interim head coach and now his fifth season as a head coach at LSU .
He knows what it takes to win in the SEC. He recruited a roster who can compete in the SEC.
His team does not play on blue grass.
Show the rookie what he’s gotten into with a 60-minute presentation of what SEC football is all about.
4. Max Johnson justifying his position
Max Johnson and TJ Finley arrived at LSU at the same time. They were both beaten by Myles Brennan last season.
When Brennan was sidelined with injury after three games last season, Johnson and Finley faced off to replace. Finley won and started five games, although Johnson relieved him in three games, including the resounding loss to Auburn.
Johnson got starts in the last two games of last season and guided LSU to wins over Florida and Ole Miss. After spring training, healthy Brennan and Johnson parted ways with Finley, who transferred to Auburn.
Harsin has not made a commitment on whether he will start Bo Nix or Finley on Saturday, although a late report says Nix will start. But given how Finley came in relief from Nix to save what would have been a disastrous loss for Georgia State last week, it’s hard to imagine Finley not at least splitting the series with Nix.
Johnson needs to show that LSU has kept the right quarterback.
3. A defense against the fierce pass
The LSU defense begins to play like an LSU defense is supposed to play.
He leads the SEC in the sack. The defensive line is strong, quick and deep. Linebackers are improving week by week. High school is making big plays with and without Derek Stingley Jr.
It doesn’t matter if it’s Nix, Finley, Nix / Finley or Finley / Nix taking the shots, the pass rush has to piss them off and help the cover guys make plays.
2. The best running game and pass protection of the season.
Orgeron is tempted to say so. You are tired of hearing it and reading it. Journalists are keen to say it and write it.
But it bears repeating. The LSU’s offensive line has to put everything in place.
The racing game has to hum – or at least be consistently productive – for the first time this season. Blockers need to give Johnson a chance to operate on time and from a comfortable pocket.
1. Saturday night at Tiger Stadium
The last time Tiger Stadium was truly Tiger Stadium was the regular season finale in 2019.
Joe Burrow raced onto the field with Burreaux affixed to the back of his jersey for his final game at Death Valley, and LSU reimbursed Texas A&M for the extra 7-hour madness.
on the way to the CFP championship.
Then came COVID and crowd restrictions and social distancing and a 5-5 team in 2020.
So far, the 2021 home schedule has included McNeese State and central Michigan.
But it is different.
It’s Auburn. SEC house opener. It’s not just a night game, it’s a kickoff at 8 p.m. and above for shouting out loud.
The team, the group and 100,000 of their buddies are due to show the ESPN audience that Saturday night at Tiger Stadium is back.