Auburn looked a lot like LSU on Saturday afternoon in Death Valley.
For years, the Bayou Tigers have had a familiar pattern. They have had a top-three defense in the country to accompany a stable of ultra-talented running backs and wide receivers coming through the LSU program.
Les Miles — and lately Ed Orgeron — have been missing one piece to tie it all together: a quarterback. That changed late last season as Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow began to come into his own.
Now, Burrow is taking advantage of all that talent around him. The senior is a Heisman Trophy front-runner while leading his Tigers to wins over Texas, Florida and now Auburn. He is the face of what many (myself included) believe is the best team in college football.
Before Burrow, LSU was a consistent top-10 team, but when they went against the country’s elites they failed to make the throws to deliver a win.
That is where Auburn finds itself now.
Auburn’s defense has proven capable of shutting down any opponent, including LSU for the most part on Saturday, but true freshman Bo Nix couldn’t string passes together to have extended drives. Eventually, the defense wore down, and Burrow made the winning plays to muster 23 points and get the win.
This is not to say that Nix isn’t capable of leading his Tigers to the heights that Burrow has accomplished, but it just won’t be this season.
There is nothing wrong with that. This time last year, Nix was preparing for the high school state playoffs; Burrow, meanwhile, is a fifth-year senior who has been mentored by coaches at both Ohio State and LSU.
If anyone had expectations of Nix out-dueling Burrow in Death Valley, those were misguided.
Nix has shown flashes this season, and Saturday’s performance at LSU was certainly better than his game at Florida a few weeks ago. While future home games against Georgia and Alabama offer the chance to face top-10 opponents, neither of those teams have shown the defensive prowess of either LSU and Florida this season.
Auburn will not be in the college Football Playoff this season. Few thought that was a realistic possibility anyway.
Nix has beaten every team he is supposed to beat this season. Few freshman quarterbacks can make that claim.
The season is far from over for the Tigers, and Nix’s career is still just beginning. There will certainly be more peaks and valleys in both, but Saturday’s game in Death Valley is no reason to give up on either.