Tiger tank: After preseason hype, Auburn is all wrong

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Looks like all the preseason hype was going to the wrong bunch of SEC West Tigers and playing with a backup quarterback might not be so bad for Notre Dame.

A week after nearly losing to an FCS team, No. 18 Auburn was beaten down 45-21 by No. 13 LSU and tailback Leonard Fournette on Saturday. Auburn (2-1) was No. 6 to start the season and one of the favorites to win the Southeastern Conference, even though the Tigers went 8-5 last season.

The conventional wisdom was that new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp would improve the defense and new starting quarterback Jeremy Johnson would take coach Gus Malzahn's spread offense to new heights.

Wrong and wrong.

Auburn looks very much like the team that tanked at the end of last season. Johnson threw for 100 yards and his sixth interception of the season. LSU ran for 411 yards, including 228 on 19 carries by the spectacular Fournette.

Ohio State showed everyone last year that counting out a team from the playoff in September is a bad idea. But it's hard not to dismiss Auburn from that discussion at this point.

''We are going to evaluate everything - at every position,'' Malzahn said.

LSU (2-0) still has some quarterback questions of its own, with Brandon Harris passing for only 74 yards. The difference is the Tigers have two SEC West victories after winning at Mississippi State last week.

No. 8 Notre Dame (3-0) seemed to have big problems after quarterback Malik Zaire was lost to a broken ankle last week. But DeShone Kizer came off the bench to save the game at Virginia and was solid again in a 30-22 victory against No. 14 Georgia Tech (2-1).

Kizer threw for 242 yards and a touchdown and got a lot of help from C.J. Prosise (198 yards rushing and three touchdowns). The Notre Dame defense also came up big against the Yellow Jackets' triple-option, surrendering 337 yards in all.

Last season, it was Ohio State that made a playoff run with backup quarterbacks leading the way. The Irish look as if they might be able to do the same thing.

As for the top-ranked Buckeyes, they could use either of their star quarterbacks to start playing like star quarterbacks.

Ohio State (3-0) sputtered to a 20-13 victory at home against Northern Illinois. Cardale Jones threw two first-half interceptions and J.T. Barrett finished the game, throwing another pick and directing one touchdown drive. A dominant defensive performance and linebacker Darron Lee's interception return touchdown bailed out the Buckeyes.

''It's been a while since we've looked like this,'' Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. ''So we've got to get it fixed.''

With another Mid-American Conference team, Western Michigan, coming to Ohio Stadium next week and a road trip to Indiana after that, Ohio State has some time to improve. Still, it was ugly at the Horseshoe.

Could be worse, though. Could be Auburn.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAp



AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org