LSU was crossing the Ts and dotting the Is on an agreement to return to the Cowboys Classic to start the 2013 season at the same time the 2012 Tigers were completing one of the weakest preconference schedules in recent memory.
LSU most likely will begin next season against TCU in Cowboys Stadium, where the Tigers opened last season with a 41-20 victory against preseason No. 3 Oregon.
After that game, it was clear the Tigers were more than worthy of their preseason No. 4 ranking, and a game against the consistently talented Horned Frogs will be a good gauge of where the 2013 team stands after Labor Day weekend.
But as this year’s 3-0 team prepares to head to Auburn for its Southeastern Conference opener next Saturday, it’s hard to gauge where it is after three lopsided wins.
This is obviously a very talented team, one that has yet to be challenged.
Last week’s 41-3 thrashing of Washington, a bowl team from a year ago that plays in an automatic qualifying conference (the Pac-12), is the most impressive of the three wins. Maybe that means the Tigers are deserving of their No. 2 ranking, or maybe it means the Huskies are a middle-of-the-pack team in a conference that’s clearly inferior to the SEC. Perhaps it’s a little of both.
We don’t know, and we might not know much more after the trip to Auburn. Those Tigers are 1-2 after losing to Clemson and Mississippi State before escaping with an overtime home win against Louisiana-Monroe.
Last year, LSU followed its impressive opener with a nondescript victory against Northwestern State, a workmanlike win at No. 25 Mississippi State and an impressive nonconference win at No. 16 West Virginia.
This year’s team follows its SEC opener with a game against something called Towson.
It will likely be October when the Tigers conclude the first half of the season with a trip to Florida before we get a solid gauge of these Tigers.
They’re good, really good, capable of being dominant — at least against the first three opponents.
But in games against North Texas and Idaho, they lined up against less-talented units than they lined up against during three preseason intra-squad scrimmages.
They weren’t challenged physically or emotionally, knowing the talent disparity.
LSU has been penalized 23 times and committed a turnover in each game after having 10 in 14 games last season. That indicates a team that’s not totally focused, not the way a team figures to be focused when it plays the No. 3 team or the No. 16 team or even the No. 25 team.
Auburn is far from a Top 25 team, but it is a perennial SEC West opponent, one just two years removed from a national championship.
Those Tigers will get these Tigers’ attention more so than the Vandals did or the Mean Green did or even the Huskies did. It’s hard to criticize a team that wins its first three games by scores of 41-14, 41-3 and 63-14.
But it’s even harder to judge a team this talented when it doesn’t play anyone that can challenge it.