Photos: LSU fans keep it cool, breezy before the game, Tigers turn on the heat in Tiger Stadium _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Former LSU basketball star Shaquille O'Neal waves to the fans during the first half of the Auburn game Saturday in Tiger Stadium.

1. What we learned

LSU is a bona fide player in the SEC title chase, staking its claim while exposing preseason favorite Auburn as a pretender in a 45-21 rout. Once again, LSU did not throw the ball with abandon — Brandon Harris was just 12 of 17 for 74 yards. But when you rush for 411 yards, the most since the 1996 Houston game, the passing game only has to be so effective. There’s time to debate offensive balance later. Right now, demolishing an SEC rival like this, by whatever means possible, to move to 2-0 with a pair of SEC wins counts for a lot.

2. Trending now

Leonard Fournette. Saturday we saw the fullest expression to date of the brute artistry of LSU’s sophomore tailback. True, Auburn’s defense is dreadful and injury-plagued. But when said defense is committing eight and nine players to stopping you, and you still go off for 228 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries — in three quarters — it’s an historic achievement as far as LSU football is concerned. Fournette’s knee (he hit it on a helmet on his last TD plunge) was probably a trending concern Saturday afternoon, but he said he was good. Is he ever.

3. Final thoughts

With a grind-it-out win at Mississippi State and a home blowout of Auburn, it’s starting to look a little like 2011 at LSU. There’s virtually no chance LSU will be an underdog in its next five games, giving the Tigers an excellent shot to be 7-0 when it visits Alabama on Nov. 7. And give LSU a shot to to win any game it plays if Fournette stays healthy, Harris continues to show some improvement and the defense plays like this. On a hot Saturday afternoon in Death Valley, LSU may have forged something special.