It's only two games into the season, but LSU seems to be getting a pretty good handle on this big-picture stuff.

Much can change over the course of these next 10 regular-season games and whatever lies beyond that, and yet this team seems capable of doing special things this season while laying the groundwork for special things in the future.

Though there wasn't anything particularly special about the 49-3 rout of badly outmanned Northwestern State on Saturday night, there were signs of maturity in that performance.

Last season , the Tigers came off of a big, dramatic emotional, come-from-behind 33-29 victory against Florida, then with a game at undefeated Auburn looming, they came home and played an uninspired and inefficient game against McNeese State and didn't put the Cowboys away until the fourth quarter.

A similar challenge was facing this year's team in its home opener. The national accolades they rightly received for their efficient and overpowering 40-27 victory against Oregon in the opener could have left them distracted as they prepared for the Demons, especially with the Southeastern Conference opener at Mississippi State looming just five days later.

But this team stayed in the moment, took care of business and had the game in hand when it went into halftime with a 28-3 cushion.

"We focused on that all week," wide receiver Rueben Randle said. "We were talking to each other in the locker room. We knew we couldn't let these guys hang around and give them hope. We had to knock them out (early), and that's what we did."

The players taking care of business early allowed coach Les Miles to rest starters and give experience to younger guys. There wasn't much of a drop-off in performance when the starters left the field.

"You couldn't tell the difference between their starters and their backups," Demons linebacker Yaser Elqutub said.

LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery said that's the way it's supposed to be.

"We expect our young guys to come in and be able to play just as well as our older guys," said Montgomery, who even as a sophomore qualifies as one of the older guys. "I want the guy who's behind me to be 10 times better than I am before I leave here, especially the young guys who have to carry on a tradition. Our defensive lines have been part of dominant defenses for generations at LSU."

To the players, it didn't matter that it was Northwestern State providing the opposition Saturday night. And though Mississippi State represents a far greater challenge, the fact that it will be the Bulldogs providing the opposition might not matter a whole lot either.

Sure, State is more than capable of beating this LSU team, and the Tigers know that.

But this team seems most interested in gauging itself against itself, judging its performance in the context of how well it is advancing toward the lofty goals it has for this team this season, and for this program beyond this season.

Cornerback Tyrann Mathieu said, "I think we had the same mindset coming into this game that we had going into the Oregon game."

We should probably expect the same Thursday night.