In the last three quarters he’s played in, Brandon Harris has been outstanding. He led two quick-strike touchdown drives against Mississippi State, and came within a desperation heave of completing a miracle comeback. If you remove that last-second failed drive, Harris led nine straight touchdown drives across two games, including seven straight against New Mexico State.

With Harris on the field, the offense looks like it can compete in the rough-and-tumble SEC West. The question is, can the defense?

Through Les Miles tenure, that’s where LSU has long been able to hang their hat. With next-level talent at every position, the Tigers have been able to dominate on that end. In four of the last five seasons, they’ve held opponents under 20 points per game, and this season they’re smothering opponents and giving up 13 points per contest. Of course, that’s deflated by two consecutive shutouts against weak competition.

Quite frankly, the Tigers don’t seem have what it takes at the point of attack. Mississippi State exposed the lack of depth and talent by running up the gut over and over again, gashing the Tigers for more than 300 rushing yards at 6.2 yards per carry. The problem? Defensive tackle. Quentin Thomas had been trying to fight through a torn biceps, but suffered an injury against the Bulldogs, subsequently sitting out against NMSU while leaving his status up in the air against Auburn. Christian LaCouture and Davon Godchaux were left to hold down the fort, with a converted defensive end in Lewis Neal as their only real backup.

After that, the defensive tackle rotation comes down to redshirt freshmen, most of whom have not been able to get on the field due to a lack of playbook knowledge. Being so thin at the position not only compromises the rest of the defense, despite the presence of Kown Alexander and emergence of Kendell Beckwith at linebacker.

After having the hole in the heart of their defense blasted open against Mississippi State, Auburn surely knows exactly where to go after the Tigers from Baton Rouge. Unfortunately for LSU, their weakness is just where Auburn excels. Even though the Auburn Tigers haven’t hit their stride yet, they’re still racking up 260 yards per game on the ground. Against LSU, they no doubt see an opportunity to not only run the ball at will, but to run a huge number of plays as they prefer to do in their tempo offense.

LSU’s fate doesn’t entirely rest on the players at the point of attack, but it sure starts there. They’ll have to contain the running game, and they’ll definitely have to work hard to get off the field on third downs. The defensive line, from the middle out, will have to make the right decision when defending Auburn’s vaunted zone-read offense, and they’ll have to make sure the ball carriers don’t get to the second level unimpeded.

If LSU’s defensive front can’t shape up, they’ll be right back to where they were after the Mississippi State game: an also-ran in the brutal West. If they can slow the Auburn offense enough to give Harris and his weapons the opportunity to win this game? The ensuing chaos sure will be fun.