- Associated Press - Sunday, October 5, 2014

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - The Auburn Tigers put together their most dominating performance of the season on defense and were explosive on offense against a ranked team, but they’re still not interested in talking about the polls.

The second-ranked Tigers, who moved up three spots in the Associated Press rankings after Saturday night’s 41-7 win over then-No. 15 LSU, came out of nowhere to win the Southeastern Conference championship last season. This team faces much bigger challenges ahead, starting Saturday on the road against co-No. 3 Mississippi State.

But after easily its most impressive win, Auburn (5-0, 2-0 SEC) was facing questions about whether the team might even deserve to jump unbeaten Florida State and grab the top spot. Auburn did get 23 first-place votes on Sunday.

“Deserving? I’m more on the side of we are going to keep on trucking and earn it,” defensive tackle Gabe Wright said. “I’m not even going to lie to you, after last year it’s shown a lot that the rankings don’t matter. Just play, just play your butts off. I think like with last year and nobody ranking us at all, I think this team just wants to keep on trucking. If we handle our business I feel like we’ll be where we want to be at the end of the year.”

Auburn does have some perspective. The Tigers never even surfaced in the rankings last season until a win over Texas A&M; on Oct. 19 but went to the BCS championship game. Cracking the Top 10 took two more weeks, and Auburn didn’t rise to No. 2 until after beating Missouri in the SEC championship game on Dec. 7, with help from an Ohio State loss.

“Really on our team, I’ve not heard one player or coach even talk about being ranked or anything like that,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “Our whole deal is at the end of the season. That’s just the first game of the grind. We’ll all sort it out at the end.”

This game, though, was sorted out at the beginning. Auburn jumped ahead 17-0 in the first 12 minutes, outgained LSU (4-2, 0-2) by more than double (566-280) and held the visiting Tigers to 0 for 13 on third downs.

It was an eye-catching performance for an Auburn team that had sputtered at times on offense against both Kansas State and Louisiana Tech. This time Nick Marshall both rushed and passed for two touchdowns to lead a balanced offensive effort.

The defense has held both LSU and No. 17 Kansas State below 300 yards in total offense.

“That was probably our best performance overall as a team,” Malzahn said. “We played well in certain units but that was an overall performance against a very good team.”

The win also snapped a three-game losing streak to LSU, including the only regular-season defeat in 2013. Malzahn emphasized that both before and after the game.

“Coach Malzahn asked us in a meeting (Friday) to raise our hands if we had beaten LSU,” Auburn cornerback Trovon Reed said. “Only one player raised his hand and that was Jeff Whitaker. He asked us the same question after the game and we were all able to raise our hands.”

The loss left LSU 0-2 in the SEC for the first time under coach Les Miles and with even more questions at quarterback. Freshman Brandon Harris started for the first time but completed only three passes and was replaced by sophomore Anthony Jennings in the third quarter.

“I do not know what to think of it,” Miles said of the quarterback situation after the game.

Miles isn’t interested in calling this a potential rebuilding year.

“I think all of our guys work hard and want to improve,” he said. “They want answers, and the film will be the answer. The coaches will collect it and get better. I do not think anybody wants a rebuilding year. That’s not something that I have ever said.”

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