In Week 2, after quarterback Jarrett Stidham was sacked 11 times and Auburn lost 14-6 at Clemson, it was a pretender, right? 

A fraud. All hype. Sizzle, no steak.

Stidham and the Tigers are eating good in the neighborhood -- specifically, the SEC West. 

The No. 13 Tigers stomped No. 24 Mississippi State 49-10 Saturday night on The Plains in a game that should signal to the rest of the conference that, despite the early hiccup, it's still very relevant in the SEC title race. 

Stidham completed 13-of-16 passes for 264 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the win over the Bulldogs, and has tossed just 12 incomplete passes over the last three games. If you want to attribute some of that to the competition level, that's fine. Mercer and Missouri view defense more as a myth than reality. But it's also about how the coaching staff learned from its mistakes in the ACC's version of Death Valley.

Running backs Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway have both been banged up at times this year. So, without the benefit of the punishing rushing attack that has become the norm, Stidham and new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey have found more consistency on intermediate routes, a re-worked offensive line has thrived and Stidham is delivering deep balls with confidence.

Now imagine what happens when Pettway gets back to full strength -- which he clearly isn't right now -- alongside the dynamic Johnson and this newfound, reliable passing game.

What's more, the defense is one of the best in the nation -- and has been throughout the entire season, including in the Clemson loss. They entered Saturday leading the SEC at 3.63 yards per play, gave up 4.29 to a really good Bulldog offense led by Nick Fitzgerald and has done more than enough to prove that it will keep these Tigers in every single game -- even against the defending national champs.

What more do you want Auburn to prove?

The next four games for the Tigers are vs. Ole Miss, at LSU, at Arkansas and at Texas A&M? Are any of those overly daunting? Not really.

Auburn was written off too early because, among other reasons, people felt burned by 2015 hype that fizzled out en route to the Birmingham Bowl. 

This is a different Tiger team. It's a team founded on defense, developing on offense and becoming what many thought they'd be prior to the season: a contender.