Late Saturday night, Les Miles confronted all the potential negative outcomes stemming from the cancellation of LSU’s season opener against McNeese State.
Most important among them: LSU didn’t get a critical tune-up game, whereas its next opponent, Mississippi State, did.
Common sense says that fact alone should give the Bulldogs (1-0) an advantage against the Tigers when both teams open their Southeastern Conference schedules in Starkville, Mississippi, on Saturday night.
Miles said he thinks otherwise.
“There’s certain advantages that we have that are inherent to the position that we currently have,” Miles said. “One of which is that we didn’t play that first game.”
Miles and his players agree that LSU holds a few advantages of its own. For starters, the abbreviated game against the Cowboys diminished the chance for players to get injured and granted those dealing with nicks more time to recover. As for those who were healthy, an extra week of rest isn’t such a bad thing.
“I feel fresh, I feel good. My legs are back,” junior defensive tackle Christian LaCouture said. “For us, we’re fresh and ready to go.”
Two series of football isn’t exhausting work. The Tigers and Cowboys managed only 10 plays, including punts, before lightning forced them into their respective locker rooms. LSU didn’t get to iron out any kinks in its offensive and defensive schemes or substitute all its personnel, but every snap mattered.
“We got the entire pregame regimen accomplished. We played offense, defense and special teams,” Miles said Wednesday during the weekly SEC coaches teleconference. “We needed to see those snaps, and those snaps were reviewed just like a game. It was a game that was played but did not decide victory. But they were important snaps to us. We got the postgame regimen accomplished as well.”
Like Miles said, players benefitted from just being out on the field. Sophomore safety Jamal Adams said he doesn’t feel like the Tigers are a game behind the competition, and sophomore receiver Malachi Dupre got his first-game jitters out of the way Saturday.
That may be the biggest advantage working in the Tigers’ favor — they experienced game situations, albeit briefly, without tipping too much of their hand.
The sample size is small. Eight plays are all Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen and his staff have to work with this week.
“There’s advantages for (LSU) because we don’t get to see what they’re doing this year,” Mullen said during the teleconference. “They have a new defensive staff and new defensive players, and we don’t get to see them on film. ...We saw four or five (offensive) plays in their game last week. There’s a lot of new faces on the offense, and you don’t get to see that.”
Meanwhile, the Tigers have a full four quarters of film to pore over from the Bulldogs’ 34-16 win at Southern Miss. Adams and Harris acknowledged how big of a “plus” it is to have such a meaningful leg up in the film room, especially against a team that dominated them for most of last year’s contest.
“We know they only have two out of five coming back on the offensive line. We know what they try to do with these type of schemes,” LaCouture said. “For them, we only had three plays. That might be the one big thing that helps us out and is beneficial for us.”
Mullen conceded LSU has some leverage because of its no-contest against McNeese, but he said the Bulldogs gained a good deal of their own by actually playing their season opener. He classified the difference between the advantages and disadvantages as “a push.”
No matter which team has the upper hand, Miles and Mullen find themselves in the same boat in Week 2.
“In some ways in preparation, you’re preparing like it’s the opening game of the season,” Mullen said. “You have to focus on yourself and execute at a very high rate because you don’t know what the other team is going to do.”