Even if LSU fails to win its third BCS championship this season, the Tigers will probably win the prize for playing the toughest schedule in school history.
Only four games in, LSU will have its third game against a ranked foe — all away from home, by the way — when the Tigers lock up with No. 16 West Virginia on Saturday night.
Still to come are tests against No. 15 Florida, No. 3 Alabama and No. 14 Arkansas.
Auburn fell out of the rankings this week, but could easily jump back in by the time it visits Tiger Stadium next month.
I dived into the LSU media guide looking to find a schedule the Tigers have played that matches the potential of this one.
On three occasions during the era of 11-game regular seasons, LSU faced six ranked opponents in the course of one year.
In 1975, LSU played No. 6 Nebraska and No. 19 Tennessee on the road and No. 11 Texas A&M, No. 20 Florida, No. 20 South Carolina and No. 5 Alabama at home. In 1988, LSU had No. 10 Texas A&M, No. 4 Auburn and No. 3 Miami at home and No. 18 Ohio State, No. 17 Florida and No. 18 Alabama on the road.
In 1999, the final year of the Gerry DiNardo era, LSU played at No. 10 Georgia, No. 12 Mississippi State and No. 12 Alabama and got No. 8 Florida, No. 25 Ole Miss and No. 17 Arkansas at home.
But the toughest schedule DiNardo played at LSU may have been his first. In 1995, the Tigers faced five top-25 opponents, including three teams — No. 3 Texas A&M, No. 5 Auburn, No. 3 Florida — ranked among the nation’s top five.
LSU faced only four ranked teams in 1979, Charles McClendon’s final season, but No. 1 Southern Cal visited Tiger Stadium in September, and No. 1 Alabama came calling in November, the only time the Tigers have ever met two No. 1s in the same season.
To find some of LSU’s most ambitious schedules, though, you don’t have to look very far.
Les Miles hit the ground running in 2005 when hurricanes Katrina and Rita shuffled the schedule, robbing the Tigers of a September home game and forcing them to face 10 foes in 10 weeks — not including the SEC Championship game.
In 2006, LSU faced only four ranked opponents, but all four were in the top 10 and all four had the Tigers at home. A year later, the Tigers had six regular-season games against ranked opponents before beating No. 14 Tennessee in the SEC title game.
The Tigers had it tough last season, too, as they again faced six ranked foes in the regular season. But it wasn’t as tough as it sounds given No. 18 North Carolina was decimated by suspensions when it met LSU in a tainted 2010 opener.
This year? Nothing of that nature yet.
The Tigers roll into West Virginia to end a hellacious September slate, the springboard to what may well be LSU’s most treacherous schedule to date.