OK, so it’s not the Biggest. Game. Ever!
But how many of those can you handle in one season anyway?
A week after the No. 1-vs.-No. 2 showdown at Alabama, LSU (9-0) is back in Tiger Stadium to play Western Kentucky in a non-conference game at 6 p.m. Saturday.
ESPN’s Gameday crew won’t be here, nor will CBS as the game will be televised in the relative obscurity of ESPNU. But this game still has much to offer in its own right.
It’s the first opportunity for 93,000 to welcome home the top-ranked Tigers after their thrilling 9-6 overtime victory against the Crimson Tide.
It’s just the second night game in Tiger Stadium this season, the first in nine weeks, and last of the season.
It’s homecoming, and it’ll be the last home game with a full contingent of students on campus as the regular-season finale against Arkansas on Nov. 25 will be played in the middle of the Thanksgiving holiday.
And even though the Hilltoppers aren’t a marquee opponent, they boast a five-game winning streak after an 0-4 start and are in the thick of the race for the Sun Belt Conference championship.
“We love taking the field in Tiger Stadium every Saturday, and for it to be a night game it’s going to be great,” Tigers punter Brad Wing said. “Everyone’s more alive on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. We haven’t had a lot of them this year, so we’re all looking forward to it. We can’t wait.”
LSU has only six home games this season and SEC games against Kentucky, Florida, and Auburn were moved to 2:30 p.m. to accommodate CBS, which will show the Arkansas game in the traditional 1:30 p.m. slot the day after Thanksgiving.
“I’ve been waiting on our night games,” LSU safety Eric Reid said. “Everybody has been kind of upset about the day games because of the CBS contract, but everybody just likes the feeling of being in Tiger Stadium at night.
“I think it’s going to be a big game. It’s Homecoming. It’s a night game in Death Valley. Just like always on Saturday night, it’s going to be big.”
This will be the last night game in Tiger Stadium for the Tigers seniors, including center Will Blackwell.
“There’s always something special about playing in Death Valley, especially being a senior,” Blackwell said. “I’ve only got two games left there and this is going to be the last night game. There’s just something special abut that stadium at night, the atmosphere. I’m glad we’ll get back to that this weekend.”
Things have gotten back to normal this week, at least as normal as they can be when you’re the No. 1 team in the country three-quarters of the way through the regular season.
“One thing this team has been comfortable at is that there is a necessary improvement made each week,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “They will be pushing for that this week.”
The Tigers have avoided peaks and valleys this season. Last week’s game was the first one that was decided late, and previous home games against similarly outmanned opponents such as Northwestern State and Kentucky didn’t leave LSU uninspired. The Tigers beat the Demons, 49-3, and the Wildcats, 35-7.
“You can’t slack on anybody,” defensive tackle Bennie Logan said. “Just because we came off a big win against Alabama it doesn’t mean Western Kentucky is going to come in and just lay down. We can’t take these guys lightly especially since they’re going to come in on a five-game winning streak.
“They’re going to give us their best shot so we’ve just got to be prepared for it. We’ve got to have the same intensity that we’ve had since day one for Oregon (in the season opener). We can’t have any drop-off or letdown. We’ve got to continue to work on improving.”
LSU will try to improve its passing game after throwing for just 91 yards against Alabama, which intercepted Jarrett Lee twice. Miles hasn’t said whether he will start Lee or Jordan Jefferson, who took over for Lee after the second interception, but Miles said both will play. He likely would like to get sophomore Zach Mettenberger some playing time if victory is assured.
WKU coach Willie Taggart called LSU “a minor-league NFL team.” “It is a big opportunity for us,” he said. “We are going out and playing a really, really good football team. It is a great opportunity for our program and for our guys to go up and see how far we are from being the number one team in the country.”
It’s also a night game in Tiger Stadium.
“It’s louder, it’s more exciting,” Blackwell said. “It’s Saturday night in Death Valley.”