No. 2 LSU’s game against No. 16 West Virginia on Saturday night is the Tigers’ third against a ranked opponent, all away from home, all on a national stage in just four weeks.
This is certainly a September to remember, and a fourth straight victory would put LSU on track for a season to remember. This game concludes the first third of a schedule that began with the Tigers facing preseason No. 3 Oregon in the Cowboys Classic, then after a cameo appearance in Tiger Stadium against Northwestern State, had LSU playing then No. 25 Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., in a Thursday night spotlight.
This game, like the opener against Oregon, is one of the featured attractions of the weekend, taking place in prime time (7 p.m. CDT) on ABC.
“We’ve taken these games because we like being challenged,” guard T-Bob Hebert said. “We like doing hard things. I think that benefits us in the end, playing these other teams. I think it makes us tougher and makes us able to compete in harsh environments and gets us ready for the SEC West.”
After this game, LSU’s only remaining nonconference game will be against Western Kentucky on Nov. 12 in Tiger Stadium. Next week begins the only set of back-to-back home games this season (Kentucky on Oct. 1 and Florida on Oct. 8).
“This is kind of a benchmark because obviously this is going to be the last road game before we have a little homestretch,” Hebert said. “We really want to get this one.”
So do the Mountaineers, who have flirted with national-championship contender status for several years only to fall short. Now with LSU’s Top 25 tour making a stop in Morgantown and ESPN’s “College GameDay” crew tagging along, the Mountaineers have a chance to strengthen their national identity.
It’s the first time either the Tigers or the ESPN show have visited the West Virginia campus.
“Everyone is fired up about it,” West Virginia first-year coach Dana Holgorsen said. “Everyone should
show up and be loud and enjoy it. It needs to be a constant too.
“Do you think LSU is used to that? Their place is filled for every game. Regardless of who they play, that’s the way it is. That’s what we’re striving for here. It’s not a one-time or one-game thing. The mark of a good program and a competitive program is filling their stadium every time you line up. It needs to happen all the time.”
The raucous, cowbell-carrying crowd in Starkville last week gave the Tigers their first taste of a true road game this season as LSU fans took over Cowboys Stadium for the neutral-site opener.
“Our guys enjoy that type of environment,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “They tell me that “College GameDay” will be there and it is also another primetime nationally televised game. Our guys love that.
“It speaks to us in an environment like that. It is another challenge. The good news is that we’ve been on the road and understand it. We’re getting to a point where our road character is established, as is our personality.”
The Tigers’ personality during the first three games has been to play suffocating defense, run the ball effectively, be efficient though unspectacular in the passing game, and be adequate on special teams.
“The LSU personality will take hold wherever we play,” Miles said. “There is a confidence and an enjoyment of a road venue that this team has now. There are guys that understand big games, loud crowds and big stadiums. It is a nice opportunity to start the season with some quality experiences that will lend us to the remainder of the schedule.”
Though this game brings to a close an unusually challenging opening month, LSU still has three more ranked teams on its schedule — No. 3 Alabama, No. 14 Arkansas and No. 15 Florida.
“We will expect a loud crowd, expect a quality opponent and expect to play a tight ball game,” Miles said. “Those things benefit us. Certainly the media exposure, when we are in as many homes as our Tigers are, is something that speaks to the recruiting and the reputation of the program. I’ve enjoyed how we’ve started the season to this point.”
This will be just LSU’s third nonconference road game under Miles after wins at Arizona State in 2005 (35-31) and Washington in 2009 (31-23). Overall, LSU is 25-1 in nonconference games under Miles, 10-1 in those games away from Tiger Stadium.
“It’s definitely a tough schedule, but in the end I think it benefits us,” Hebert said, “because with the schedule that we have right now if we execute and do the things that we want to do and we accomplish our goals we’ll get all the opportunities that we want.”