LSU’s road to New Orleans is taking the Tigers everywhere but home through the first three weeks of the season. The road continues north on Saturday night.
The Tigers, ranked No. 2 and a serious contender to play for the BCS national title in New Orleans in January, have played only one home game in Baton Rouge – a 49-3 victory over Northwestern State on Sept. 10.
The tough early schedule has included a neutral-site game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington against then-No. 3 Oregon on Sept. 3. The Tigers won that game 40-27. LSU made the trip to Starkville to play No. 25 Mississippi State last Thursday night. The Tigers won again, 19-6, behind a stout defense.
The next road test comes on Saturday night as LSU heads to Morgantown to play No. 16 West Virginia (8 p.m., ABC).
“There are guys that understand big games, loud crowds and big stadiums,” LSU head coach Les Miles told reporters during a press conference on Monday. “It is a nice opportunity to start the season with some quality experiences that will lend us to the remainder of the schedule.
“This won't be foreign to this LSU team when we go to West Virginia. We will expect a loud crowd, expect a quality opponent and expect to play a tight ball game. 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.”
LSU’s defense has been impressive this season. The Tigers, ranked sixth nationally in total defense, stopped Oregon’s high-powered attack in the first game.
“Yes, I expected this to be a very good defense and there is no surprise here,” Miles said. “Making sure that the level of intensity does not change and that there is improvement in all three phases will allow us to become a special defense. You can coach it and insist on it, but there comes a natural intensity that this defense seems to bring. There are some guys that take the field that just can't wait for the next play. That is a wonderful piece for a defense. Just line the offense up so that we can get one more play in. That kind of want is pretty special.”
LSU’s defense will again be challenged, this time by West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, who has thrown for 1,008 yards and seven touchdowns. Smith is averaging 336 passing yards per game. LSU’s defense gives up just 160 passing yards per game.
New West Virginia head coach Dana Holgerson has run high-scoring offenses at Houston and Oklahoma State in the past. LSU will see that type of offense.
“I can only tell you that his background is one that shows he really knows how to throw the football,” Miles said. “His teams are comfortable in the no huddle and in tempo offense. He has done a wonderful job wherever he has been with an offense.”
Meanwhile, LSU’s offense will get a boost this week when wide receiver Russell Shepard returns from suspension. With wide receivers Reuben Randle and Odell Beckham and running backs Spencer Ware and Michael Ford, the Tigers have some weapons on offense. Quarterback Jarrett Lee has been steady and efficient as Jordan Jefferson’s replacement.