EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the seventh in a series of previews on West Virginia and Marshall football opponents.
Checking them out
Les Miles has never coached against West Virginia, but he should be grateful to the Mountaineers nonetheless. After all, it was WVU that handed him the chance to win his only national championship.
That's right, West Virginia fans will remember that 13-9 loss to Pitt at the end of the 2007 season as the most dispiriting defeat in the program's history, but LSU recalls it as a huge favor. In knocking the Mountaineers out of a certain spot in the BCS national championship game, the defeat opened the door for the Tigers to play their way into the game and become the first two-loss national championship team in modern history.
That was just as long ago for LSU as it is for West Virginia, though. In the two seasons since, the Tigers have gone 8-5 and 9-4 and are struggling to regain championship form. Perhaps this is the year.
Certainly LSU's offense can't be as bad as it was last season, when the Tigers were 90th in the country in rushing, 97th in passing and a stunning 112th in total offense. And with eight starters returning, it should be vastly improved. The line was a major disappointment, failing to open holes for the running game or protect the quarterback (105th in the country in sacks allowed).
The quarterback is Jordan Jefferson, who has the potential to be a star if he gets any kind of protection from his offensive line and matures some more. And he has all sorts of playmakers in WRs Terrance Tolliver, Rueben Randle and Russell Shepard and TE DeAngelo Peterson.
Still, as bad as LSU was on offense, the Tigers did something right to win nine games and that was play defense (26th in total defense and 11th in scoring defense). From that unit, the Tigers lost seven starters and much of the front end, but there never seems to be a shortage of linemen - offensive or defensive - in Baton Rouge. The linebacking corps is solid behind Kelvin Sheppard and the secondary, led by CB Patrick Peterson (perhaps the best in the country), is exceptional.
Tiger Stadium is the sixth-largest on-campus stadium in college football, behind only Michigan, Penn State, Tennessee, Ohio State (all over 100,000) and Georgia. Virtually all of LSU's games there are scheduled for night, and with good results: The Tigers are 215-60-4 under the lights at home and just 21-26-3 during the day. . . . LSU is 17-9 over the last two years, but 0-6 against Alabama, Florida and Mississippi. And three of those losses were at Tiger Stadium.