MORGANTOWN - That LSU's defense ranks among the top 20 in the nation in every relevant statistical category is not at all surprising, even though the Tigers have played two Top 25 teams, including last year's national runner-up.
What is somewhat alarming is that No. 2 LSU, which visits Mountaineer Field Saturday night to face No. 16 West Virginia, accomplishes what it does on defense without many bells and whistles.
The Tigers just line up and beat teams.
"It's not the trickiest thing in the world to figure out what they're doing,'' West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said Tuesday. "Will they catch us in some things [because of scheme]? Probably. But it's not the trickiest thing to figure out what they're doing. It's a group that's made up of very, very, very talented individuals, not just from the state of Louisiana but from Texas and all over. They get them from everywhere.''
This is not an unusually good defense for the Tigers. They are almost always this good. Last year LSU ranked in the top 12 in scoring defense and total defense. This year the Tigers are third in rushing defense, sixth in total defense and 12th in pass efficiency defense, and they're allowing just 12 points per game. That includes giving up 27 points to Oregon in the opener on a neutral field.
Oregon is the standard-bearer for what West Virginia tries to do on offense, which is dictate a fast tempo and catch a defense off guard.
"Nobody goes faster than Oregon,'' Holgorsen said. "We don't go faster than Oregon. Oregon goes faster than anybody in the country, and [LSU] handled [Oregon's] tempo just fine.''
How? Well, LSU has potential NFL draft choices and almost every position. At some, like along the defensive line, they are two-deep in players who would be starters at almost any other school in the country.
Even without Patrick Peterson, a first-round draft pick last year who also returned a punt for a touchdown in a 20-14 win over West Virginia last year, the Tigers are loaded. Just an example: LSU had five players named to the preseason All-SEC defense selected by the coaches, which included three teams. Of those five, only two have actually started each of the first three games - end Sam Montgomery and cornerback Tyrann Mathieu.
The others haven't started because they were all-conference picks who were beaten out.
"One thing that's concerning watching their defense is they don't play just 11 people,'' Holgorsen said. "They have tremendous depth and they can put their twos in there and it looks just as good as their ones.''