Still, even those who were willing to admit that there was some question in their mind a year ago admit that last year's performance at Tiger Stadium was a positive reinforcement.
"A lot of guys that played last year - me, Bruce, Keith Tandy, Julian [Miller] - know what we can do,'' linebacker Najee Goode said, speaking mainly about the defense. "And even the younger guys like Doug [Rigg] and Casey [Vance], just the fact that they got in the game, they know they can play with them. It's not like you're playing against an NFL team. We're playing against guys that are our age and peers. We hit them the same way we hit anybody else.''
In that game a year ago, LSU gained just 230 total yards and was forced to punt six times, as did West Virginia. Both teams turned the ball over twice. On paper, it was just about even.
And that should bolster West Virginia's confidence this year.
"That's huge. It's the No. 1 thing you can have,'' Goode said. "Even if you don't know what you're doing, if you've got confidence in your ability, that's huge.''
Those who played a year ago still kick themselves for letting the opportunity slip away.
"It's always in my mind that we let them off the hook last year,'' center Joe Madsen said.
"We can compete with anybody in the country,'' said wide receiver Tavon Austin. "That's what I took from last year.''
There are, of course, some big differences between the teams that played last year and the two that will meet Saturday night. LSU has a different quarterback, Jarrett Lee in place of the suspended Jordan Jefferson, and West Virginia lost seven starters from its defense. The Mountaineers also have an entirely new offensive scheme.
Because of those differences, at least one Mountaineer says this team has to prove it all over again. Irvin disagrees that West Virginia is somehow ahead of the game because they have last year's knowledge of how competitive they were in their pocket.
"Not really. We lost seven guys who saw that we could play with them last year,'' Irvin said. "We've got seven new faces and now it's the same thing. But once these guys get on the field, get some contact and realize we can play with them, then we'll start playing like we know we can play.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.