McNeese State (2-3) at (9) L-S-U (6-0)
Saturday, October 16th, 7:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The ninth-ranked LSU Tigers take a break from SEC play to take on FCS foe McNeese State in what appears to be a monumental mismatch.
McNeese State is just 2-3 overall this season, including losses in three of the last four outings. Last weekend, the Cowboys dropped a 32-27 decision to Stephen F. Austin, and their only matchup against an FBS program so far resulted in a 50-6 loss to Missouri on September 11th.
"They made the plays when they had to," said McNeese State head coach Matt Viator of Stephen F. Austin. " We needed to get a first down and couldn't but I'm proud of the way our kids played."
LSU football has not been kind to the faint of heart this season, as the team seems to win in dramatic fashion every week. The Tigers, who are a perfect 6-0, bested rival Florida by a 33-29 final last weekend on a touchdown with six seconds remaining. Les Miles' club knocked off Tennessee the week before on the final play of the game, and four of the six wins have come by six points or fewer.
"There was no question in my mind that this football team was going to go out and play like this," said Miles after beating Florida. "I felt like we may have been the best team, and I think we did some really good things."
This game marks the first-ever meeting between LSU and McNeese State on the gridiron.
McNeese State is scoring 20.2 ppg while generating 342.6 total ypg. Both Jacob Bower and Cody Stroud have seen time under center for the Cowboys, and neither has been particularly effective. In fact, this offense lacks a standout performer capable of taking over a close game.
The Cowboys struggle at times on defense, as their opponents are mustering 31.2 ppg and 380.4 total ypg. A total of 18 touchdowns have been given up to opposing offenses, split evenly between the run and the pass. McNeese State has clearly been better against the run than the pass, as foes are managing just 3.8 yards per rushing attempt and 123.0 ypg compared to 11.8 yards per completion and 257.4 ypg through the air.
The fact that McNeese State only mustered 282 total yards on 77 offensive plays against Stephen F. Austin illustrates the struggles of the offense. Stroud threw a pair of interceptions and Bower tossed another pick in the tilt. The ground attack was ineffective and the Cowboys finished 3-of-17 on third down conversion attempts.
McNeese State did come up with a pair of takeaways against Stephen F. Austin, but 339 passing yards were permitted, the most obvious reason for the setback. The Cowboys only allowed 4-of-16 third down conversion attempts to be successful and won the time of possession battle by a whopping 17 minutes. Still, too many big plays were surrendered via the passing game.
The Tigers were quite lucky to beat Florida. After all, a favorable bounce on a fake field goal enabled LSU to earn a late first down, and Jarrett Lee tossed a three-yard touchdown pass to Terrence Toliver with six seconds remaining on the clock. Lee completed 9-of-11 passes for 124 yards with no interceptions, while the team's other quarterback, Jordan Jefferson, scored a pair of rushing touchdowns to go along with an interception. Toliver hauled in six catches for 111 yards for LSU, which finished with 385 total yards.
"Florida came out and gave us a great game," said Jefferson after the win. "I know they've beat us the past two years but we finally, finally came out on top."
Give LSU a ton of credit for holding Florida to 12 first downs and 243 total yards last week. Sure, the Gators did score three rushing touchdowns in the tilt, but they averaged just 2.8 yards per rush on 32 attempts.
LSU is scoring 25.8 ppg this season while generating a modest 336.3 total ypg. Lee has completed 75 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and one interception, while Jefferson has thrown seven picks while connecting on just 52.5 percent of his throws. Stevan Ridley has emerged as a force at the tailback position, having rushed for 640 yards and four touchdowns to date.
There is little doubt that the strength of the LSU team has been its defense, not the offense. The Tigers are yielding a mere 15.2 ppg and 246.0 total ypg, impressive by any standards. They are allowing only 80.7 rushing ypg at a clip of 2.4 yards per attempt.
The good news for LSU is that it won't have to sweat out the outcome of this game, which should be blowout. Look for the Tigers to empty their bench, as a lot of fresh faces should see the field in the one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: LSU 49, McNeese State 14
10/13 10:50:16 ET